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China's anti-sanctions law set to defend sovereignty, security in face of foreign actions

By Tom Fowdy | | Updated: 2021-06-11 21:03
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Tom Fowdy says measure outlining reciprocity is a defensive strategy aimed at defending territorial integrity

The first-ever anti-sanctions bill, designed to provide legal codification and ensure reciprocity toward sanctions implemented on the country from the West, was promulgated by a presidential order of President Xi Jinping on Thursday after being passed by the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress.

The law on countering foreign sanctions is tailored toward defensively securing China's national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and providing a level playing field in its relationship with the West, which has long believed that it can unilaterally offensively target countries with measures and anticipate no response.

Over recent months, Western nations have expanded their sanctions against China under varied excuses since the United States has pursued geopolitical competition against China, targeting national companies and individuals as well as targeting its special or autonomous regions with measures, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang.

As Article 3 of the law states: "The People's Republic of China opposes hegemonism and power politics." It is understood this legislation is not about imposing China's will on anyone or opting for extraterritorial jurisdiction as American sanctions have always done, but ultimately safeguarding national interests and creating a means of deterrence against those who strive to inflict harm on China by various means.

Consequentially, this is a law that will not be used randomly, provocatively, disproportionately or without legitimation, but conducted in accordance with fair and equal diplomacy, as well as international law.

Whilst China has long implemented countermeasures against US-led sanctions, the countersanctions bill ultimately serves to codify these measures into China's legal system and set out a procedure in order to ensure national compliance with them by those who are within the country, operating in accordance with the rule of law.

First of all, who gets sanctioned? And why? Article 3 states China "has the right to take corresponding countermeasures" against countries that "violate international law and the basic norms of international relations" aiming to "contain and suppress China under various excuses or according to their own laws", targeting "Chinese citizens and organizations" or "interfering in China's internal affairs."

These countermeasures are not random nor indiscriminate, but instead may focus on the "individuals and organizations directly or indirectly involved in formulating, deciding and implementing" the measures against China mentioned above. It does not target unrelated parties purely for retaliation, nor does it interfere in the affairs of other countries respectively.

When an individual or entity is listed in accordance with these rules, China's State Council may subsequently take the following measures: 1) refusing to issue a visa or canceling one, as well as potential expulsion; 2) freezing of property and assets within China; and 3) prohibiting or restricting individuals within the territory of China from conducting relevant transactions and cooperating with them.

Building upon this, Article 11 sets out that organizations and individuals within China shall implement these countermeasures, and those who violate them shall be dealt with according to the law, and shall be "prohibited or restricted from engaging in related activities".

In addition to this, in order to offset the impact of sanctions against China locally, Article 12 mandates "no organization or individual may implement or assist in the implementation of discriminatory restrictive measures taken by foreign countries against Chinese citizens and organizations".

Subsequently, if Western-led measures bring damage upon "the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and organizations", the related Chinese parties "may bring a lawsuit to the people's court according to the law" and may "compensate for losses".

As an early example of this, many Xinjiang cotton businesses are currently vesting a lawsuit against researcher Adrian Zenz, a key figure in propagating false allegations about the region and later a subject of countermeasures.

Ultimately, this is a law of safeguarding and reciprocity. Whilst the sanctions programs of countries such as the United States are extraterritorial, aim to violate sovereignty and aim to change political circumstances in those targeted, China's sanctions law operates on a very narrow jurisdiction and set of goals based upon retaliation, proportionality, specificality, and orientated toward safeguarding national interests in a restrained and diplomatic manner.

This should be understood by the world as a defensive strategy and operates only in accordance with how other countries treat China. It is not random nor indiscriminate, and all those within China who operate in accordance with the law have nothing to worry about.

The author is a British political and international relations analyst. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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