China is irritated.
Beijing on Saturday raised the temperature on simmering tensions with the west, slapping sanctions on a Canadian lawmaker and adopting retaliatory measures against the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
On Tuesday, USCIRF issued a statement lauding coordinated action against China for the systematic repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, where many fret Xi’s regime may be engaged in heinous human rights violations. The Party vehemently denies the allegations.
Notably, Saturday’s measures target USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin, wife of Joe Manchin who, thanks to an almost religious commitment to cementing his centrist bonafides at every opportunity, wields outsized sway in the divided US Senate. Earlier this week, USCIRF accused China of “genocidal policies [and] atrocities” representing “an affront to humanity.”
The Canadian MP targeted by China is Michael Chong, vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, or FAAE. On March 12, an FAAE subcommittee released a truly scathing report concluding, among other things, that China’s “oppressive measures amount to genocide.”
Canada is, of course, embroiled in a diplomatic dispute with Beijing that’s all at once worrisome and absurd. Two Canadians held in China on spurious charges were put on trial last week. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were (effectively) kidnapped by the Chinese more than two years ago in retaliation for Canada’s ill-advised decision to go along with Donald Trump’s plan to (effectively) kidnap Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. By some accounts, Meng was taken at virtually the exact same time as Trump sat down to dinner with Xi in Buenos Aires on December 1, 2018.
As discussed here Friday morning, this has now spun out of the diplomatic realm and into the corporate world. That too escalated over the weekend, with Chinese landlords shuttering H&M locations. “At least six stores in the lower-tiered cities of Urumqi, Yinchuan, Changchun and Lianyunang have been shut down by the owners of the properties,” Bloomberg said, citing mall operators and noting that “local media have reported more closures, with pictures showing H&M’s brand billboards being removed.” Not only that, some H&M stores are apparently gone from Apple Maps and Baidu Maps in China. “Users in Beijing reported that any searches for H&M in either Apple Maps on the iPhone or Baidu Maps returned no results,” a separate article read.
“The US and Canada imposed unilateral sanctions on relevant individuals and entities in Xinjiang on March 22 based on rumors and disinformation,” China’s Foreign Ministry seethed on Saturday, adding that,
In response, the Chinese side decided to sanction Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Gayle Manchin, Vice Chair of the USCIRF Tony Perkins, Member of Parliament of Canada Michael Chong, and the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the House of Commons of Canada. The individuals concerned are prohibited from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of China, and Chinese citizens and institutions are prohibited from doing business with the relevant individuals and having exchanges with the relevant entities. In the meantime, China’s previous sanctions on US individuals who have seriously undermined China’s sovereignty and interests on Xinjiang-related issues remain effective.
That wasn’t the end of it. Beijing went on to caution that the west should “redress their mistakes, stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs in any form and refrain from going further down the wrong path.”
If western nations choose not to heed that advice, they “will get their fingers burnt,” China warned.
Justin Trudeau, man whose fingers are getting hot, called the new sanctions “unacceptable.” “We will continue to defend human rights around the world with our international partners,” he said.
The context makes it impossible to lampoon this situation. It’s too serious. The Xinjiang issue is unnerving, to put it mildly, and raises highly uncomfortable questions about what, exactly, would be required of the western powers if it were to become obvious that China were doing something unthinkable. Military action against the Chinese is an endeavor that only the US could realistically ponder, and even there, “realistically” is a relative term.
Meanwhile, Beijing is investing $400 billion in Iran over the next quarter century in a deal that would help ensure oil supply to China. The economic and security agreement was signed in Tehran Saturday by Wang Yi and Javad Zarif.
As The New York Times — which detailed a draft copy of the agreement last year — wrote, China will make investments “in dozens of fields, including banking, telecommunications, ports, railways, healthcare and information technology… receiv[ing] a regular and, according to an Iranian official and an oil trader, heavily discounted, supply of Iranian oil” in exchange.