The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 "with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress. The Commission consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President." (CECC About). The CECC FAQs provide useful information about the CECC. See CECC Frequently Asked Questions. They have developed positions on a number of issues.
CECC tends to serve as an excellent barometer of the thinking of political and academic elites in the United States about issues touching on China and the official American line developed in connection with those issues. As such it is an important source of information about the way official and academic sectors think about China. As one can imagine many of the positions of the CECC are critical of current Chinese policies and institutions (for some analysis see CECC).
The political and academic elites in the United appear to be coalescing around a policy response to the actions of the Chinese central authorities with respect to the situation in Hong Kong as it has developed since June 2019. That approach is made up of a combination of (1) gesture for internal consumption by those members of the American population that matter (that is that influence mass opinion and drive decision making by critical actors in the academic, economic, societal and religious spheres); and (2) quite targeted sanctions action against certain actors within the national organs of China and the local organs of Hong Kong that will sting but which are incapable of exacting enough reaction to actually affect policy.
It is in this context that CECC responded to the actions of the US government taken this past Tuesday:
The United States has sanctioned an additional 24 Chinese officials over Beijing’s ongoing crackdown on dissent in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, including a decision to overhaul the city’s electoral system. The sanctions, announced late on Tuesday, were introduced under the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and list officials who are deemed responsible for eroding the rights and freedoms promised to the people of Hong Kong at the time of its handover from British to Chinese rule. (US sanctions 24 Chinese officials over Hong Kong crackdown)
The object is to make a point--and that is quite important where one seeks to play the long game--but at the same time not to disturb either the current equilibrium or otherwise affect policy objectives that are measured as of greater importance. In the case of Hong Kong that involves the protection of an internationalist position centering on the breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration (but ultimately based on international law and principle generally). But that emphasis may not be undertaken for its own sake but instead in furtherance of lager objectives--for example with respect to China's position on the South China Sea and its 9-dash line.
The larger object is to reaffirm a specific culture of interaction--one grounded o the language of accountability (considered here) and within that culture of risk avoidance grounded in principles of prevention, mitigation, and remedy. And over all that is the overarching principle of compliance (here)--that is the banal bureaucratic-academic-technocratic term for the sensibilities of governmentalité (here) now reconstructed for the post globalization global era. The point is not to be directly effect--but rather to use the situation to indirect effect for a series of larger prizes. These larger prizes, in the aggregate will determine both the scope of dominance, and the extent of that dominance within the emerging double spheres of management, that are coalescing around the United States and China. In that respect, both the sanctions, and the approval of CECC may indeed serve a powerful but longer term purpose. It is meant to re-position the United States at the leadership core of the vanguard of leading states whose actions and principles guide the development (and eventually operationalization on the ground) of collective principles, standards, expectations, and the rewards and punishments attached to these.
This is made clear by a careful reading of the "Statement by the Chairs About New Sanctions For Chinese and Hong Kong Officials" which appears below. Note as well the way the language works--even in its constrciton of the statement the effort is underlined to detach Hing Kong (and its officials) from those of China (and theirs). The internationalist perspective is thus embedded in the construction of the dicursive language as well as in the much more pointed symbolism of targeted sanctions. Expect more as the Biden Administration takes up the unfinished task laid out (and not yet rejected) by its predecessor.
March 17, 2021
(Washington, D.C.)—Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), the Chair and Cochair, respectively, of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), issued the following statement about the Administration’s announcement of sanctions for 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and human rights and contributing to the failure of the Chinese government to meet its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration or Hong Kong’s Basic Law.“The sanctions on Chinese government officials announced last night are the correct response to the systematic dismantling of Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms. Successive administrations have used the tools provided by Congress to address the Chinese government’s brazen disregard of its obligations to the people of Hong Kong as well as its treaty obligations. The timing of the announcement sends a clear signal that the U.S. Government remains serious about holding the Chinese government accountable. We will continue to speak in defense of the Hong Kong people against the oppression of an authoritarian system.”
Press Contact: Scott Flipse @ Scott.Flipse@mail.house.gov