Pompeo’s Xinjiang ‘genocide’ declaration presents Biden an early China challenge

Rights groups say 2 million people, mostly Muslims, have been detained since 2017 in the fortification camps set up in Xinjiang, where they are allegedly subject to political indulgence and abuse. China has consistently denied such claims, and argued that the camp system in Xinjiang is necessary to combat religious extremism and terrorism.

While Washington has previously cleared officials on Xinjiang and forcibly blocked some labor-related imports, Tuesday’s announcement is the first time it has officially used the term genocide.

The massacre is, according to the United Nations, “intended to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” The announcement, without any automatic penalties, is a rare move for the US government, which has historically shown some hesitation in attaching the genocide designation to the ongoing crisis.

And it would fall to the new Biden administration, which is supporting calling the situation in Xinjiang to act on the issue, or aggressively trying to “reset” it on its terms in the face of Beijing.

This photo, taken on June 4, 2019, shows people walking on a screen displaying images of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Kashgar, western Xinjiang.

Bad timing

Pompeo’s choice to announce the Xinjiang declaration at the last possible minute, in an action that was largely lost in the drama of the presidential transition, has disappointed many researchers and human rights activists who have long held for such a designation Has argued.
James Milward, a Xinjiang historian, said, “Don’t take the credit of Trump architects of chaotic China policy for eleventh-hour gestures” Written in a twitter thread Condemning that Pompeo had “hypocrisy” on the matter.

Millward reported that the Trump administration blocked several attempts by Congress to act on Xinjiang as president in both 2018 and 2019, as the president signed a trade deal with China, while Pompeo brought to light by reporters Demanded to take credit for exposing the atrocities. And researcher “years before Trump’s ‘good friend’ flipped over Xi.”

More than anything else, Pompeo’s final shot at Beijing’s bow appears to be an attempt to tie the hands of the incoming administration.

Scott Kennedy, a China analyst at the center, says, “The haze of sanctions and penalties (against China) in the misleading months of the Trump administration is politically impossible or technically difficult for the coming administration.” Wrote this week, for strategic and international studies. “Figuring out how to manage this legacy will be the main foreign policy challenge of the new administration.”
But while the new designation could potentially complicate Biden’s relationship with Beijing, it could also provide him with a source of leverage. Already, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said he agrees with the “genocide” designation.

Reset with conditions

Beijing, trying to influence Biden’s policy, should continue with a staunch stance towards its predecessor China, indicating a possible negotiation as well as possible consequences.

The Chinese state-run media has been celebrating the end of the Trump administration in recent times.

Hours before Trump was due to leave the White House for the last time, the state’s news agency Xinhua tweeted in English with an image of the US Congress, “Good riddance, Donald Trump!”

Also on Wednesday, China imposed new sanctions against Pompeo and several other former Trump officials, who Beijing said “planned, promoted and executed a series of insane tricks that have interfered with China’s internal affairs, China” Has undermined the interests of the Chinese people, and severely disrupted Sino-US relations. “

The measures prevent former officials “and their immediate family members” from entering China, Hong Kong and Macao, and prevent them “and the companies and institutions associated with them” from doing business with China. Think tanks or consultancy businesses focused on China may deter those approving lucrative post-administration roles, an idea that Beijing hopes will influence incoming Biden officials against taking strict positions on these issues.

Speaking on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying “blamed Pompeo and other anti-China Communist forces for promoting” various misconceptions on Xinjiang-related matters. ”

In the Trump administration as Chief China, which has led to criticism of Beijing over Hong Kong as well as Xinjiang, Pompeo is a figure of hatred for Chinese diplomats and the country’s tightly controlled state media, in the final weeks of the Trump administration is. Ran Many stories Hailing out his imminent exit.
In a piece before Biden’s inauguration, Xinhua stated that “one of the world’s most important bilateral relations is at an important crossroads.”
“Whether Sino-US relations can get back on track depends on the new US administration,” Xinhua said, adding that Washington should “seize new opportunities to cooperate” on issues such as climate change, while “Red Lines “such as increasing engagement Taiwan’s democratic and genuinely independent island.

“President Biden has repeatedly emphasized the word unity in his inauguration speech,” the spokesman said. “I think this is what current Sino-US relations need. Because in the last four years, some anti-China politicians in America have lied a lot and provoked a lot of hatred and division for personal gain. “

Initial challenge

Just how the Biden administration handles the issue of Xinjiang could be a major test of this relationship. If Blinken is serious about retaining his predecessor designation, it will likely be followed by additional sanctions, or international action of some sort, otherwise Washington accepts an ongoing genocide and stands up as it happens. is.

But the way Pompeo made the announcement, international action may be underestimated.

“A statement that a genocide is taking place in a foreign country is a political act, not a legal finding, and its effect therefore depends entirely on the speaker’s reputation and credibility,” Kate Cronin-Furman, Human Rights University College London, Assistant Professor, wrote this week. “Pompeo announced the determination of perhaps the worst moment (with the US) in the international community imagining his steep nadir.”

Nor has the wider international community shown any hurry to take action on this issue.

Last month, the European Union raised concerns over human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and proceeded to sign an investment agreement with China despite active lobbying against some incoming Biden officials.

The European jurist Guy Verhomesta said at the time that the Brussels story is pure horror, describing the strong promises contained in the deal. Brussels story We are ready to sign an investment treaty with China. “In these circumstances no Chinese signature on human rights is worth the paper it is written on.”

British MPs trying to prevent their government from doing more and more trade with China have also been disappointed. This week, the country’s parliament defeated an effort to limit agreements with countries found to have massacres, a measure directly aimed at China. While campaigners swear Continue the fight In the House of Lords, Pompeo’s statement – which came in the middle of the debate – ultimately did not have a majority of MPs.

Biden may have more influence in both Brussels and London than Trump, and he certainly spoke of the need to rebuild America’s international standing four years after Trump. But whether it advocates its position for action on Xinjiang or a tight line on China in general, remains to be seen.


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