While Washington had previously sanctioned officials in Xinjiang and blocked some imports related to forced labor, Tuesday’s statement is the first time it has officially used the term genocide.
Genocide is, according to the United Nations, “the intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”. The declaration, while not resulting in any automatic sanction, marks a rare step for the US government, which has historically shown some reluctance to tie the genocide designation to an ongoing crisis.
And it will be up to the new Biden administration, which has argued to label the situation in Xinjiang as genocide, to take action on this issue, or to wither in the face of an aggressive Beijing trying to force a “reset” on its terms.
Millward pointed out that the Trump administration had blocked multiple attempts by Congress to take action against Xinjiang, both in 2018 and 2019, as the president pursued a trade deal with China, while Pompeo sought to s ‘to give credit for revealing atrocities revealed by journalists. and researchers “years before Trump toppled his” good friend “Xi.”
More than anything else, Pompeo’s last shot through the Beijing arc appears to have been an attempt to tie the hands of the new administration.
Reset with conditions
Beijing is seeking to influence Biden’s policy, with talks of a reset while signaling potential repercussions if it continues with its predecessor’s hawkish stance towards China.
Chinese state media have been celebrating the end of the Trump administration in recent days.
Hours before Trump left the White House for the last time, the official Xinhua News Agency tweeted in English a picture of the US Congress with the words “Good riddance, Donald Trump!”
The measures bar former officials “and members of their immediate families” from entering China, Hong Kong and Macau, and bar them “and their associated companies and institutions” from doing business with China . This could prevent those sanctioned from taking on lucrative post-administration roles with China-focused think tanks or consulting firms, a consideration that could hopefully prompt new Biden officials to take firm positions on these issues. .
Speaking on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused “Pompeo and other anti-Chinese and anti-communist forces” of fostering “various misunderstandings on matters related to Xinjiang.”
“President Biden repeatedly underlined the word unity in his inaugural address,” Hua, the spokesperson said Thursday. “I think that’s exactly what current Sino-American relations need. Because over the past four years, some anti-Chinese politicians in the United States have told too many lies and instigated too much hatred and divisions for personal gain. “
How the Biden administration is handling the Xinjiang issue could be a major test of that relationship. If Blinken is serious about maintaining his predecessor’s designation, that probably needs to be followed by further sanctions, or some sort of international action, otherwise Washington risks recognizing an ongoing genocide and standing by as it happens.
But international action could be undermined by the way Pompeo made the statement.
The international community as a whole has also shown little eagerness to act on this issue.
“The stories coming out of Xinjiang are sheer horror. The story of Brussels is that we are ready to sign an investment treaty with China,” EU lawmaker Guy Verhofstadt said at the time, rejecting promises. supposedly regarding forced labor contained in the agreement. “Under these circumstances, any Chinese signature on human rights is not worth the paper it is written on.”
Biden may have more influence in Brussels and London than Trump ever has, and he’s certainly spoken of the need to rebuild America’s international reputation after four years of Trump. But whether he uses his position to pressure for action on Xinjiang, or for a harder line on China in general, remains to be seen.