In recent months, the United States has ramped up efforts to counter the dangers posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Through official statements and actions, the U.S. has begun to address China’s infiltration into American society while sending a clear message that the U.S. opposes the human rights violations perpetrated by the CCP against the Chinese people and will act to prevent American companies from supporting or facilitating these human rights violations.
It is likely not a coincidence that this bolder stance toward the CCP comes at a time when the entire world is reeling from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. During a speech in London in July, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the CCP’s actions surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak served to “further its own interests” and “has shown the world the party’s true face.” The CCP’s espionage, disinformation, and infiltration efforts were a primary target of Pompeo message, “you can’t engage in cover-ups and co-opt international institutions like the World Health Organization.”
A new senate report also mentions the World Health Organization, as well as the World Trade Organization, as two examples of China using digital technology to assert its influence. Spearheaded by New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, the report concludes that China’s use of digital technology to censor and survey Chinese citizens is being exported beyond China’s borders and recommends legislation to create an alternative to China’s 5G technology as well as other protections against China’s surveillance efforts. Nearly half of all active FBI counterintelligence cases are related to China.
In an appeal to other democracies to work together on these issues, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out that U.S. “policies and those of other free nations resurrected China’s failing economy, only to see Beijing bite the international hands that were feeding it,” and added that the “biggest lie” the CCP tells is “that they speak for 1.4 billion people who are surveilled, oppressed, and scared to speak out.”
Along with these public statements came action. On July 22, the U.S. closed the Chinese Consulate in Houston, Texas. Though the specific reason for the closure was not disclosed, a State Department spokesperson said, “The United States will not tolerate the PRC’s violations of our sovereignty and intimidation of our people, just as we have not tolerated the PRC’s unfair trade practices, theft of American jobs, and other egregious behavior. President Trump insists on fairness and reciprocity in U.S.- China relations.”
The U.S. Commerce Department also took action in July by adding 11 Chinese companies implicated in a “campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor, involuntary collection of biometric data, and genetic analyses targeted at Muslim minority groups” to an economic blacklist. The companies, along with 37 companies already on the list, will be barred from access to American commodities or technologies.
Earlier in July, CCP Party Secretary for the Xinjiang region Chen Quanguo and three other Chinese officials were sanctioned for human rights crimes under the Global Magnitsky Act. A member of the CCP’s Poliburto, Chen became the highest ranking Chinese official to be sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said of the action, “The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world.” The Magnitsky Act not only impacts the assets and travel of perpetrators, but also prohibits business activity with Americans or American companies.
American companies that do business with blacklisted companies or sanctioned individuals also face repercussions, such as a California firm charged for conspiring to illegally export chemicals to a Chinese state-owned company which had been barred from doing business in the U.S. This action reflects a growing willingness to decouple the American economy from China’s human rights abuses. To this end, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley will be introducing the Slave-Free Business Certification Act which will require American companies to ensure that their supply chains do not include forced labor. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom held an online hearing in July that included information on how American companies have supplied technology used by the CCP to survey and suppress religious groups.
A letter sent to Attorney General William Barr, signed by hundreds of human right groups and individuals, has urged the administration to go even further and declare the CCP a transnational criminal organization. Presenting a list of the CCP’s criminal actions, from fentanyl, IP theft, and economic espionage, to Covid-19 and forced organ harvesting stating, “In March of 2020, the comprehensive and independent report and findings of the China Tribunal declared that the CCP’s campaign of forced organ harvesting against innocent victims is a “crime against humanity,” constituting one of the world’s ‘worst atrocities committed’ in modern times.” In 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order, Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking, to address such groups which post a threat to public safety and national security.
Barr said in a July 16 speech that the CCP’s “campaign to compel ideological conformity” extends to “American soil.” He explained that economic trade with China has not proven to soften its authoritarian nature and he warned American businesses, “All too often, for the sake of short-term profits, American companies have succumbed to [the CCP’s] influence—even at the expense of freedom and openness in the United States… If you are an American business leader, appeasing the PRC may bring short-term rewards. But in the end, the PRC’s goal is to replace you.”