US China trade sanctions
Western countries led by the US have decoupled from Chinese companies and slapped punitive sanctions on wide ranging diplomatic and commercial interests. [ PHOTO / Nikkei Asia ]

Sanctions: It is said that even the meekest of cats can fight back fiercely when pushed against the wall. Well, the same goes for human beings. Even those we deem cowards can engage in unexpected ways to safeguard their interests and survival.

In the last several years, the West has been on China’s case over a myriad of accusations in a thinly veiled stratagem aimed at sabotaging its socio-economic and political stability. It took then US President Donald Trump to bring these schemes to the fore, starting with an escalation of a trade war arising from claims of unfairly high tariffs charged by China on U.S. goods.

Trump left office in January this year, leaving behind the Wuhan lab leak conspiracy theory that lays blame for the origin of the coronavirus on the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He also started allegations of human rights abuse in the Xinjiang region that claims the Chinese government is engaged in a genocide of the Uyghurs Muslim minority.

In a well-coordinated and concerted effort, Western countries led by the US have decoupled from Chinese companies and slapped punitive sanctions on wide ranging diplomatic and commercial interests as a way of punishing alleged wrongdoing. All this while, China has taken this gracefully, trying to explain its position amid increasing antagonism and belligerence from the other side.

It seems like China cannot take any more pushing and shoving and has become exhausted from always being put on the defensive. During the ‘Two Sessions’ held in March this year, various participants proposed that China formulates a specific law on countering foreign sanctions so as to provide legal support and guarantee to counter discriminatory measures by any foreign country.

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Consequently, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, on Thursday adopted a law on countering foreign sanctions. According Li Zhanshu, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, the aim of the law is to provide “legal support for countering hegemonism and power politics, and safeguard the interests of the country and the people.”

In addition to other necessary measures that may be deemed fit, the new law stipulates three types of countermeasures which include:

  • Refusing to issue visas, banning entry into China, invalidating visas, and deportation;
  • Sealing up, seizing and freezing movable, immovable and other types of property in China;
  • Prohibiting from conducting related transactions with domestic organizations or individuals.

Basically, the law states that organizations or individuals involved in implementing discriminatory measures against Chinese citizens or entities can be placed on an anti-sanctions list by a Chinese government department. This can extend to senior managers and associates, including family members.

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In addition, those on the black list may be denied entry into China or be expelled from the country. Their assets within China may be seized or frozen, and they could be barred from doing business in China.

Foreign companies based in China will have to shape up or ship out. It is not possible to bite the hand that feeds you and expect the same hand to keep scooping food for you. Supporting sanctions is an act of sabotage that no country can countenance.

It is in bad faith to attempt destroying an economy that has been built painstakingly for the last 40 years, which is the time since China declared its ‘Reform and Opening up Policy’. Such a company would be deemed an enemy of the people and definitely does not deserve a piece of the Chinese economy pie.

Those who dish out sanctions like confetti should also be judged by the same yardstick.

This law should give courage to other countries that feel unfairly targeted by sanctions to stand up for their rights. No country has the moral authority to stand judgement over others on matters that touch on their internal affairs. The ones who dish out sanctions like confetti should also be judged by the same yardstick they judge others and be open to sanctions by a higher authority.

Asked whether the anti-sanctions law will curtail China’s spirited reform and opening up, an official of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the Standing Committee of the NPC stated that the law will actually be a boon for the country’s efforts. “China’s determination and will to deepen reform, expand opening-up and safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests stand firm.”

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The writer is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi based research and development communication think tank.

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