On October 6, the USA suffered a serious setback at the table of the Great Game. Although it may seem a trifle to some that on that day Washington and its allies failed to include in the agenda of the regular (51st) session of the UN Human Rights Council (dedicated to the situation of indigenous peoples living in certain countries) a discussion of “violations” of the rights of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China.
This remarkable event (in the comments, it is often described as a “defeat” or even a “foreign policy disaster” for the US) is interesting not only for the mere fact it occurred, but also because of some of its specifics.
First, it is important to consider the place of human rights issues in the hierarchy of US foreign policy tools. Its importance is in no way lower than that of the “aircraft carrier-strike” tool. It may even be higher, given that the purpose of the “strike” tool is most often to “correct” the perception of the situation by both friends and enemies.
The high importance in Washington’s foreign policy of the issue of the state of human rights abroad can also be explained by the major role of the “neoconservative” wing of the US establishment in the decision-making mechanism. The neoconservatives believe that the image of the “city on a hill” should be “exported” to other countries, using the multitude of tools mentioned above. However, representatives of the “neo-isolationist” wing (which the previous US president can, with some reservations, be included in) believe that this image contains no small attraction in itself, which does not need to be forcibly expanded outwards. And such a view of the self as well as of the external world can only be welcomed. Incidentally, in the summer of 2018 Donald Trump withdrew the US from the UN HRC, which the author of this article continues to count among the positive deeds of the previous president.
In this respect, for the current US leadership, what happened on September 6 in Geneva is indeed quite comparable to what it would be like if the same aircraft carrier strike squadron had been sunk in the Strait of Taiwan or the South China Sea.
So, how do the results of that day’s voting look in figures and which countries’ positions deserve special comment. Of the 47 members of the UN HRC, 17 were in favor of the inclusion of the Uyghur human rights situation on the agenda of its regular session, 19 were against it and 11 abstained.
It is clear that the US, its closest allies and partners supported this initiative. But what is remarkable is that the outcome of this vote confirms the almost disastrous – for them – fact that the “Western democratic” camp, representing an absolute minority of humanity, is in no way expanding at the expense of the rest of the world.
Among those who voted against, the presence of Pakistan deserves a special mention. In recent months there has been frequent talk that with the change of government (this spring) the country’s foreign policy course has “swung sharply in the West’s direction.” Secondary facts were referenced as a supporting evidence. This despite the new Shehbaz Sharif government announcing its intention to continue developing relations with China and Russia in its first foreign policy speeches. This was confirmed during the speech of the same Prime Minister Sharif at the SCO summit in Samarkand. In a recent interview with Global Times, the Pakistani Ambassador in Beijing praised the help his country has received from China (and Russia too, it should be added) in coping with the catastrophic floods. The commitment to continue infrastructure projects with the participation of Chinese companies was reaffirmed.
Pakistan’s vote in the UN HRC is fully in line with this trend. Together with other Muslim member states present in this UN body, it has refused to support the US in its propaganda campaign against China. In other words, Washington’s obvious bet on using the factor of common religion between these countries and the Uyghurs to its advantage did not work out.
Equally noteworthy is the presence of India among the “abstaining” countries, i.e. those that did not in fact support the US initiative. Although India has in recent years been at the center of US efforts to forge various anti-China inter-state configurations in the region. This would appear to be facilitated by the serious and varied complexities in China-India relations, of which the unresolved mutual territorial claims are the most dangerous.
To the credit of both countries’ leaderships, however, there is a desire to reduce the level of mistrust in bilateral relations. And evidence of the obvious progress made was the participation of their leaders in recent months in the events of those inter-state configurations to which India and China are parties. In particular, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the same SCO summit in Samarkand. So India’s refusal to support the US anti-China initiative in the UN HRC fits well with the emerging positive trend in China-India relations.
A curious incident occurred with the scoring of Ukraine’s vote, a country which, in fact, is no more than a tool (with outward signs of statehood) in Washington’s struggle with another player (Russia) in the current Great Game. According to the initially announced results, the Ukrainian ballot was among the “abstentions.” The next day, however, the Ukrainian delegation tried to “clarify” that it was “in fact” in favor of including the issue on the agenda of the 51st session of the UN HRC. But to such a “clarification,” the latter’s leadership responded in the style of “sorry, but that ship has sailed.”
This strengthens the impression that the Kiev clowns seem to have seriously believed that they are not just another “version” of Greta Thunberg (this time from international politics), totally dependent on the overseas suzerain, but are quite independent participants in the game unfolding at the world’s table. At the same time, an editorial by Global Times (with a notable illustration) described Ukraine as an exploited “pawn” of the overseas master.
Meanwhile, what happened on October 6 this year was not the first such stunt pulled off by the Ukrainian “Greta.” A little over a year ago, the author could not believe his eyes when he read that Ukraine (“at the last minute”) was not joining the Joint Statement on the same Uyghur “issue” that the UN HRC was then again concerned about. Based on the Canadian representative’s report, the document was signed by 44 countries, “including the United States.”
It is difficult to say who tapped their knuckles on the wooden table a year later in the same Geneva, after the results of the vote under discussion had been announced, but it seems that the subsequent Ukrainian “clarifications” were the consequence of such “educational work.”
However, the extent of such “trampling” is clearly exaggerated. If there is any at all. At least it was not discovered by Michelle Bachelet, i.e. the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (who has announced the end of her career in the post) during a week-long visit to XUAR at the end of May this year. Although the members of the delegation led by her were given complete freedom to choose both the areas to visit and the local interlocutors. The mere fact of such a trip undermined one of the original theses of China’s enemies that “Beijing has something to hide in XUAR.”
This last assertion also seems preposterous against the backdrop of the PRC’s recently released key XUAR development indicators for the decade since 2012. The once backwater borderland of China is developing at the fastest rate of any region in the country. Some 260 million tourists have visited the XUAR in ten years, and the related industry now brings in some $50 billion annually.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited XUAR on an inspection visit in mid-July. Judging by the photos, he was almost always in a crowd of Uyghurs and without the visible presence of any guards.
In September this year, the XUAR capital, Ürümqi, hosted the regular 7th China-Eurasia Expo international trade fair, which showcased the increasingly diverse economy of the Autonomous Region itself alongside thousands of companies from 32 countries (this amid attempts by the “West” to block any economic links with the XUAR because of the same “genocide of the Uyghurs”).
It seems rhetorical to ask: would China’s leadership dare to hold such an event in a region where the “horrors” described by the Western media are taking place?
The global realization of the “political and applied” nature of the Uyghur “genocide” propaganda campaign was reflected in the outcome of the UN HRC vote described above.
Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”