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Biden is under pressure to go soft on China’s genocide


The Biden administration faces a crucial test of its willingness to confront the genocide in China. This week, a new U.S. law meant to cripple China’s ability to profit from the forced labor of Uyghurs and other persecuted minorities went into effect. The question is whether President Biden will fully implement it — or squander America’s best and perhaps last chance to end our complicity in these atrocities.

Congress passed and Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act last December. It bans imports of any products connected to forced-labor practices in China’s northwest Xinjiang region, part of what the Biden administration has determined to be an ongoing genocide. Several officials, congressional staffers, and experts have told me that some administration figures and business interests are fighting against the strict implementation of the law. Those opposed are the same interests that fought long and hard to thwart its passage, as detailed in a new seven-part investigation released by the Dispatch. They are not about to stop now.

“The implementation will be contested, just like everything, Xinjiang-related was contested last year,” said Michael Sobolik, a fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council. “The mechanics are different, but the battle remains the same: climate interests pitted against human rights concerns.”

Some Biden officials, including State Department climate envoy John F. Kerry, have argued internally since last year that human rights concerns should not stand in the way of working with China on climate change. (Asked about this trade-off last year, Kerry said that “life is always full of tough choices.”) Beijing itself promotes this linkage, demanding the United States back off human rights criticism before it will cooperate on climate change.

What’s different this year is that Biden faces an economic crisis that threatens Democratic control of Congress and his own reelection. This seems to be causing the White House to ease off its promise to combat Uyghur forced labor to the full extent of its ability. This month, the White House issued an emergency declaration that granted a 24-month tariff waiver for solar panels containing components from Xinjiang, even though that action undermined an ongoing Commerce Department investigation.

The new law requires that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detain any shipment that comes from Xinjiang or has components connected to Xinjiang, which are now presumed to be tainted with forced labor unless the importers can prove otherwise. Some U.S. corporations are already complaining that the requirement is too onerous because proving that the products are unconnected to abuses is near impossible.

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