The latest West-led resolution on Xinjiang is hypocrisy on a grand scale

Tom Fowdy
Western countries are prepared to overlook extreme human rights abuses in countries they support, while using human rights as a posturing weapon against states they seek to oppose.
Tom Fowdy

On Wednesday, the United Kingdom sponsored a UN General Assembly resolution on China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which promoted "concerns" over human rights pertaining to the Uygur minority. The resolution was supported by 51 states, almost all of them being in Europe or allies of the United States.

The timing of this resolution and the motivations behind it could not look worse and nor could it appear to make the US, the UK and their allies appear more morally bankrupt or opportunistic than they are already. It is hypocrisy on an enormous scale.

The resolution makes it as clear as day that Western countries are prepared to overlook extreme human rights abuses in countries they support, while simultaneously using human rights as a posturing weapon against states they seek to oppose. This means that some country's crimes against others are given blanket support, but China being targeted to coordinated posturing like this only demonstrates the true geopolitical nature of "human rights" and how it is about advancing other goals, as opposed to a moral end in and of itself.

This selective approach damages the credibility of Western countries to the entire Global South in the process, and shows they do not have any moral authority or credibility whatsoever to raise so-called "concerns" about Xinjiang.

What we must understand about the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is that the campaign to accuse China of genocide is born out of US strategic goals to use the region as a justification to promote strategic and economic decoupling with China, and has no interest whatsoever in promoting the wellbeing or success of the Uygur people.

In particular, the United States has used accusations of "forced labor" in order to initiate supply chain shifts out of China by initiating sweeping bans on products which raise the risk of companies manufacturing in the country, while also promoting a threshold of proof so high it is nearly impossible to verify, thus undermining China in international trade. At least US$5 billion worth of trade from China bound to the US was seized this year alone, showing the impact of these dishonest and commercially motivated "human rights" policies.

In doing so, the US has targeted products of strategic and commercial interest by linking it to spurious "forced labor" accusations, including not only cotton, tomatoes, but also renewable energy goods such as solar panels and more recently, batteries. This aligns with their foreign policy strategy of "re-shoring," "third-shoring" and "friend-shoring," under the mantra of "supply chain resilience" which is dedicated to targeting China.

Similarly, the Xinjiang accusations have been used as a propaganda campaign to undermine China's relationships with other Western countries, turn public opinion against it and block further economic integration or engagement.

One example of this was the ferocious Xinjiang campaign in early 2021 which sought to undermine China's comprehensive agreement on investment (CAI) with the European Union by inciting opposition and paving the way for sanctions, a means of the Biden administration resetting its pro-transatlantic agenda. This was sadly successful and is thus a textbook version of what Noam Chomsky has described as "manufacturing consent" of which weaponizes coordinated media coverage, hand-picked experts pushing the popular narrative and a theatrical build up in support of a given policy goal or action, in this case sanctions.

Because of this, there is overwhelming evidence to be sceptical of the US intentions in pushing the Xinjiang narrative and shoehorning other countries to follow, which only manifests as insincerity masking these aforementioned goals. Because of this, such a vote ultimately does nothing to convince the countries of the Islamic world and the global south that the US and co, are on their side, which only serves China's goals to further cooperation and respect for national sovereignty.

However, because of recent events, this moment should not be forgotten, because it is the greatest manifestation of hypocrisy, cynicism and opportunism you will ever see, a rendition of the fact that human rights are simply just a toy to press an agenda with, and there is no reason to believe those countries ever truly stand in the best interests of China's Uygur minority.

(The author, a postgraduate student of Chinese studies at Oxford University, is an English analyst on international relations. The views are his own.)

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