The Chancellor has pondered what to make of the new reports of human rights violations against Uyghurs in western China. The result of the reflection extends to exactly four words: “We can’t look away.” So Olaf Scholz wants to look, which results in the reverse conclusion.
One is tempted to make fun of it, the dry words seem so out of place in view of the increasingly dramatic repression in the People’s Republic. Merely looking has never safely protected anyone from torture or persecution; the visible inability or unwillingness of the spectators to act can even increase the deterrent effect of state terror.
If you look and then do nothing, you ultimately become an accomplice. So what does Scholz intend to do after not looking away? His speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos would have been an excellent opportunity for the German head of government to show leadership and leadership.
Especially at a meeting of the political and business elite, he could have demonstrated that the European Union is also a community of values and not just a community of gains. He could have shown that value orientation does not only apply when the rogue state in question seems small and fragile.
Of course, the EU and the West have few tools at their disposal that could help directly counteract human rights violations within China. On the other hand, with a little ingenuity, a lot can be thought of with indirect effects.
The CP’s retention of power, of which Beijing has long been aware, also depends on China’s economy remaining the prosperity machine it has been for the past 40 years. Eight percent growth per year, the old target, which was considered the lower limit for accomplishing the transformation of China from an agricultural to an industrial society without major social upheaval, already seems hardly achievable.
Now that Xi Jinping’s twisted, paralyzing zero-Covid policy is being added to the mix, the West is hitting a soft spot with China’s Communist Party officials with everything that additionally damages the Chinese economy.
This requires neither sanctions nor protectionist measures. But why, for example, isn’t the idea that has been circulating for a number of years of establishing a new, second World Trade Organization being promoted?
It could exclude all those states that systematically exploit the existing, rule-based trading system solely for their own benefit. Based on the experience of the last 20 years, China would be the first – and perhaps only – candidate.
The multilateralism that Olaf Scholz raved about in Davos could also live on in this WTO 2.0. It is of course questionable whether this ultimately helped the people of Xinjiang. But unlike the profane not looking away, one would at least have tried.
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