What to do about Xinjiang?

It is becoming impossible to ignore the state-directed assault on China’s Uyghur minority. Reeducation camps, forced labour, and population transfers are uncomfortable throwbacks to China’s past.


On Instagram someone asked: “but what can we do?” A new piece – helpfully titled ‘What to do about Xinjiang’ – from Jordan Schneider provides some suggestions. It is worth checking out (thanks to Marginal Revolution for the link)

One passage stood out for me:

In a best-case scenario, this effort would lead Chinese firms to disengage with Xinjiang labor camps as well as lobby the Chinese government that the economic risks of a global sanctions regime are substantial. Maybe this would change the cost-benefit calculus for Beijing on the whole Xinjiang internment endeavor. There are significant downsides, however. Chinese firms are already increasingly opting to list in Hong Kong or Shanghai instead of New York, and action like this will surely accelerate this trend. Such aggressive action has the potential to harm U.S. competitiveness relative to European and Asian firms.

Sanctions and political pressure are dynamic and they produce a reaction. China appears intent on continuing its policy in Xinjiang, so what is the new status quo we are heading towards? How does China respond to a status quo of sanctions, pressure, and international condemnation?

One answer, which Jordan’s piece alludes to, is decoupling. China is expected to emphasise self-sufficiency in its upcoming 5 year plan. Greater self-sufficiency should be seen as one part of an insurance policy which also includes the Belt and Road Initiative; an insurance policy being accelerated by the current sanctions regime.

Greater decoupling has consequences for the trend towards deglobalisation. It may also mark the return of the Eurasian landmass to its position of vital geopolitical importance.

Solve for the unintended consequences.

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