By Tom Fowdy
Beijing: A coalition of countries at the behest of the US, including the European Union, Britain and Canada, recently imposed sanctions on several officials of the Standing Committee of the CPC Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee and the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau for engaging in “human rights abuse” of the Uygur population.
Beijing responded by imposing a series of retaliatory sanctions on each side, a response which went further and harsher than the initial measures. Although inevitably the Western media decried China’s response illogically as a form of aggression and claimed it would further distort its ties with the various countries involved, it was demonstrative of the extent Beijing is prepared to go in order to defend its national sovereignty and enforce its “red lines” accordingly.
The West does not seem to understand that owing to the experience of history, national sovereignty is an extremely sensitive issue for China. Having faced the legacy of Western powers continually violating, disrespecting and interfering in the country’s sovereign interests and territorial integrity, modern China has been forced to take an unwavering resolve in defending its sovereign rights at all costs and to draw harsh “red lines” simply because the West will not respect them otherwise.
The West’s relationship with China is premised on the ideological disposition that Beijing is fundamentally unequal. The West reserves a position to impose its worldview upon China, but doesn’t afford Beijing any legitimacy to question it. Therefore, deterrence by forceful means is the only language the West will understand in order to protect China’s core interests. This is not about authoritarianism; it is about alleviating a fundamentally unequal power relationship.
China has always been prepared to forego short-term costs on itself in order to defend its long-term positions. If the West is going to attempt to whip up instability within Xinjiang by attempting to economically isolate it, formulate ethnic unrest and spread atrocity propaganda to undermine China’s international reputation, then Beijing is prepared to hit back, and hit harder.
For example, there has been a great deal of news coverage concerning the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) China had negotiated with the European Union after the sanctions row. Although a lot of US-sponsored think tankers sought to sabotage it anyway, the media discourse talks about this as if it is something Europe “holds over China,” as if Beijing is desperate and as if China has completely burnt its bridges in retaliating to Xinjiang sanctions, readily ignoring the reality that Europe itself had been trying hard to seek more market access within China.
However, China is unwilling to trade away its sovereignty for agreements like the CAI. There can be no compromise. Imposing parties cannot simultaneously demand to exploit China’s domestic markets while readily undermining its political interests.
–The Daily Mail-Global Times news exchange item