China’s economic coercion has become part and parcel of its foreign policy against many trading partners, according to Victor Cha, Senior Vice President for Asia and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Distinguished University Professor at Georgetown University.
Countries that interact with Taiwan, support democracy in Hong Kong, oppose genocide in Xinjiang or offend any other “core interests” of China face discriminatory, non-WTO conforming sanctions and embargoes, he told a House Committee on Rules hearing on “Examining China’s Coercive Economic Tactics.”
Targets of this weaponization of trade since 2008 range widely. Eighteen Western and Asian countries, including Japan, Lithuania, Norway, and Australia, and over 123 private companies, including Walmart and the National Basketball Association, have been targeted precipitating tens of billions of dollars in economic damage. From Beijing’s perspective coercion works, added Cha, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED):
After sanctioning South Korea’s Lotte company in 2016 and embargoing imports of German pork in 2020, both countries remained silent when China passed the national security law in Hong Kong suppressing democracy. Brazil did not exclude Huawei from its 5G auction for fear of losing billions in business. In 2018 to preempt Chinese sanctions, The Gap clothing company issued a public apology and removed from sale a t-shirt design with a map of China that did not include Taiwan and Tibet. RTWT
Contesting Beijing’s economic sharp power requires collective resilience on the part of the West’s leading democracies, Cha wrote for Foreign Affairs.