On the Horn of Africa, a tiny ‘country’ has Congress’ ear

“a diplomatic delegation from the self-declared independent republic of Somaliland — which broke away from Somalia in 1991 but has no formal diplomatic ties with major developed nations — worked the halls of Capitol Hill seeking sit-downs with whomever would meet with them. The delegation presented itself to U.S. government agencies and lawmakers as an African ally insulated from the instability and China ties that define many of its neighbors.

Somaliland brought solid anti-China credentials to those meetings: it slammed the door on aid and cooperation with Beijing in July 2020 when it inked a diplomatic relations agreement with Taiwan.

That move infuriated the Chinese government because it marked a rare victory in Taiwan’s battle against Beijing’s diplomatic strangulation of the self-governing island.

Somaliland also has geostrategic potential: its location on the Gulf of Aden and deep-water port of Berbera, into which Dubai’s DP World has poured $442 million to build a new container cargo facility, would allow for naval power protection in the Middle East and East Africa. That’s a serious enticement given U.S. Africa Command’s security concerns about its base in neighboring Djibouti: a Chinese naval installation just a few miles away was stood up in 2017.

“We have come to the U.S. to show them that we have the same enemy, and our long-term strategy is we want to be closer to democracies and market economies like the U.S.,” said Bashir Goth, head of mission at Somaliland’s unofficial outpost in Alexandria, Va. “We are countering China [and] the Chinese influence in the Horn of Africa and we deserve [U.S. government] help.”

That pitch had impact — last week, the first-ever staff congressional delegation visited the territory, marking what the Somaliland Chronicle described as “the highest-level American delegation” in more than a decade. That fact-finding mission included staff members of Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The staffers returned home convinced of Somaliland’s value to the U.S. in countering China’s regional influence, said Piero Tozzi, senior foreign policy adviser for Smith.”

New law to combat forced labor in China sparks enforcement debate

“President Joe Biden..signed a bill to curb forced labor in China that U.S. business groups and trade experts warn will inflict unnecessary pain on U.S. firms and punish legitimately employed Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was approved after more than a year’s delay, is designed to insulate U.S. companies and consumers from complicity in forced labor practices in Xinjiang. The U.S. government has concluded that the practices are among abusive state policies targeting Uyghurs that constitute genocide.

But industry groups and trade lawyers say the law’s strict compliance standards coupled with problematic Customs and Border Protection enforcement will harm both U.S. business interests and Uyghur Muslims.”

““If you’re a company who is manufacturing in that area, you’re going to need to prove that slaves didn’t make it. The presumption is on you,” Rubio said after the bill’s Dec. 16 Senate passage.”

“Assertions of the law’s stringent compliance standards are no exaggeration. It imposes a presumption of guilt in terms of forced labor links to any Xinjiang-sourced imports — predominately agricultural and chemical products — and obligates importers to provide documentation that proves its Xinjiang supply chains are not tied to forced labor.

The experience of solar and apparel companies from previous forced labor enforcement actions by Customs and Border Protection suggest that the new law’s compliance standards will be “practically impossible” to meet, said former CBP trade lawyer Richard Mojica.”

“Mojica and other trade lawyers say the law’s compliance requirements will most seriously impact small- and medium-sized U.S. firms that lack in-house expertise to reliably map complex overseas supply chains.”

Why the US is paying more for the military after the Afghanistan war is over

“The US national security establishment sees China as the most urgent threat of the moment, while the entrenched interests of the arms industry endure.

Put another way, although the US is no longer in Afghanistan, taxpayers continue to pay for the American military’s massive global presence. Absent a fundamental rethinking of how the US sees national security and the role the military plays in foreign policy, big cuts are unlikely.”

“Congress didn’t think that Biden had committed enough to combatting China in his original defense budget request, so lawmakers added some $25 billion in all.”

Crackdown on China’s treatment of Muslim minority headed to Biden’s desk

“The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act effectively bans all imports from China’s Xinjiang region, where the U.S. government has said that the Chinese Communist Party is perpetrating a genocide against the religious minority, including slave labor, forced sterilizations and concentration camps. Under the terms of the bill, companies that produce goods in Xinjiang can be granted an exception if they show proof that those products are not made using forced labor.

“Many companies have already taken steps to clean up their supply chains,” Rubio said. “For those who have not done that, they’ll no longer be able to continue to make Americans — every one of us, frankly — unwitting accomplices in the atrocities, in the genocide that’s being committed by the Chinese Communist Party.””

What the US’s diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics does — and doesn’t — mean

“President Joe Biden’s administration said this week that it would not send US government officials to the Beijing Games in protest of China’s human rights violations, including its abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and anti-democratic crackdown in Hong Kong. The United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada also said this week that they will keep their delegations home.

This diplomatic boycott isn’t a full-on protest of the games, and won’t prevent athletes from participating in the 2022 Olympics. It won’t affect the spectacle of the event all that much, although lots of skiers will probably be asked about it. And despite some pressure from activists and human rights advocates, corporate sponsors — a.k.a. the money behind it all — have been largely silent.

All of this makes the US diplomatic boycott “more symbolic than substantial,” Zhiqun Zhu, a professor of political science and international relations at Bucknell University, wrote in an email.

That symbolism can still needle the Chinese government, especially now that countries beyond the US have joined, and even more so if others follow suit. The Olympics matter to Beijing — maybe not as much as its coming-out party in the 2008 Summer Games, but President Xi Jinping still wants to signal international prestige to the world and to his domestic audience, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Chinese government has pushed back pretty hard against the boycotts. Before they became real, China warned of “resolute countermeasures,” without specifying what those might be. Since the boycott announcements, Chinese officials basically said that’s cool, but you actually weren’t even invited anyway.”

China joined rules-based trading system — then broke the rules

“It’s been 20 years since China entered the global trade body, the World Trade Organization, a move that gave it access to the international trade system.”

“China’s WTO accession has rendered the U.S. undeniable gains. Consumers have enjoyed two decades of relatively inexpensive imported consumer goods, which boosted their buying power and the economy. A 2019 analysis by the London School of Economics of the impact of China’s WTO entry on U.S. consumer prices concluded that “each US household saw its annual purchasing power increase by $1,500 thanks to lower prices caused by increased trade with China from 2000 to 2007.”
WTO-brokered access to the Chinese market for U.S. agricultural products has reaped an export boom for farmers and agribusiness. And the U.S.-China Business Council’s 2021 member survey revealed that “ninety-five percent of respondents report that their China operations were profitable over the last year.”

But there is compelling data that China’s WTO entry helped accelerate America’s deindustrialization. A 2020 analysis by the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented think tank, estimated in January 2020 that the U.S. trade deficit with China resulted in the loss of 3.7 million jobs from 2001-2018.

The Chinese government’s willingness to push its economy to a more market-oriented setting broadly ground to a halt by around 2008. And that may have been the plan.

“When we promised to adopt a market economy, we made it absolutely clear that it would be a socialist market economy,” Long Yongtu, China’s chief negotiator for WTO accession, said in an interview in May. That effectively meant that China exploited foreign market access while blocking the U.S. from the Chinese market through measures largely outside of the WTO’s supervision and enforcement mechanisms.”

“Practically..the WTO may be incapable of bringing China’s unfair trading practices to heel because all 164 member nations — including China itself — need to accede to any new agreements.

“I don’t think the WTO can adequately discipline Chinese government practices because the rules of the WTO are now old,” Barshefsky said.”

Terrorwashing a Genocide

“In The War on the Uyghurs, Sean Roberts begins the arduous task of probing these and other mysteries of the first two decades of the global war on terror. In doing so, he shows how the United States’ efforts to build an international consensus for its counterterrorism projects had far-reaching consequences on the other side of the world, changing the relationship between the Chinese state and its long-oppressed Uyghur minority. He also shows how, during that same period—apart from any Western influence—the Chinese government became increasingly brazen in its oppression of Muslim and Turkic minorities, steadily curtailing freedoms of movement, assembly, and speech in Xinjiang long before the moment in 2016 when it began secretly interning hundreds of thousands of people in extrajudicial “Transformation Through Education” centers.”

“It is tempting to think of Xinjiang as a vast and arid Guantanamo Bay, one roughly as large as Alaska and as populous as Texas. Like Donald Rumsfeld’s own “world-class operation,” on a much grander (albeit largely domestic) scale, it is a hypertrophied state-within-a-state where minority residents are guilty before judgment and where the rule of law is reengineered in the name of fighting a pervasive, unbounded, and infinitely flexible terrorist threat. According to Darren Byler, another scholar of the region, China’s counterterrorism campaign in Xinjiang “rests on the assumption that most Uyghurs and significant numbers of Kazakhs are terrorists, separatists, and extremists-in-waiting.” But while Guantanamo Bay’s purpose is containment, Xin-jiang’s state of exception is intended to cure a diseased population. This philosophy is made explicit in government statements dating to the 2014 start of China’s “People’s War on Terror.” In the words of one 2015 report from Hotan City, anyone whose thinking has been “deeply affected” by “religious extremism” must be transformed through “military-style management.”

Roberts argues that this state of exception is facilitating cultural genocide. In addition to the system of extrajudicial detention that has incarcerated hundreds of thousands of people—possibly more than a million—in camps, more than 300,000 residents have also received formal prison sentences in the last three years, an order of magnitude more than in previous periods. An entire generation of Uyghur academics, artists, and businesspeople has disappeared, probably into prisons; they include internationally respected anthropologists, poets, comedians, novelists, and economists. There have been many credible reports of torture, sexual violence, and forced sterilization among Xinjiang’s minority population. Children are routinely taken from detained parents and placed in state orphanages where minority language and culture are demonized. And more than a million Communist Party cadres have been sent to live temporarily with Uyghur and Kazakh families, where they perform searches of homes, lecture their hosts on the dangers of Islam, and even sleep in the same beds as their “brothers” and “sisters.” Meanwhile, birth rates have plummeted in minority areas. The end result, scholars and activists fear, will be the eradication of Uyghurs as a distinct people.”

“It’s true that small numbers of Uyghurs have sometimes pushed for political independence in their homeland, even founding two short-lived Republics of East Turkestan in the years before China’s Communist revolution. But in case after case, Roberts shows, the Chinese government has used deceptive framing, official secrecy, and the framework of the war on terror to artificially inflate the danger of Uyghur separatism in order to justify increasingly ruthless policies in Xinjiang. “Often,” he writes, “what was framed as a ‘terrorist attack’ by authorities at this time was really armed self-defense against police and security forces, which were seeking to aggressively apprehend Uyghurs they viewed as ‘disloyal’ to the state, often merely determined by their religiosity.””

“As the war on terror escalated outside of China, state-conjured threats of separatism led to harsher policies in Xin-jiang. Roberts argues that this environment created a “self-fulfilling prophecy” where state tactics made spontaneous acts of rage and violence—eventually including genuine acts of terrorism, such as a coordinated knife attack in Kunming in 2014—all but inevitable, retroactively justifying the policies that caused the violence in the first place.”

China’s War on Crypto

“In El Salvador, you can now use crypto-currency to pay for your Big Mac. In Kazakhstan and Russia, crypto mining operations have taken off. In China, however, the Communist Party is bent on destroying every form of cryptocurrency except a still-to-be-developed digital yuan that isn’t really a cryptocurrency at all.

The Chinese government has spent years enacting regulations designed to thwart the enthusiastic adoption of cryptocurrency on the mainland. But a new regulatory action announced on September 15 is different, says Karman Lucero, a fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center, because its language is “somewhat scarily broad.”

The regulatory notice promised to shut down both cryptocurrency mining—a process through which computers around the world maintain and secure the network—and foreign cryptocurrency exchanges. Domestic exchanges have been illegal in China since 2017, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long indicated its hostility to crypto. So it’s not exactly shocking that the government is getting more aggressive. But the new rule’s language is vague and hard to parse.”

EU makes late bid to rival China on the Silk Road

“The big idea behind Europe’s Global Gateway strategy is to mobilize up to €300 billion in public and private funds by 2027 to finance EU infrastructure projects abroad. That means building next-generation infrastructure such as fiber optic cables, 5G networks and green energy plants in the developing world, while also trying to compete with China on transport facilities, such as highways and airports.

It’s a long-shot as far as games of catch-up go.

Even if private investors join in, the EU’s spending plan languishes way beneath what it is estimated China is coughing up, and Beijing has bought its way to influence with first-mover advantage in countries from Greece to Sri Lanka. The EU boasts its main selling point is more transparency and higher environmental standards than China, although that doesn’t always go down well in many of the potential partners, which prefer opaque Chinese deals.”