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U.S. Strategy and Xinjiang

Jun 07, 2021
  • Su Jingxiang

    Fellow, China Institutes for Contemporary International Relations

The diplomatic and intelligence services of the United States and United Kingdom are very good at generating political propaganda to manipulate social psychology and public perception.

Western scholars and media often cite the work of British writer George Orwell to make insinuations and attack the political systems of Russia and China, regardless of the facts. Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, was born in India in 1903 and worked as a policeman for the British colonial authorities in Burma in the 1920s and 1930s. After returning to the UK, he fell into a state of deep loneliness, pain and self-degradation and wandered the streets. He published his novel “1984” in 1949 and died the next year.

Orwell had never been to the Soviet Union and had no contact with it, let alone with China. The totalitarian government that stifled people’s thinking and monitored their actions in his books was a reflection of the realities in the British Empire at that time.

One of the most notorious and grisly passages in “1984” is when the secret police release hungry rats from their cages to bite political prisoners. Many modern readers have believed this to be a Soviet practice. Some Western scholars expressed admiration for Orwell’s genius in imagining it. But in reality, it was neither a Soviet deed nor a creation of pure imagination. It came from the author’s real-life experience. Using rats to bite prisoners was a routine interrogation technique used by the British police on Burmese patriots, and one that Orwell himself was familiar with.

American and British propagandists not only hid the truth about George Orwell for a long time, but also shifted his insights about Western politics onto strategic rivals. It is an extremely sophisticated form of propaganda.

Undoubtedly a lot of work had been going on behind the scenes. Now that the U.S. government has openly and explicitly identified China as a strategic enemy, it will use all available policy tools to attack it on all possible fronts to undermine the latter’s political, economic, military and diplomatic strengths. The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is China’s gateway to South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Russia and Eastern and Western Europe. American strategists value Xinjiang’s strategic position as the pivot point of Asia.

For many decades, the U.S. has secretly sought to disrupt economic and political stability there. Like the questions of Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea, the Xinjiang human rights allegations have nothing to do with democracy, human rights, security, justice or morality, as the West has oftentimes pronounced but are all political weapons to attack China. This is self-evident and goes without saying.

In 2017, the U.S. Congress passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, Section 231 of which proposes that all goods mined, produced or manufactured by DPRK nationals are assumed to be produced through forced labor and therefore prohibited from import under Section 307 of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. This presumption can be set aside only if the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection determines otherwise with convincing evidence.

The U.S. cannot treat China in the way it treats the DPRK. And it is impossible to impose a total ban on the importation of all Chinese goods. It has therefore shrewdly chosen Xinjiang as its point of attack. In September 2020, the U.S. government banned the import of cotton, apparel, computer parts and other products from Xinjiang on grounds of “forced labor.” On Nov. 30, it announced a further ban on the import of all cotton and cotton products produced by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) and its associated enterprises. The ban also covered any products made from such cotton, such as garments and other textiles. In January this year, the U.S. went further and banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang. Meanwhile, with fines and the threat of other legal action, it has put pressure on large multinational companies to withdraw from Xinjiang.

Washington has learned that a unilateral trade war with China cannot be won and will only benefit some of its allies. The current strategy is to build a strategic alliance, with the U.S. and UK at its center, involving major allies such as the European Union and Japan and to exclude China, Russia, Iran, the DPRK and Venezuela from the international trade and investment regime on grounds of human rights. Some EU countries, including Germany, are following the American example to propose a supply chain law that would oblige companies to defend human rights and not to cooperate with businesses that violate human rights or that use forced labor. Hefty fines or criminal liability are envisioned.

The U.S. strategy to contain China and Russia is totally destructive. It has been designed not only to the detriment of those countries but also at the cost of European political and economic interests. Some political and business leaders in Europe have begun to worry about the potential end result: America’s containment strategy does not work; China and Russia grow stronger; and the EU, with its increased alienation from China and Russia, becomes more profoundly controlled by the U.S. as a stepping stone for the latter to sustain its hegemony in the Western world.

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