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China retaliates against US-EU sanctions by targeting US allies and people with sanctions

President of China Xi Jinping. (Kremlin/Released)
March 25, 2021

This week, China began issuing sanctions against U.S. allies in retaliation for recent U.S. and European Union sanctions targeting China for human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

According to Foreign Policy, the new Chinese sanctions are one of several tactics that appear aimed at dividing countries from U.S.-led alliances of democracies working together to keep pressure on China.

On the same day the U.S. and E.U. jointly sanctioned four Chinese officials, including Xinjiang Public Security Bureau Chen Mingguo, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs fired back with its own round of sanctions targeted 10 individuals and four entities they said undermine China’s sovereignty and spread lies and disinformation.

The sanctioned individuals and organizations are barred from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao and are also restricted from doing business with China.

Announcing the sanctions the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “The Chinese side urges the EU side to reflect on itself, face squarely the severity of its mistake and redress it. It must stop lecturing others on human rights and interfering in their internal affairs. It must end the hypocritical practice of double standards and stop going further down the wrong path. Otherwise, China will resolutely make further reactions.”

The list of sanctioned European officials includes Reinhard Butikofer, Michael Gahler, Raphaël Glucksmann, Ilhan Kyuchyuk and Miriam Lexmann of the European Parliament, Sjoerd Wiemer Sjoerdsma of the Dutch Parliament, Samuel Cogolati of the Belgian Federal Parliament, Dovile Sakaliene of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, German scholar Adrian Zenz, and Swedish scholar Björn Jerdén.

The four European entities China sanctioned included the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union, Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament, the Alliance of Democracies Foundation in Denmark, and the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Germany.

The Chinese move to explicitly target research institutes, like the Mercator Institute, is a new escalation in sanctions tactics, according to Foreign Policy. Targeting institutes and universities with sanctions could affect scholarships and universities have often chosen not to support targeted scholars, possibly out of concern further sanctions could disrupt efforts to attract Chinese students and efforts to operate joint campuses.

Along with the new sanctions, coordinated campaigns are rising to cut off commerce with international companies that have pledged to stop sourcing products derived from forced labor in Xinjiang. The Swedish clothing retail company H&M is among the first to be targeted with the counter boycott. Quarts reported Jane Li tweeted Wednesday about Chinese celebrities who have pledged to cut ties with the Swedish clothing brand over its boycott of forced labor products, which those celebrities described as efforts to slander and smear China’s reputation on human rights issues.

China has also increasingly countered U.S.-E.U. concerns about its human rights record with its own countermessaging, faulting the U.S. and E.U. for historical atrocities.

Last week, during the first meeting between President Joe Biden’s administration and China, Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi said the U.S. has its own “deep-seated” human rights problems, as evidence by the popular Black Lives Matter movement.

The Chinese state media outlet Global Times also published a full-page graphic, titled “EU’s Misdeeds on Human Rights,” which lists Europan human rights controversies, dating back to 1908, before the E.U. was formed in 1993. The graphic linked the E.U. to the holocaust of Nazi-era Germany, migrant deaths and disappearances in the Mediterranean while attempting to enter Europe, poor COVID-19 era healthcare for quarantined migrants attempting to enter Europe, the gender pay gap in Luxembourg and other human rights complaints.