By Alan Callow*
Coronavirus, the oppression of human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, aggression against Taiwan, the seizure of islands in the South China Sea and industrial espionage are phrases that shape the international community’s attitude towards China in the last few years. Anti-Chinese sentiment in the world has grown significantly with the onset of the pandemic and continues to grow. The lack of information about Beijing’s true role in the origin of the virus and other crimes against humanity do not allow for a final verdict on Xi Jinping’s government.
However, the China containment policy of the United States allows us to predict what the new pain points of the PRC in 2022 will be.
The Beijing Winter Olympics may be alloyed by boycotts. As a symbol of peace and equality, the Olympics have repeatedly been used as a pressure tool to force countries to change their policies.
South Africa was banned from the Olympics for nearly 30 years because of apartheid. Afghanistan missed the Sydney Olympics because of the Taliban’s repressive policies against women. The IOC effectively forced South Korea to enact democratic reforms, including free elections, by threatening to cancel the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
China is strongly criticized for the representation of religious and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet and accused of violating the rights of national minorities, particularly Tibetans and Uighurs. International activists are urging national governments to refuse to participate in the Olympics under the slogan of the struggle for human rights. A few weeks ago activists staged a vivid performance, unfurling the flag of Tibet with the words “No games of genocide” at the Olympic flame lighting ceremony.
Moreover the tensions between China and the US are not just about trade anymore. If these bilateral sanctions and tensions persist, the United States could boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics in the name of human rights protection.
If US decides to go ahead with the boycott, its allies will undoubtedly be less likely to follow them due to potential sanctions from China. Regardless,it will be catastrophic for China’s reputation.
Another vulnerability of China may be the active promotion of green transition measures in the international community, which have been rooted in US and EU economic development plans in recent years.
As for this Xi Jinping’s statements about increasing the use of traditional energy by 2030 sound extremely contradictory and provocative. Beijing’s ambitions to maintain rapid economic growth by ramping up production remain a priority and do not allow China to move fully toward decarbonization. Something else that clearly demonstrates China’s economy’s unwillingness to transition to green energy is the energy crisis of late September 2021. When an acute shortage of coal for two weeks led to a reduction in production by almost 80% in half of China’s provinces”.
In such conditions, the PRC can pay a lot for voluntarily accepting the role of a “world factory.” To the many accusations against Beijing in 2022 may be added the reluctance of the Chinese leadership to comply with environmental protection requirements. This may be followed by the introduction of additional duties on goods from China, the production of which uses “poisonous” sources of electricity. With this development, Beijing risks not only suffering stain on its image, but also critical economic damage.
The adoption of such measures by Western countries looks very logical and consistent in the context of the US-China trade war and calls for the exclusion of China from the production chain of many transnational corporations. The imposition of additional duties on Chinese goods will force manufacturers to speed up the transfer of enterprises from mainland China.
In March 2022, the congress of the Chinese National People’s congress that could likely extend Xi Jinping’s term as a leader will be held. Xi Jinping’s re-election will obviously be perceived by the rest of the world as China’s unwillingness to adapt to modern trends and accept Western values. Responsibility for the listed international and domestic challenges of China will fall on the shoulders of PRC Leader. It seems that the Xi’s prospective third term may determine China’s future for long years.
*Alan Callow, Philippine journalist covering Asia politics in general.