3 Reasons for China to Laugh at New US Sanctions

The U.S. House has taken a stand for human rights by passing a bill directing the White House to implement more severe sanctions against the government of Mainland China, which has for seventy years called itself the "People's Republic of China," a gallows-humor name for a government that exists almost entirely to impose suffering upon its own people.

In passing this latest bill, the U.S. House joins the U.S. Senate (which passed a similar bill earlier this year), and also joins the governments of Great Britain, Japan, Australia, the E.U., and many other nations in recent years who have called out Red China for its human rights abuses against various (primarily Muslim) minorities such as Uighurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyzes, primarily in Xinjiang.

Perhaps we should compliment Congress on trying to get something right, something that's essentially nonpartisan at its heart.  Everyone ought to be able to unite in opposition to forced labor camps.  This latest bill would ban all imports from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, in an effort to apply pressure to the Beijing Politburo, and hopefully, eventually, cause an end to China's persecution of these minorities.

Sanctions can be an effective foreign policy tool.  The U.S. Export Controls, for example, are designed primarily to deny our enemies the munitions and dual-use materials and technology they could use against us or against our allies.  Sanctions can be focused on specific entities or against entire countries, with varying levels of difficulty and success.

There are, however, three key problems with the idea of using limited sanctions (focused on a region and on certain known participants in industry) to address the issue of Chinese human rights abuses.

Country of Origin

Products can be marked with their country of origin, which should make sanctions easy.  Many countries (including the United States) require that imported goods be marked, either on the product itself or on its packaging, so that consumers can make an educated purchasing decision.  We Americans often find ourselves checking the labels of clothing, electronics, and other consumer goods to see where they were put together, as do consumers in many other countries.

The value of this marking is limited, however.  Countries require only that the country be stated, not the area or region; we would expect all Chinese goods to be marked "Made in China."  There is no way to tell what part of China it was made in.

Many products don't have to be marked with origin at all, such as most components of other finished goods.  If Uighur slave labor is used in the manufacture of, say, a gasket, motor, or battery that someone in Beijing or Ningbo is going to use in the manufacture of some appliance, that appliance manufacturer isn't going to stop including that part just because the USA (and 40 other countries) don't want him to.  Customers will never know that this Ningbo-assembled finished product includes a slave labor Uighur component.

But what about the specific products named in the bill?  What about the major targeted products that the free world knows are of Uighur origin if they come from China?  The Chinese have a solution for that problem: they will mark those products with another country entirely.  Whenever the West imposes anti-dumping or countervailing duties, or any other punitive taxes or restrictions on a Chinese product, the Chinese just mark the product as having been made in some other country, then have one of their many client distributors all over the world pass off the goods as theirs in a practice known as "illegal transshipment."

Every day, the government finds "Indian" products, "Sri Lankan" products, "Vietnamese" products, even "American" products that have been illegally marked with deceptive origin to avoid punitive quotas, taxes, or other constraints.  It's fraud, occasionally discovered and prosecuted hard, but such prosecutions don't occur nearly enough to stop the practice.

Human Rights

Without denying the fact of the Mainland Chinese government's abuse of the Uighurs at all — we stipulate everything; there are certainly abuses galore in that area — we should ask ourselves the question: "Why only the Uighurs?"  They aren't the only minority in China that has been abused by the Politburo in Beijing over the years.

We can fairly say it's not fair to blame American Southerners today for enslavement and abuse of black slaves over 160 years ago.  It's not fair to blame today's French government for the mass murders of the Reign of Terror 230 years ago.  It's not fair to blame today's Mexican government for the mass murders in the Aztec temples 500 years ago.

But the communist government of Mainland China is only seventy years old.  Its many horrific, unimaginable abuses were perpetrated within living memory.

There are the twenty to thirty million put to death during the Totalization period and in the Laogai camps.  The tens of millions murdered during the Great Leap Forward and the Great Famine.  The tens of millions more killed during the Cultural Revolution.  This is recent, just in the 1950s through the 1980s.

And it didn't stop then.  The numbers of lives lost due to the practice of putting children to death, particularly girls, due to China's One Child Policy, is impossible to estimate — and that one has the especially evil twist of usually forcing parents to murder their own children, an unthinkable horror.

Still too far back?  Then let's look at COVID-19.  While the exact level of intent behind the virus's development is still uncertain, there is no doubt what China did to its own people once the virus got into the population.  The Chinese government started sealing up doors and windows of apartment buildings, locking people into their buildings, to die alone.  We saw the videos on news reports and on YouTube at the time, with hazmat suits and cremation wagons filling the streets.  We put it out of our minds because it was so horrible.

How many did they kill that way?  Those apartments in Wuhan housed thousands of people each; they welded the doors shut in countless buildings.  We will likely never know how many.

That was just last year.

The Hostage Situation

There are reasons we haven't taken a stronger position yet: China has hostages.

No, not in the usual way.  China's hostages are well fed and enjoy a decent, tax-advantaged lifestyle, but that doesn't mean they aren't hostages.

For at least thirty years, Western business schools have taught their MBA candidates that buying everything from raw materials to finished goods "from a low cost country" is the best way to honor their commitment to their employers to "build shareholder value."

For at least thirty years, American and European companies — and others — have closed their foundries to buy castings from China...have closed their injection molders to buy plastics from China...have closed their assembly shops to buy finished goods from China.  American companies have entered into "partnerships" with the Chinese government, building plants up and down the Chinese coast.  American multinational conglomerates — and British and European ones, too — have populated these plants by sending their own citizens to China as LEAN engineers and plant managers and as quality supervisors and inventory planners.

The entire international manufacturing community of China is an unwitting community of hostages.  At any given moment, there are millions of foreign executives — and their families — living comfortably in Red China, keeping their employers' Chinese operations functioning as smoothly and productively as they can.  "Delivering shareholder value" — every day.

But as long as we have these millions of American and European expats living in China, not to mention our own economy's unfathomable level of dependence upon Chinese factories, the powers of the West dare not take military action against China, no matter what Xi Jinping and his politburo may do to its own people or to others, to its own territory or to its neighbors'.

Why does China commit the incredible crimes it does?  Because the people running it are communists.  It's what Communists do.  And because they can.

China knows it.

If only we did.

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based writer and trade compliance trainer, a onetime county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party.  He writes a regular column for the Illinois Review, and his books, including his vote fraud exposé The Tales of Little Pavel and his current political satire about Washington, D.C. in 2021, "Evening Soup with Basement Joe," are available on Amazon.

Image via Max Pixel.

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