Blinken Warns World Not to Benefit from Forced Labor in Xinjiang

Secretary of State John Blinken, who is visiting Europe, was in Berlin Wednesday (June 23) for an international conference on Libya and a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in preparation for the German leader’s visit to the United States next month. In a joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Maas, Blinken warned the world not to benefit from the forced labor allegedly taking place in China’s Xinjiang province.

Fresh from accompanying President Biden on his first overseas trip to Europe since taking office, Secretary of State John S. Blinken traveled to Europe again this week for his first visit to Germany, France, Italy and the Vatican, as well as a series of international meetings.

In a joint news conference in Berlin on Wednesday with German Foreign Minister Maas, who is participating together in an international conference on peacebuilding in Libya, Blinken warned the world not to benefit from forced labor in Xinjiang.

“When it comes to Xinjiang, genocide and human rights violations, I think it’s incumbent on all of us to do what we can to make sure that products that may have been produced by forced labor do not enter our countries, and likewise that we do not export to China or any other country technologies or products that can be used to suppress people and deny them their human rights,” Blinken Lincoln said.

Blinken did not name any allies, but iconic German automaker VW has a plant in Urumqi, Xinjiang.

According to media reports, the VW Group’s chief executive in charge of its China operations said last April that they could not have a problem with forced labor because they directly employ their employees. The executive said at the time that the plant in Xinjiang would continue to operate as long as it was “economically viable.

On Tuesday, more than 40 countries, led by Canada, issued a statement at the United Nations saying they urged China to quickly grant the U.N. human rights chief access to Xinjiang to investigate reports that more than 1 million people have been illegally detained, some of whom have been tortured or subjected to forced labor.

Earlier this month, leaders of the Group of Seven nations pledged at their summit to eradicate products produced by forced labor from global supply chains. In a communiqué issued after the meeting, they said the leaders agreed on the importance of upholding human rights and international labor standards and pledged to continue working together, including through their own domestic means and multilateral institutions, to protect individuals from forced labor and to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labor.

Since taking office, President Biden has made it a foreign policy priority to strengthen the once-frayed transatlantic partnership and to promote unity among democracies in addressing the challenges posed by China.

Secretary of State John Blinken explained at a news conference in Berlin why the United States is rallying allies to deal with China.

He said, “We recognize that all of our countries have a complex and important relationship with China, a relationship that cannot be simply summed up in a sentence or two. As we said earlier, whether it’s the United States or Europe, our relationship with China has both an adversarial dimension and a competitive and cooperative dimension. But at either level, a common bedrock is that we deal more effectively with China when we cooperate and act together.”

Again, Blinken emphasized that this is not about containing China.

“We’re not trying to contain China or suppress China. What we’re trying to do is preserve the free and open, rules-based international order that we’ve spent decades building,” he said.

Blinken also met Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In a briefing on the meeting, the State Department said the two leaders “underscored the importance of a coordinated approach on both sides of the Atlantic to address global challenges, including those posed by the People’s Republic of China and Russia.

Speaking to the media before her meeting with Blinken, Merkel said she met with newly elected U.S. President Joe Biden at the G-7 summit in Cornwall, England, and later at the NATO summit in Brussels and found common ground on how to address the geopolitical challenges posed by Russia and China.

“I would say that we found common ground to address the world’s geostrategic challenges, to not only acknowledge them, but actually agree on a common approach to address them. It does take into account Russia, it does take into account China, but it also does take into account the alliances that we might form to represent our interests, and we will continue that exchange,” she said.

Merkel will visit Washington next month.