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The tone is set. More than thirty years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, the EU is for the first time sanctioning those responsible in China for human rights violations – against the Uighur minority in Xinjiang – together with the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It is a clear commitment by the Western world to humanity and freedom – and a clearly audible signal to Beijing: These values are not negotiable.
The Europeans will have anticipated that Beijing resorted to counter-sanctions only a few minutes after the EU foreign ministers’ decision. Anything else would be naïve after China made it very clear as recently as Friday in Alaska that it regards any criticism of Xinjiang as interference in internal affairs. Amelie Richter has the events of this diplomatically explosive Monday and takes a first look at possible consequences. Because one thing is clear: The tone of this day will also have an impact on economic relations between Europe and China.
I would particularly like to recommend the results of Marcel Grzanna’s research, who found answers to the question of why only just over half of the sixty scientists involved in the study “The Uyghur Genocide” by the Newlines Institute were prepared to put their names to the paper.
Sanctions from Beijing cause CAI to waver
Visibly annoyed, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell took the podium yesterday for his press conference after the EU foreign ministers’ meeting. Within just a few hours, relations between the European Union and China had turned pitch black: After the announcement of the already expected EU sanctions against four Chinese officials and one organization, the – no less expected – response came from Beijing. But no one in Brussels had expected the scale of the response – China launched a round of sanctions against all the European voices that had long been a thorn in Beijing’s side.
The punitive measures are aimed at European politicians, academics, and organizations, including German MEPs Reinhard Bütikofer (Greens) and Michael Gahler (CDU), anthropologist Adrian Zenz, and Germany’s leading China think-tank, the Merics Institute. A total of ten people and four “entities” are on the sanctions list from Zhongnanhai, which represents an unprecedented diplomatic escalation between the EU and China.
Borrell questions previous approach
This could now also have consequences for Brussels’ general approach towards the People’s Republic. China’s actions are “unacceptable”, said EU chief diplomat Borrell, who will present a progress report on the China strategy at this week’s summit of EU leaders. “I don’t want to say that recent events make this approach obsolete,” Borrell said. “But it’s fair to say the approach is out of date.” Borrell’s expected report is a continuation of the 2019 EU-China strategy, most notable for its first mention of “systematic rivalry.” China’s sanctions have now created “a new atmosphere, a new situation” that will definitely be discussed at the EU summit, Borrell said.