The below article was written by Eugene Kontrovish and published by The Wall Street Journal | Photo credit: : NICHOLAS KAMM/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
We know what China is doing in Xinjiang. It’s now official. How will woke corporations react?
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s determination that the People’s Republic of China is engaged in a systematic genocide of the Uighurs was one of the most significant recent developments in U.S. foreign policy. The State Department found that the atrocities have expanded to shocking reproductive coercion: “PRC authorities have conducted forced sterilizations and abortions on Uyghur women, coerced them to marry non-Uyghurs, and separated Uyghur children from their families.”
Because the announcement came shortly before President Biden’s inauguration, its far-reaching implications haven’t sunk in. The Trump administration would have done better to issue this finding before the election, but officially invoking the “genocide” label met significant resistance within the government, as it has in past presidencies. Mr. Pompeo deserves credit for pushing it through.
The new secretary of state, Antony Blinken, also deserves credit for not making genocide a political issue: He immediately concurred in his predecessor’s determination. It is now America’s official, bipartisan position that China is engaged in “ongoing” genocide—the gravest of all international crimes.
Joe Biden was ahead of the curve, accusing China of genocide in August. At the time a Biden spokesman added, “If the Trump administration does indeed choose to call this out for what it is, as Joe Biden already did, the pressing question is what will Donald Trump do to take action.” That question now passes to Mr. Biden.
The State Department has made a finding of genocide only six times, two of them in the past quarter-century: regarding Islamic State atrocities against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq (2016) and Sudan’s campaign in Darfur (2011). But ISIS and Sudan weren’t exactly major U.S. trading partners.
China is a trading partner and economic behemoth, and one with which the U.S. has extensive diplomatic contacts. Will the U.S. now reframe all its relations with Beijing? Anything resembling business as usual will make a joke out of genocide.
As interesting will be the response in the private sector, especially among those who have prided themselves on their commitment to human rights, minorities and speaking truth to power. Will they continue to deal with a State Department-designated genocidal regime?
Will universities continue to host China’s Communist Party-sponsored Confucius Institutes while solemnly educating about “an end to impunity” for genocide in their law schools? Will companies that pride themselves on their wokeness on cutting-edge social-justice issues display moral clarity on genocide? Will Bed Bath & Beyond stop purchasing from China, on the theory that genocide is least as bad as what the MyPillow guy did?
Last week Twitter locked the account of China’s Embassy to the U.S. because of tweets grotesquely celebrating the campaign of genocide. This is a start, but it falls short of the standards Twitter has set for itself in banning Mr. Trump permanently. Celebrating or lying about genocide is surely as bad as lying about elections, and by this standard most Chinese government accounts should be banned.
Some companies will likely try to cabin the issue to Xinjiang. But while China’s policy is carried out in that region, it is fully owned and authored by the Communist Party leadership in Beijing. It is inseparable from the regime. Would these companies do business with Sudan’s genocidal former leaders, so long as it wasn’t in Darfur?
Private companies may carry on any lawful business they choose, and the genocide determination carries no concrete legal consequences. But for companies that profess a commitment to some higher good, or to a doctrine of corporate social responsibility, this will be revelatory. Are their policies truly motivated by a concern for justice and minority rights, or by some combination of expiatory ritual and a narrow partisan agenda?
Mr. Kontorovich is director of the Center for the Middle East and International Law at George Mason University’s Scalia Law School.