tirsdag 23. mars 2021

Could China's aggressive Xinjiang sanctions counter-punch risk alienating the European Union?

When Chinese and Russian officials meet in Beijing this week, one topic of conversation may be the hatred both countries have for the international community's use of sanctions to interfere in what they regard as "internal affairs." China, at least, will be able to boast of hitting back: following new sanctions announced by the European Union on Monday, Beijing introduced countermeasures against multiple European lawmakers and academics.

From China's perspective, such sanctions are only fair, a tit-for-tat response that sends a message to the domestic audience that Beijing will not take such challenges laying down. But they're also a gamble that European policymakers will see the punitive measures as a piece of theater, not aggression, and will be willing to look past the designation of some of their colleagues, in continuing to build economic ties with Beijing.

The potential cost for China in overplaying their hand here is relatively high: not only could a misstep jeopardize a forthcoming investment agreement with the EU, currently in its final stages, but it may also push the bloc closer to Washington, following the alienation of the Donald Trump era that so benefited Beijing. Soon after the Chinese sanctions were announced, the Socialists and Democrats -- the second-largest grouping of lawmakers in the European Parliament -- said they would not engage in any talks on the agreement until the measures are lifted.