Newsweek: America Is Buying Chinese Goods—and Supporting China’s Genocide | Opinion

By Gordon G. Chang
Author, commentator

Critics and supporters are battling it out after President Joe Biden announced that he was increasing tariffs on $18 billion of Chinese products. Just about everyone is missing the point. Tariffs should not be the issue. What is? Americans must ask why their country has been importing the products in question, in violation of long-standing provisions of its laws, thereby funding China’s campaigns of genocide against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic minorities as well as Tibetans.

On the 14th, Biden said that he was exercising authority under Section 301 of the Trade of 1974 to increase tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, semiconductors, electric vehicles, batteries, and battery components and critical minerals, solar cells, ship-to-shore cranes, and medical products.

The tariffs, the White House stated then, were “to protect American workers and businesses from China’s unfair trade practices.”

Americans are at a substantial disadvantage when they go up against Chinese firms that exploit minorities.

“How do you compete with slave labor?” asked Nury Turkel, a Uyghur activist and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, in comments to me last week.

“Our database clearly reveals how most if not all Chinese steel and aluminum, semiconductors, electric vehicles, batteries and their components, certain critical minerals, solar cells, and medical products are tainted by Uyghur forced labor, either directly or through suppliers,” Tammy Gilden of Jewish World Watch, a U.S.-based NGO dedicated to fighting genocide and other mass atrocities, told me.

Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 prohibits the importation into the U.S. of goods that were “mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in any foreign country” by convict, forced, or indentured labor.

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act of 2021 amplifies Section 307 by creating a rebuttable presumption that products mined, produced, or manufactured in whole or part in China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are made with such prohibited labor and are therefore ineligible for importation into the U.S. These goods can be released into the U.S. if the Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection determines, on the basis of clear and convincing evidence, that the goods were not produced with such labor.

Biden, aided by Apple, Coca-Cola, and Nike, among others, fought hard against the adoption of the 2021 law. The President signed the bill, however, but only after it passed both houses of Congress with veto-proof majorities—only one dissenting vote in the House.

Since then, his administration’s record in enforcing the law has been mixed. On the plus side, the Department of Homeland Security on the 16th of this month announced the addition of 26 textile companies in China to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Entity List, restricting their products from entering the U.S.

Yet there is so much more to be done. “Products made with Uyghur slave labor are still making their way into the United States,” Turkel, whose father was sent to a forced labor camp in Xinjiang, says. He cites as obstacles to enforcement statutory loopholes such as de minimis exceptions, the shipment of products through third countries, mislabeling and misrepresentation of goods, the slow-walking of government agencies, a lack of funds for enforcement, lobbying by businesses and climate activists, and the lack of global cooperation.

“While the new tariffs mark a positive shift in the administration’s policy, we would like to see far more aggressive steps taken to prevent these products from ever entering U.S. markets at all,” said Gilden. “Customs enforcement of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is like a game of whack-a-mole. Companies continue to find new ways to exploit loopholes and obscure the origin of their products through an increasingly convoluted web of suppliers and sub-suppliers.”

Forced labor exists in many countries, but China is different. In January 2021, Mike Pompeo, in one of his last acts as secretary of state, formally declared the Chinese regime to be committing “genocide.” His successor, Antony Blinkenaffirmed the designation the same month. The Chinese regime has been engaged in a campaign of, among other crimes, mass detentions in concentration camp-like facilities, rape, murder, torture, forced abortions, and forced sterilizations. Children are separated from parents and essentially imprisoned.

“Uyghurs are now enduring the seventh year of unspeakable agonies,” says Turkel.

China’s response has been to vehemently deny genocide and other crimes and to start making products outside its borders, especially far away from Xinjiang.

And this brings us back to President Biden’s tariffs. Critics say Chinese producers can circumvent new tariff walls by manufacturing inside the USMCA trading bloc of the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. They point out that China’s largest maker of EVs, BYD Company, wants to put up an assembly plant in Mexico, for instance.

The critics are right that Chinese producers can avoid tariffs by moving production to the Western Hemisphere, but what they miss is that BYD may not import into the United States a Mexican-assembled car made with parts that are the products of forced labor in China.

China’s regime has made it clear it will not stop its genocidal programs, but we can stop paying for its growing list of crimes against humanity.

“China’s modern-day slavery is an integral part of the ongoing genocide of my people,” Turkel says. “It’s time global consumers say ‘not in my name’ to these atrocities.”

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China and China Is Going to War. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @GordonGChang.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.


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