China’s New Anti-Sanctions Law

Updated: Jul 7, 2021


Last week, the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress of China enacted the Anti-Sanctions Law (ASL), creating a wide-ranging legal framework to retaliate against sanctions imposed by foreign governments.

The law is complicated and vague, but this is the basic understanding: Under the law, individuals or entities involved in making or implementing discriminatory measures against Chinese citizens or entities (such as the recent sanctions imposed by the United States and others against Chinese officials for human rights abuses) could be put on an anti-sanctions list created by the Chinese government. Those on the list may be denied entry into China or be expelled from the country. Their assets within China may be seized or frozen. They could also be restricted from doing business with entities or people within China. The law applies to sanctions imposed against China by other countries, not by the United Nations or other international bodies. In other words: China will sanction those who sanction it.

The law was introduced quickly, without an opportunity for public comment, and goes into effect immediately.

On the surface, it simply codifies a number of retaliatory actions Beijing has already taken in response to Western sanctions, with legal sources calling it a "symbolic" move by the Chinese government.

If you recall, back in March, the United States, Canada, the European Union, and the United Kingdom all announced sanctions on several Chinese officials for what they described as genocide against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China. The Chinese government, which has denied the allegations of abuse, claiming its camps are re-education facilities used to combat terrorism, then announced their own sanctions in retaliation (read about them here and here). All involved parties have claimed the sanctions against them are “baseless.”

But again, the ASL is new and vague, so there is some uncertainty on how it may be utilized down the road. NPR took a rather doomsday view on it: “It's not clear yet how often China will use its new anti-foreign sanctions legislation, or how broadly. But that ambiguity has already sent a chill through the business community, which is being required to develop China-specific standards and operations separate from their global operations, as China creates its own legal landscape.”

Below are a few resources for anyone interested in learning more about ASL and the ongoing conflict between China and the major players in the Western Hemisphere:

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