The EU’s China Partnership: Turning a Blind Eye to Genocide
More content below Andrew Stuttaford More content belowFrans Timmermans
Priorities, priorities . . .
The EU is proclaiming a “good partnership” with China on climate issues, made smoother by avoiding mention of the country’s human rights record.
It’s not so easy for the U.S., which was slapped down by China last week as it tried to pursue a climate agenda while also denouncing China’s “genocide” against its Uighur Muslim minority.
EU Green Deal chief Frans Timmermans held a videoconference with Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng [on February 1] — the first in a planned series of high-level meetings between the world’s first and third-largest greenhouse gas polluters. Timmermans did not use the chance to raise concerns about human rights with one of the seven members in the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s paramount political body, his spokesperson said . . .
Timmermans caught Han up on this year’s plans to roll out the European Green Deal, aiming at the bloc becoming climate neutral by 2050. Han filled in Timmermans on China’s upcoming 14th Five-Year Plan, the first steps of China’s effort to reach net zero emissions by 2060.
After the meeting, Timmermans said the pair had “laid the foundations for a good partnership” that will continue ahead of the COP26 U.N. climate talks in November. Before then, the EU wants China to commit to cutting its emissions faster over the next decade and stop building new coal plants at home and abroad.
Chinese state outlet Xinhua reported that Han wanted to make “climate pragmatic cooperation” central to Beijing’s relationship with the EU.
In unrelated news (via VoA):
China put 38.4 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power capacity into operation in 2020, according to new international research, more than three times the amount built elsewhere around the world and potentially undermining its short-term climate goals.
The country won praise last year after President Xi Jinping pledged to make the country “carbon neutral” by 2060. But regulators have since come under fire for failing to properly control the coal power sector, a major source of climate-warming greenhouse gas.
Including decommissions, China’s coal-fired fleet capacity rose by a net 29.8 GW in 2020, even as the rest of the world made cuts of 17.2 GW, according to research released on Wednesday by Global Energy Monitor (GEM), a U.S. think tank, and the Helsinki-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).
The notion that China can be relied upon as a negotiating partner when it comes to climate has always been an absurdity. China’s regime does what it wants. If sticking to an international agreement, particularly with a counterparty lacking the sort of clout that Beijing respects, would run against what the regime regards as being in China’s (or, more importantly, its own) interest, then that agreement will not count for very much, if anything. Ask the people of Hong Kong how the Sino–British Joint Declaration on their future is holding up.
As for any suggestion that China will be inspired by the moral example that the EU is setting, well, call me skeptical, but I reckon that authoritarians engaged in genocide are unlikely to be moved by moral example.
And, yes, the torment being inflicted on the Uyghurs is, on any reasonable construction of the word, and as then–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out, genocide. In a must-read article for The Spectator, Charles Parton described in harrowing detail what has been going on in Xinjiang, the Uyghur homeland. He noted that this was “not a holocaust,” but:
As Xi Jinping, quoting an earlier Chinese thinker, said in another context: ‘To destroy a people, you must first destroy its history’. And to prevent its resuscitation, he might have added that you must strangle language, education, culture and the ability to reproduce.
And that is what China appears to be doing to the Uyghurs.
While the situation has yet to descend into mass murder of a kind that might have been carried out by the Nazis, the Soviets, or earlier incarnations of the current Chinese Communist Party, it is estimated that over a million Uyghurs are being held in concentration camps.
Then there is this (via the BBC):
First-hand accounts from inside the internment camps are rare, but several former detainees and a guard have told the BBC they experienced or saw evidence of an organised system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture.
Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled Xinjiang after her release and is now in the US, said women were removed from the cells “every night” and raped by one or more masked Chinese men. She said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men.
Ziawudun has spoken to the media before, but only from Kazakhstan, where she “lived in constant fear of being sent back to China”, she said. She said she believed that if she revealed the extent of the sexual abuse she had experienced and seen, and was returned to Xinjiang, she would be punished more harshly than before. And she was ashamed, she said.
In 1953, Raphael Lemkin gave a speech in New York on Soviet genocide in Ukraine, something he saw as a sustained process, which included an onslaught on the intelligentsia (“the national brain”), the churches (“the soul of Ukraine”), and the dispersal (often through deportations) and fragmentation of the Ukrainian population, something that was achieved partly by an influx of non-Ukrainians into Ukraine (there has been significant immigration of Han Chinese into Xinjiang). The central act of this genocide was, notoriously, directing a man-made famine against “the farmers, the large mass of independent peasants who are the repository of the tradition, folklore and music, the national language and literature, the national spirit, of Ukraine.”
Lemkin conceded that “there have been no attempts at complete annihilation, such as was the method of the German attack on the Jews,” but:
If the Soviet programme succeeds completely, if the intelligentsia, the priests and the peasants can be eliminated, Ukraine will be as dead as if every Ukrainian were killed, for it will have lost that part of it which has kept and developed its culture, its beliefs, its common ideas, which have guided it and given it a soul, which, in short, made it a nation rather than a mass of people.
And who was Raphael Lemkin? He was a Polish Jewish lawyer (49 members of his family were murdered in the Holocaust, although he was able to escape via Lithuania and Sweden to the United States) who coined the term “genocide” and was an instrumental figure in the passing of the U.N. Convention on Genocide, even if it did not go as far as he would have preferred, not least with respect to the “cultural” genocide he referred to in that 1953 speech.
Parton, meanwhile, writes that:
Under Article 2 of the UN Convention on genocide, killing members of a ‘national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ is only one of five reasons for actions to qualify as genocide. The other four are: causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about a group’s destruction in whole or in part; preventing births; and forcibly transferring children to another group.
Genocide also requires that the actions have the ‘intent to destroy’. The CCP does not spell out its intent, although it comes close when Xi insists on the ‘Sinicization’ of religion or advances his vision of a new ‘Zhonghua minzu’ (usually translated as ‘Chinese nation’, but ‘Chinese race’ is closer). Nevertheless, the scale of the atrocities, the clear and detailed planning, the allocation of resources, and the very detailed methodologies of repression, all revealed in leaked documents, are surely sufficient to convince, if not convict.
Under the circumstances, it is worth noting this from Politico (from mid January) in connection with the major investment deal that the EU has just agreed to with China (although it has yet to be ratified):
The European Union will not wait for Beijing to adopt a ban on forced labor before ratifying its investment agreement with China, France’s junior minister for trade Franck Riester said Tuesday.
“[T]he European Union will sign [the investment agreement] with the provision noted in the text, which is to make sustained and continuous efforts for ratification” of an International Labour Organisation convention banning forced labor, Riester said.
Asked by POLITICO whether France would insist on China banning forced labor before voting in the Council to approve the deal, Riester said it would not, but would instead insist on a “calendar” for Beijing’s reforms.
Adding irony to disgust is this story from the New York Times, which I discussed in more detail here:
In a flat, arid expanse of China’s far west Xinjiang region, a solar technology company welcomed laborers from a rural area 650 miles away, preparing to put them to work at GCL-Poly, the world’s second-largest maker of polysilicon.
The workers, members of the region’s Uighur minority, attended a class in etiquette as they prepared for their new lives in the solar industry, which prides itself as a model of clean, responsible growth. GCL-Poly promoted the housing and training it offered its new recruits in photographs and statements to the local news media.
But researchers and human rights experts say those positive images may conceal a more troubling reality — the persecution of one of China’s most vulnerable ethnic groups. According to a report by the consultancy Horizon Advisory, Xinjiang’s rising solar energy technology sector is connected to a broad program of assigned labor in China, including methods that fit well-documented patterns of forced labor.
Major solar companies including GCL-Poly, East Hope Group, Daqo New Energy, Xinte Energy and Jinko Solar are named in the report as bearing signs of using some forced labor, according to Horizon Advisory, which specializes in Chinese-language research. Though many details remain unclear, those signs include accepting workers transferred with the help of the Chinese government from certain parts of Xinjiang, and having laborers undergo “military-style” training that may be aimed at instilling loyalty to China and the Communist Party.
The EU makes great play of the fact that it is dedicated to ensuring that the horrors of Europe’s 20th century are not repeated. This noble claim would be rather more credible were Brussels not now busy deepening its relationship with a regime (now, arguably, more fascist than communist) that is operating concentration camps in the interests of something that looks a lot like genocide, while pursuing a foreign policy designed to bringing “lost” territories home, and of course cracking down on Hong Kong in a manner that is an affront to international law as well as to common decency.