I have been following the work of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) for some time (see posts at CECC). It represents an important source of emerging priorities for policy making, and certainly an important space where constraints on such policy making is developed, for the President in the exercise of his (and eventually her) executive authority over foreign policy. As it has for many years, and as required under its mandate, CECC has produced its 2021 Annual Report. This year the Report again focused not just on the gap between Chinese law on the books and as applied, but also was focused on an assessment of the gap between Chinese law (and the principles of its political-economic system) and international consensus on law-norm systems against which its system was itsef assessed.
That was made clear from the beginning of the Report:
The violations of human rights, failure to uphold Chinese law, and contravention of international standards documented in this report illustrate the limitations of the Chinese government’s model of governance in meeting the needs of the Chinese people and in respecting fundamental rights both in China and globally. This trampling of the human spirit calls for the building of coalitions to reject authoritarianism and provide alternatives that fulfill the aspirations of all people. Only by working together can defenders of
freedom achieve a better future. The trajectories of the CECC, and the framework for the political constraints it will present the incoming Biden Administration appear at the very start of the Report (2021 Annual Report, p. 7).
Again the focus is on crafting an appropriate U.S. response to the development of more robust expressions of Chinese development of its own economic-political model that manifests increasingly obvious and irreconcilable gaps between US and Chinese normative expectations and norm privileging. The responsive toolkit of the US is now well developed. It starts from the fundamental premise of detachment--one that was commenced during the Trump Administration, but that appears to be going forward under the Biden Administration as well. But detachment only means a more carefully managed interaction, more carefully managed as a sub-set of state ot state relaxations. That in itself is an enormous step back from the 1945-2015 core premise of globalization--the privatization of free movement of goods, capital, investment, and other economic and social interactions among peoples. In its place is a stricter management of interaction that must proceed through increasingly narrow gateways monitored and managed by the state at both sides of these new borders. Gatekeeping, rather than management of the fairness and integrity of converging markets, appears ot be the rule of the day now in US-China relations.
At the same time, that gatekeeping makes it easier to develop and apply systems of rewards and punishments based on conformity to national normative and operational principles. Targeted sanctions, and better interdiction of home state engagement (people and entities mostly engaged in economic activity) with offending host state entities, officials, or in areas deemed rife with rights breaches. But it extends beyond the economic--increasingly, the detachment produced a competition for dominance in the global arena. This is especially important in the context of global visions and principles for engagement and interaction--as well as protein against projections of foreign power into the political or cultural discussions of target states. It is worth remembering, though that the approach is not one sided. The Chinese side has effectively mirrored this approach in its own way. And thus an amplification of arcs of detachment as the US and China continue to see in each other failings that require protection and that appear to pose an opportunity for advancement of national interests.
More to the contemporary point, the essence of the Report, as well as its key findings, also suggest trajectories of responses relating to the nature and extent of Chinese support of Russia and its invasion of Ukraine. To the extent that US authorities begin to treat China as complicity in the manifestation of Russian actions in Ukraine--including by facilitating Russian capacity to project military power into Ukraine resulting in the commission of crimes against humanity, the US may then consider extending a stricter set of sanctions against Chinese interests. In the process the movement toward detachment can only accelerate and the emphasis on the differences between the two systems continue to increase.
The identification and classification of "key findings" suggest the scope and character of the differences that are now privileged and with respect to which the two systems will move in different directions: (1) freedom of expression; (2) worker rights; (3) criminal justice; (4) freedom of religion; (5) ethnic minority rights; (6) population control; (7) human rights violations in the U.S. and elsewhere; (8) status of women; (9) human trafficking; (10) North Korean refugees in China; (11) public health; (12) the environment and climate change; (13) business and human rights; (14) civil society; (15) institutions of democratic governance; (16) access to justice; (17) Xinjiang; (18) Tibet; and (19) developments in Hong Kong and Macao. Here convergence is impossible absent the transformation of one political-economic-normative model into the other. And it is also clear that the projection of the increasingly detached normative models can now be both (2) weaponized and (2) projected through the management of global production chains. It is clear now that the great age of convergence through globalization is over.
The full text of the Press Release announcing the publication of the CECC 2021 Report follows. The Press Release includes links to the full report and an executive summary, all available for download on the CECC’s website.
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).
RELEASE OF 2021 ANNUAL REPORT
March 31, 2022
(WASHINGTON, DC)—U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and U.S. Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), Chair and Cochair of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), issued today the Commission’s 2021 Annual Report on human rights conditions and rule of law developments in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The full report and an executive summary are available for download on the CECC’s website.
“The Chinese government’s horrific abuse of human rights and trampling of human dignity make it more important than ever that the Congressional-Executive Commission on China document abuses of human rights and the rule of law in China, as the Commission has done for the past 20 years,” said CECC Chairman Merkley. “This report calls attention to the limitations of China’s model of governance in meeting the needs of the Chinese people and in respecting fundamental rights both in China and globally. It should serve as a call to action. Those fleeing persecution, facing arbitrary detention, fighting coercion, or fearing the destruction of their culture need to know the United States has their back, and I hope Congress and the Biden Administration will continue to act on the CECC’s recommendations to do so.”
“Documenting the human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government is not only the Commission’s mandate, but our moral obligation to those who, due to repression and censorship, are unable to tell their stories,” said CECC Cochair McGovern. “I commend the hard work and expertise of the Commission’s staff in monitoring and reporting on trends in China, from the horrific genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, to the repression in Tibet and eradication of democracy in Hong Kong, to the authoritarian clamp down on space for civil society, labor advocates, women’s rights activists and LGBTQ voices. Our Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act shows how to convert the Commission’s work into law, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to put the CECC’s recommendations into action.”
The 2021 Annual Report details the serious human rights abuses the People’s Republic of China (PRC) commits, including the genocide being perpetrated in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), the crushing of Hong Kong’s autonomy, and myriad violations of China’s Constitution and domestic laws as well as numerous international human rights standards. The report reflects the view of CECC commissioners that the Chinese government’s systematic violations of human rights and failure to fulfill its obligations under international treaties pose a challenge to the rules-based international order, requiring a consistent and coordinated response from the United States and its allies and partners. In particular, the 2021 Annual Report:
- Deems atrocities against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the XUAR as genocide;
- Reveals elements of eugenics in population control policies directed at ethnic minorities;
- Expands reporting on economic coercion aimed at stifling free expression and shaping discussion in the United States and elsewhere; and
- Announces significant upgrades and enhancements to the Commission’s Political Prisoner Database to improve its usability for researchers and the public.
The report also highlights many recommendations for congressional and executive branch action, including recommendations under consideration as Congress works to pass legislation to enhance U.S. competitiveness with the PRC. This week, Chair Merkley and Cochair McGovern sent a letter to congressional leadership highlighting numerous of these recommendations, including:
- Expanding immigration pathways for Hong Kong residents and Uyghurs to protect those fleeing PRC persecution;
- Creating of the “China Censorship Monitor and Action Group” to protect U.S. businesses and individuals from PRC censorship and intimidation;
- Extending the ban on export of crowd control equipment to the Hong Kong police; and
- Sanctioning individuals complicit in forced sterilizations and forced abortions targeting primarily Turkic Muslims in the XUAR.
In recent years, the research and advocacy of the Commission produced significant legislation in defense of human rights, including the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (Pub. L. 117–78); the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act (Pub. L. 116–76), the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act (Pub. L. 116–145), a bill to prohibit the commercial export of munitions to the Hong Kong Police Force (Pub. L. 116-77), and the Tibet Policy and Support Act (Pub. L. 116-260, Sec. 341). This year’s Annual Report lauds the critical signal sent by passage and enactment of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, an important tool preventing the complicity of American supply chains, businesses, and consumers in modern slavery.
Over the past year, the Commission completed a major upgrade of the Political Prisoner Database, a resource for case information on prisoners of conscience in China. Detailed information on thousands of cases can be found on the enhanced and searchable Political Prisoner Database. The Commission continued to highlight prisoner case in the past year, including though its #OlympicPrisoner initiative. A list of 16 representative cases highlighted in this year’s report can be found here.
Chair Merkley and Cochair McGovern commend the capable and professional work of the CECC’s research staff in producing the Commission’s 20th Annual Report.