US sanctions are China’s big concern right now

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Every week, I offer a glimpse of the kind of intelligence assessments that are likely to come across the desk of the President of the United States. Modeled on the President’s Daily Briefing, or PDB, which the director of national intelligence prepares for the President almost daily, my Presidential Weekly Briefing focuses on the topics and issues President Trump needs to know to make informed decisions.

China: The bull in the China shop

Lying is trending in capitals around the world. While Russia mocks the international community’s consensusthat Moscow used chemical weapons in the UK, you should also expect other misinformation to come, this time out of Beijing.

After reports last week that your administration is considering sanctions against China for its “worsening crackdown” on Muslims, including the Uighurs, we assess that China will continue a two-pronged public approach: 1) playing the security card and saying Muslims in China are a security risk, and 2) claiming the internment camps in Xinjiang, where reportedly upwards of a million Muslims are being held, are “educational” and “professional training centers.”

Beijing probably thinks that stoking security concerns is a winning strategy for getting a pass on this extraordinary and abusive behavior — Russian President Vladimir Putin consistently engages in similar practices without suffering major consequences. Claiming that the camps actually help the detained Muslims by readying them for a different, productive path is a transparent attempt to placate Muslims around the world — including Muslim leaders that China does a lot of business with.

But, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out, countries like Iran haven’t come out publicly against this Chinese behavior. So, we assess that China’s biggest concern at this point are US sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act — which allows the US to issue sanctions against a country implicated in human rights violations — because they could impact senior Chinese officials.

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