tirsdag 6. april 2021

Sanctions only escalate tensions. It's time to tackle the Uyghurs' plight differently

"Wholly counterproductive”, was how Newcastle academic Joanne Smith Finley described China’s sanctions on her, along with a series of British politicians and lawyers, as punishment for their advocacy for the Uyghurs. That was putting it mildly. But is it the case that western sanctions on China will be, by contrast, productive? Sadly, that seems unlikely.

International outrage at China’s policies of incarceration and social coercion in Xinjiang continues to grow. As someone who has been engaged with the region for two decades, I see that as much needed. But it’s crucial the energy being generated is put to good use. The gloves may be off, but what is the strategy?

Sanctions send a signal that the world is watching. But if they are to be in any way effective, the sanctioned have to believe that changes to their behaviour will lead to some improvement in relations. There’s little chance of Beijing forming this view, given the state of Sino-western relations. Not while Joe Biden tries to strong-arm China by maintaining Donald Trump’s suite of tariffs and sanctions on its tech companies. Not while Washington provocatively declares that its “defence” interests extend all the way up to China’s coastline – with the Royal Navy now joining in the sabre-rattling in the East and South China Seas.