Friday, April 16

The sanctions only increase tensions. Time to approach the plight of the Uyghurs differently | porcelain


“Wholly counterproductive ”was like Newcastle scholar Joanne Smith Finley described China’s sanctions about her, along with a number of British politicians and lawyers, as punishment for her defense of the Uyghurs. That was putting it gently. But is it true that Western sanctions on China will, on the contrary, be productive? Sadly, that seems unlikely.

International outrage over China’s incarceration and social coercion policies in Xinjiang continues to grow. As someone who has been compromised with the region for two decades, I see it very necessary. But it is essential that the energy that is generated is put to good use. Gloves may have been removed, but what is the strategy?

The sanctions send a signal that the world is watching. But to be effective in any way, those sanctioned must believe that changes in their behavior will lead to some improvement in relationships. There is little chance that Beijing will form this opinion, given the state of relations between China and the West. Not while Joe Biden tries to force China to keep Donald Trump’s set of tariffs and sanctions on his tech companies. Not as long as Washington provocatively declares that its “defense” interests extend to the coast of China, with the Royal Navy now joins saber rattling in the East and South China Seas.

In such a context, sanctions only increase tensions and give politicians an opportunity to take a stand. “A badge of honor” was Iain Duncan Smith’s way of got his ban of the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam said the same thing when Trump sanctioned her last August: “It’s an honor.”

China’s sanctions were no equivalent to those in the UK: they were aimed at people who took action against abuses, not those who committed them. But let’s face it, if China had reciprocated by sanctioning British complicit in human rights abuses, it would have had no trouble finding suitable candidates, given the UK’s recent military adventures.

Some human rights activists see no other option but to take advantage of the current tensions with China. I can see why: From a human rights standpoint, there are good reasons to distrust the economy-driven “engagement” with China, as the attractiveness of trade and investment with the world’s second-largest economy stifles voices of persecuted people.

But the dichotomy that frames this debate – China as best friend or mortal enemy – doesn’t help. It reflects the limitations of our own system. Of all the fields of policy-making, foreign policy is one of the most immune to democratic inputs, leaving it vulnerable to the predominant influence of economic elites or harsh security prospects, each with its own uniqueness. exaggerated image of China. Human rights fall far below the priority list in any setting.

Therefore, it is in our own interest, as well as the interests of the people of Xinjiang, to change these dynamics: to unleash the momentum of people around the world to support the victims of repression, without fueling a race. arms race or flirting with a catastrophe. war. That forces us to clearly differentiate the current concern for the well-being of the Uighurs from the US strategy to preserve its “diplomatic, economic and military preeminence” in Asia.

To follow this alternative path, we must understand what is happening in Xinjiang. The “security crackdowns” predate 9/11, but China today he sees himself involved in the same “global war on terrorism” that the West embarked on in the wake of that attack. President Xi Jinping encourages your officers to study your lessons. China’s terrorism experts synthesize the experience of “de-radicalization” campaigns elsewhere, including in Britain. Prevent program. As in the West, isolated terrorist attacks in China became a pretext to attack its Muslim populations, and it was in this context that the “re-education camps” were built.

Western governments do not come close to the limits of China, of course, but their policies reflect the same Islamophobic principle that places Muslims on a “path to radicalization.” And while they criticize Beijing, they support tough policies elsewhere in the name of fighting “terrorism.” In the Philippines, for example, Australia helped draft of Rodrigo Duterte’s new antiterrorist law, which has covered the extrajudicial execution of opposition activists.

For the West to generate political pressure on this point, its own anti-Muslim practices must end. We need to delegitimize our own failed and counterproductive war on terrorism and the global securitycracy that it has spawned, and place criticism of China within that effort. The West’s complicity in China’s crimes is an embarrassment to him, but it also provides an avenue for influencing in a more positive direction. Of course, Western hawks are unlikely to take this perspective, but there are many potential allies who will, even in Muslim-majority countries.

Recently, we have seen in Australia, which has led the anti-China campaign that the United Kingdom joins, what can happen when politicians can portray international criticism as done in bad faith. Last November, the Brereton report published disturbing allegations of serious Australian war crimes in Afghanistan. But when a Chinese diplomat tweeted a provocative digital artwork criticizing these crimes, Prime Minister Scott Morrison went on the offensive, expressing more outrage at the tweet than at the alleged crimes themselves. He rallied the support of the Five Eyes alliance to reject Beijing’s cynical but valid criticism, with Dominic Raab among those labeling him “disinformation.”

Morrison behaved in exactly the same way as China in the face of criticism: it fueled nationalism and mobilized international support to dismiss the criticism as fake news. His campaign has made Australia less likely to take serious action in response to the Brereton report.

If politicians in a liberal democracy can turn foreign criticism to political advantage in this way, it is not surprising that the Chinese Communist Party tries to do the same. For the sake of China’s victims, we have to make a credible case that Western opposition to its policies reflects a commitment to justice for all, not a geopolitical maneuver.

The stalemate surrounding Xinjiang calls for ambitious thinking. If the West is capable of launching a global war on terror, why should it not be able to organize a similar global campaign to repair the damage that the war has caused? This is what we should ask our politicians to lead, and they should pressure China to join it.

  • David Brophy is Senior Lecturer in Modern Chinese History at the University of Sydney. His book, China Panic: Australia’s Alternative to Paranoia and Pandering, is published in June.


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