Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Public Pressure on Private Conduct in Defense of Liberal Democratic Values: Congressional-Executive Commission on China Chairs Issue Statement about Forced Labor in Apple’s Supply Chain in Xinjiang

Pix Credit: The Epoch Times


I noted what appeared to be the emergence of a US  two thrust strategy built on the emerging structures of liberal democratic variations of transnational governance (here, and here). The Two Thrust Strategy "first seeks to affect the societal sphere by putting pressure on market actors to evidence fidelity to national (and perhaps international) human rights values in accordance with a specific application, in their market transactions. Simultaneously it imposes legislation which" develops an authoritative national narrative based on US political principles (tied to international standards) and enhances a legal framework for decoupling trade disciplined by targeted sanctions" (here). 

Taken together it represents a refinement of President Trump's America First project, now reconstituted for the temperament of its elites and better suited for its naturalization among its tributary, client and allied states. It substitutes the egoism of American "firstness" with the language of the "firstness" of great principles with respect to which the United States serves as primus inter pares (First among equals: a new approach to leadership) among a coordinated congress of states that are bound together by fidelity to those principles.  The end product is still roughly the same--a coordinated system built from the core of US leadership as the hub of a system around which its relationships are constructed, maintained and controlled. 

That coordinated system is, of course, not merely public--with its memorialization of lofty principle in command, and operationalized through the everyday work of the administrative apparatus to which implementation authority is usually delegated.  It is also private--the operation of the principles based system is dependent on the ability of the state to project those principles, and to implement them, through private enterprises which manage global production chains  the apex control of which in or subject to US public control. The privatization of public obligation (especially in the highly principled area of human rights and accountability), and in the process, the transformation of the institutions of private economic power into risk averse, accountability and compliance based quasi administrative units, have proven to be as powerful a mechanism for projecting public policy through private markets (in the liberal democratic sphere) as the more direct instrumentalization of the economic sphere operated through state owned enterprises (in the Marxist Leninist sphere).  

One can see the mechanisms of that management again in the work of the new leadership of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China which 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 context is the focus of CECC on Chinese policy in Xinjiang--and its role in the coordination of policy through public and private instruments.  I have written about the emergence the contemporary for of the two thrust policy in the context of CECC's Xinjiang counter efforts before (Here).  

Pix Credit HERE
Now the Chairs of the CECC have added another layer to their private sector strategies. They have sought to put public pressure of Apple respecting its connections and operations in Xinjiang.  This action was announced through a Press Release 8 June 2021:  Chairs Issue Statement about Forced Labor in Apple’s Supply Chain in Xinjiang. What makes this ironic, and somewhat curious, is that the tactic, as it is used here, mimics the effective strategies of advocacy groups and other principles based non governmental organizations. And the irony--the emerging systems of governance increasingly vest private institutions, enterprises and NGOs, with governance responsibilities of government and their working style.  At the same time, state actors are increasingly assuming the role and working styles of advocacy groups and enterprises. Is it possible that what one sees in actions like those of the CECC and the two thrust strategies are the initial forms of a revaluation of values  in the construction of the state  in the new era of liberal democratic historical development? 

The CECC Press Release follows (for discussion of additional pressure on Apple, see here, here, and here)


Chairs Issue Statement about Forced Labor in Apple’s Supply Chain in Xinjiang


8 June 2021 (Washington)—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, in a statement today urged Apple CEO Tim Cook to transparently engage with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ensure that Apple’s supply chains are free of forced labor and to divest from Chinese suppliers who take part in the Chinese government’s “labor transfer” programs, particularly from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Apple has stated that they found no evidence of forced labor anywhere they operate. 


“The mounting evidence is beyond troubling. Despite persistent assurances from Apple that their supply chains were free of forced labor, we now have evidence that it is tainted,” said the Chairs. “We urge Apple CEO Tim Cook to divest from Chinese suppliers in Xinjiang who are implicated in forced labor in China. We also ask Apple to engage with U.S. Customs and Border Protection on their China supply chains to ensure that no Apple import is made with forced labor. There must be a concerted, tough, and global response to the atrocities being committed in Xinjiang. We again press our House and Senate colleagues to swiftly pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which would impose real costs on any Chinese entity using the slave labor of Uyghur and other Muslim ethnic minorities.”    


The statement comes in response to new investigative reports by the Tech Transparency ProjectThe Information, and the New York Times detailing Apple’s extensive connections with companies operating in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), including ties to companies participating in coercive “labor transfer” programs involving ethnic minority workers, programs involving widespread and systematic forced labor that was a key element of the U.S. State Department’s determination that atrocity crimes are being committed in the XUAR.


The Chairs—along with CECC Commissioners Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ)—are the sponsors of the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (H.R.1155 / S.65). These bills restrict imports from the XUAR until both Chinese and U.S. companies can demonstrate to U.S. Customs and Border Protection that there is no forced labor in their supply chains.


For additional information on human rights conditions in the XUAR, see the CECC’s 2020 Annual Report chapters on “Xinjiang” and “Business and Human Rights,” as well as a staff report entitled “Global Supply Chains, Forced Labor, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”


Press Contact: Scott Flipse


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