The U.S. Capitol building is seen in Washington, D.C., the United States, on May 28, 2023. [Photo/VCG]
On June 9, the Five Eyes Nations, consisting of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as Japan, issued a "Joint Declaration Against Trade-Related Economic Coercion and Non-Market Policies and Practices." Although not singling out any specific country, it was obvious to all that China was the intended target.
The statement condemned what it described as "trade-related economic coercion and non-market policies and practices." These detrimental actions were deemed to undermine the "rules-based multilateral trading system" by distorting trade, investment, and competition while straining relations between countries.
Additionally, it criticized perceived "threats" that could exert pressure on a foreign government to accomplish "strategic political or policy objectives, or interfere with a foreign government's exercise of its legitimate sovereign rights or choices." It went on to say that such behavior impacts the "livelihoods of our citizens, harms our workers and businesses, and could undermine global security and stability."
China's Embassy in New Zealand responded by issuing a statement, asserting that it is evident "who is conducting coercive, hegemonic, high-handed and bullying acts, economically or otherwise." The statement further emphasized that "practicing double standards on this issue is full of hypocrisy and severely undermines the relevant international mechanisms and rules jointly established and universally recognized by the international community."
It goes without saying that there is no country more prolific at "economic coercion" than the United States. Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. has imposed thousands upon thousands of unilateral sanctions on approximately 44 countries around the world. Contrary to its own assertions, the U.S. leverages these measures as a means of exerting long-arm jurisdiction and advancing its geopolitical objectives within targeted countries. In doing so, it deliberately seeks to influence or undermine the "legitimate sovereign rights or choices" of these countries, even to the point of pursuing regime change. No other nation on Earth even comes close to matching the scale of sanctions or economic weapons employed by the U.S. Therefore, it is a pure projection to depict China as guilty of similar actions.
To demonstrate a few recent examples, the U.S. has used unilateral sanctions to violate the U.N.-backed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) concerning Iran. Additionally, it has attempted to oust governments in both Venezuela and Syria through measures that include blocking financial transactions. These actions have resulted in severe shortages of food and medicines, leading to humanitarian crises in these nations.
Similarly, and ironically enough, China itself has also been targeted by such measures. The U.S. has placed thousands of Chinese technology companies on its "Entity List" and has sought to forcibly isolate them from the global semiconductor supply chain. It has also coerced other countries, such as the Netherlands and Japan, into complying with these measures. Additionally, the U.S. has opportunistically used inflammatory accusations, such as "forced labor," to deliberately blacklist and exclude Chinese products from its own markets, employing protectionist measures.
In pursuit of its global sanctions regime, the U.S. never uses the term "economic coercion" to describe its own actions. Instead, it argues that sanctions are a means of "diplomacy" to enforce what it terms the "rules-based order." In other words, this amounts to the imposition of hegemonic subjugation according to its own preferences.
Notably, the U.S. reserves an exclusive privilege of employing such measures and expects allies to follow suit while denying other countries the right to act as equals. Consequently, the U.S. has invented a separate term, "economic coercion," to be applied to measures taken by rival countries, despite the fact such measures fall significantly short of the actions undertaken by the U.S. – a clear double standard.
However, China does not pursue a global sanctions regime like the U.S. China's foreign policy involves protecting its core interests, which are very clearly specified. While it may take "countermeasures" if necessary, it nonetheless does not engage in extraterritorial or unilateral sanctions to target other countries as part of a quest for global hegemony. The diplomatic approach of the U.S. and China is like night and day, they could not be more different, and such a brazenly hypocritical statement aims to deflect from the reality that the U.S. is the single most coercive state in the world, which has no respect nor recognition for the sovereign interests of other countries, not even for those who do its bidding.
Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations analyst and a graduate of Durham and Oxford universities. For more information please visit:
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