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).
Recently CECC has begun to coordinate, in concert with administrative departs (see Human Rights Due Diligence Comes to the United States: Xinjiang Supply Chain Business Advisory), its focus on soft law efforts (that is on efforts to influence the decision making and risk calculations under transnational private law) aimed at the conduct of US companies (especially those managing global production chains) under private law managed regimes of international norms grounded in human rights and sustainability, including standards not recognized in the home country itself. To that end, CECC announced that it "has invited the U.S.-based companies who sponsor the Olympics through The Olympic Partner (TOP ) Programme of the IOC to . . . [July 27, 2021 10:00am] hearing to address how they can leverage their influence to insist on concrete human rights improvements in the People’s Republic of China and how they will manage the material and reputational risks of being associated with an Olympic Games held in the midst of a genocide." (CECC, Press Release: Corporate Sponsorship of the 2022 Beijing Olympics). For a discussion of this effort see HERE.
Now CECC has invoked yet another lever--this time not international soft law frameworks that change risk calculations for business--but instead the mechanisms of international private organizations to add another layer of pressure on the Chinese central authorities. The focus this time is on the troubled International Olympic Committee, an organization that is not n a position to lose friends at the moment. It is a Swiss entity that describes itself as the
"the guardian of the Olympic Games and the leader of the Olympic Movement. A truly global organisation, it acts as a catalyst for collaboration between all Olympic stakeholders, including the athletes, the National Olympic Committees, the International Federations, Organising Committees for the Olympic Games, the Worldwide Olympic Partners and Olympic broadcast partners. It also collaborates with public and private authorities including the United Nations and other international organisations." (HERE).
It is the locus of the IOC at the intersection of public and private, and as the guardian of the very popular Olympic games, that provides the CECC with another lever in its campaign to advance its position on Chinese policies in Xinjiang. The object here is to engage with public soft power--the management of the Olympic games--in furtherance of the U.S. position by adding pressure touching on a highly visible prestige event. To that end, in a Press Release of 23 July 2021, the CECC announced:
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, released today a letter to Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) asking him to postpone the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and to relocate them if the host government does not end its egregious human rights abuses, saying that “No Olympics should be held in a country whose government is committing genocide and crimes against humanity.” (CECC Press Release)
CECC, of course, is again focusing its energy on coordinated efforts, this time one that includes the uncoordinated but aligned efforts of other public and private actors. Some of these efforts have been long in the making: "More than 160 human rights groups around the world have signed a letter calling for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reverse its decision to hold the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing allegations of widespread rights abuses by the Chinese government." (CNN September 2020). Some efforts are quite recent. "Members of Congress’ Human Rights Commission, in a rare display of bipartisan unity, on Tuesday called on the International Olympic Committee to remove the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing, accusing the IOC and its corporate partners of being complicit in human rights violations by the Chinese government. " (Orange County Register May 2021). The Congressional action is particularly interesting because it also folds back on an intimation of complicity with global business interests supporting Chinese Olympic efforts under current circumstances. (Ibid). Complicity appears to be the mechanism that is increasing utilized in the deployment of the markets sector for public ends, and represents another step forward in the alignment between market activity and public purpose.
These are, of course, the techniques of aggressive counter-engagement well refined by American elites during the Trump Administration. They are also an increasingly useful example of the way that states may use the techniques of the Second Pillar of the United Nations Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights to good effect--and certainly to advance a normative-political agenda. In a sense this represents the fulfillment of some of the promise of the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights relating both to the obligations of state owned enterprises and to businesses from abroad that may have dealing with them and the state policies that they further (e.g., UNGP Principles 4-6, and 17). Particularly relevance are two strategies that bear emphasis. The first is the refinement of the use of complicity to drive risk calculations and to align business conduct in markets with state objectives. The second is the importance for this effort of deploying multilateral institutions--and now especially private or hybrid institutions--to leverage aligned market-public policy objectives. In this context the Commentary to UNGP No. 10 is particularly relevant. "Collective action through multilateral institutions can help States level the playing field with regard to business respect for human rights, but it should do so by raising the performance of laggards. Cooperation between States, multilateral institutions and other stakeholders can also play an important role."
It bears noting, of course, that the Chinese central authorities are also fast learners.
The text of the Press Release and the Letter follow:
Commissioners Ask IOC President To Postpone and Relocate the 2022 Winter Olympics if China Does Not End Abuses
July 23, 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, released today a letter to Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) asking him to postpone the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and to relocate them if the host government does not end its egregious human rights abuses, saying that “No Olympics should be held in a country whose government is committing genocide and crimes against humanity.” The Chairs were joined on the letter by CECC Commissioners Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ), both former CECC Chairs.
“This action would also be in the best interests of the athletes,” said the CECC Commissioners. “We find it unfair for the IOC to force athletes to sacrifice their conscience in order to pursue their competitive goals, or vice versa.”
In 2018, the CECC urged the IOC to use its leverage with the Chinese government to help end the mass internment and other abuses targeting Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Since that time, the situation in the XUAR has continued to deteriorate. The IOC never officially responded to the CECC’s 2018 letter.
The CECC will host a hearing entitled, “Corporate Sponsorship of the 2022 Winter Olympics,” on Tuesday, July 27, 2021 with U.S.-based companies who sponsor the Olympics through The Olympic Partner (TOP) programme of the IOC. Next week’s hearing is the second in a series on the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. In May, the CECC jointly hosted a hearing with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission entitled “China, Genocide and the Olympics.”
Text of the letter can be found here and below.