The United States of America, the sanctions system and anti-Chinese manoeuvres

The United States of America takes advantage of its financial hegemony and technological power and engages in economic coercion in the name of protecting national security. The United States has enacted a number of domestic laws, such as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, and has issued a number of executive orders to target and sanction specific countries, entities, or individuals.

The ambiguous rules contained in these acts and executive orders, such as the “minimum contacts principle” and the “effects doctrine”, are an intense expansion of the jurisdiction of US domestic laws. The United States of America also overuses its domestic judicial channels to exercise long-arm jurisdiction over entities and individuals in other countries.

For over sixty years, ignoring numerous United Nations General Assembly’s Resolutions, the United States of America has continued its global blockade against Cuba, based on its embargo policies and domestic laws such as Torricelli and Helms-Burton. The blockade of Cuba has been the longest and cruellest systemic trade embargo causing economic damage and financial sanctions in modern history. The blockade has been severely damaging to Cuba’s economic and social development, causing direct losses of over 100 billion US dollars to the Cuban economy.

The United States of America has implemented the blockade and sanctions against Iran since the late 1970s. In May 2018, the US government announced its unilateral withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and immediately afterwards it resumed and increased sanctions against Iran. Many countries and relevant entities were forced to renounce their cooperation with Iran. A large number of foreign oil companies left the country, resulting in severe damage for both sides. Iran’s manufacturing industry can hardly sustain a normal trend. The country has suffered an economic slowdown, along with rising inflation and a massive currency depreciation.

Over the years the United States of America has imposed unilateral sanctions on Belarus, Syria, and Zimbabwe, among others, and has increased “maximum pressure” against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, etc.

Statistics show that the previous US Administration imposed over 3,900 sanctions, i.e. three per day. In financial year 2021, entities and individuals on the US sanction lists exceeded 9,421, with a 933% increase compared to financial year 2000.

US unilateral sanctions and long-range jurisdiction have greatly undermined other countries’ sovereignty and security and have severely affected their economic development and people’s welfare. Sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction are also a severe infringement of international law and the fundamental rules of international relations.

In the article published in the September-October 2021 issue of Foreign Affairs – The United States of Sanctions. The Use and Abuse of Economic Coercion – Daniel W. Drezner, Professor at Tufts University and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, criticised the successive US Administrations for having used “sanctions as the solution to almost every foreign policy problem”. The scholar notes that sanctions are not only ineffective, but also “take a humanitarian toll”. The United States of America has become the United States of Sanctions.

The “rules-based international order” advocated by the United States of America is, in fact, another version of power politics. This is an attempt to impose its will and standards on others and to replace commonly accepted international laws and rules with its own internal rules.

On the contrary, there is only one international system in the world, the one that has the United Nations at the top. There is therefore only one international order, the one supported by international law. And there is only one set of rules, i.e. the basic rules that govern international relations underpinned by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

Before wanting to discuss rules and order, the United States of America should first pay its arrears of 1 billion dollars for the regular UN budget and 1.4 billion dollars for contributions to peacekeeping forces; ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in a timely manner; stop blocking alone the negotiations on a verification protocol under the Biological Weapons Convention; lift unilateral sanctions; seriously fulfil its international obligations; and set a good example in respecting laws and rules.

Despite US claims that it does not seek to avoid China playing its role as a great power, nor prevent it from making its economy grow, the United States of America is actually deploying its internal and external resources to ruthlessly contain and suppress its rival.

Without providing any credible evidence, the US government is using national security as a generic pretext and its entire apparatus to arbitrarily suppress and sanction Huawei; restricting the entry of its products into the US market; cutting off its access to chips and operating systems, and forcing countries around the world to ban Huawei from launching 5G. The USA also orchestrated a campaign and pressured Canada to detain Ms. Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), for almost three years without cause.

In violation of the principle of fair competition, market economy and international trade rules, the United States of America tries to hinder competitive Chinese hi-tech companies by dreaming up all kinds of accusations. To date, the United States of America has placed over a thousand Chinese companies on various sanction lists; subjected biotechnology and artificial intelligence technologies to strengthened export controls and strict investment reviews, and tried to ban Chinese social media platforms including TikTok and WeChat.

On the grounds of protecting human rights, the USA has fabricated disinformation about Xinjiang such as the existence of “forced labour” and, on the basis of such unfounded stories, adopted the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which in bad faith targets Xinjiang’s competition in cotton, tomatoes and solar photovoltaic systems to hit certain areas of Chinese growth. This has disrupted the international trade order and destabilised global industrial and supply chains.

In gross violation of the World Trade Organisation’s rules, the previous US Administration conducted a massive trade war against China. Based on its own Section 301 investigation, it imposed three rounds of high tariffs on some 360 billion dollars of Chinese imports. In September 2021, the current US Administration initiated a Section 232 investigation to determine the effects on US national security of the imports of neodymium-iron-boron permanent magnets at a time when global commodity prices were hovering at high levels.

The United States of America holds a record for severe interference in China’s internal affairs on issues concerning the core interests of the People’s Republic of China, including Taiwan, Xinjiang Weiwu’er, Xizang (Tibet) and Xianggang (Hong Kong). The USA seeks to undermine the security and stability of this country, both openly and covertly, by passing off and supporting violent separatist activities.

The bipartisan innovation bills being debated in the US Congress, while claiming to enhance competitiveness, see China as a clearly perceived rival. The word “China” appears over 800 times in those texts, which are full of provisions that are detrimental to Chinese interests.

In an attempt to maintain its power and hegemony within international institutions, the United States of America has attempted in multilateral fora to defame the project of building a community with a shared future for mankind, and to block the Belt and Road (Silk Road) cooperation advancement initiative, as well as to remove references to it at the United Nations and other international fora.

Clinging to the Cold War mentality and the logic of hegemony, the United States of America pursues the policy of blockade; devises the narrative of “democracy versus authoritarianism”; persuades the other countries dragging along it (the United Kingdom and the inane European Union) to form other-directed opinion groups; strengthen the Five Eyes (the surveillance and intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America); spread the mechanism known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), an informal strategic alliance between Australia, Japan, India and the United States of America with the aim of containing China in the Indo-Pacific region. Besides having created AUKUS, a trilateral security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, announced on September 15, 2021, in a clear attempt to counter China.

At the same time, the USA is pushing NATO to interfere in the Asia-Pacific affairs, upholding the old anti-Communist narrative of the “Chinese threat” in the new strategic concept of the blockade, and to include US allies in the Asia-Pacific region such as Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Australia in its Madrid Summit, in an attempt to build an Asia-Pacific version of NATO itself, which would disrupt security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

The development of State-to-State relations should be based on equality, mutual respect and win-win outcomes. China-USA relations have reached an important crossroads. The United States of America should stop viewing this relationship through the lens of the Cold War and of the zero-sum mentality. It should instead follow the three principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation, as well as reflect – in its own activities – on the five assurances made to China: 1. do not seek a new Cold War; 2. do not seek to change the Chinese form of government; 3. US alliances are not against the People’s Republic of China; 4. the United States of America does not support Taiwan’s independence; 5. the United States of America does not seek conflict with the People’s Republic of China.

Only in this way can we begin to talk about peace.

Giancarlo Elia Valori
Giancarlo Elia Valori
Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is a world-renowned Italian economist and international relations expert, who serves as the President of International Studies and Geopolitics Foundation, International World Group, Global Strategic Business In 1995, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem dedicated the Giancarlo Elia Valori chair of Peace and Regional Cooperation. Prof. Valori also holds chairs for Peace Studies at Yeshiva University in New York and at Peking University in China. Among his many honors from countries and institutions around the world, Prof. Valori is an Honorable of the Academy of Science at the Institute of France, Knight Grand Cross, Knight of Labor of the Italian Republic, Honorary Professor at the Peking University