Were President Trump to sanction select Chinese officials for their abuse of the Uighur Muslim people, he would send a powerful signal of American support for human rights and a striking challenge to China's aggressive global ambitions.
This bears notice in light of the distressing New York Times reports on this topic. According to the Times, Trump officials are actively considering whether the time has come to punish Chinese officials for throwing roughly 1 million Uighur civilians into concentration camps. In those camps, China pays homage to the worst communist traditions by removing citizens of their individuality.
Yet in the world's growing attention to this grotesque humanitarian abuse, China has a problem. President Xi Jinping likes to pretend that his government seeks only respectful cooperation with the international community. It's a patent lie, lubricated by hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese foreign investments.
But by holding Chinese government officials to account here, the U.S. would show the world why getting into bed with China might not be such a great long-term investment. It would also prove that the United States is unafraid to stand up for human rights. Trump has received much criticism from foreign allies for his stance on certain human rights issues. And while some of that criticism is fair, as U.S. leadership against Venezuelan and Burmese human rights abuses attests, much of it is not. In turn, by challenging Beijing in a way that is sure to infuriate the Standing Committee and Xi's many minions, Trump would strike a stark contrast between his own moral leadership and that of his predecessor, who was always keen to avoid Chinese ire at almost any cost.
Put simply, sanctions against Chinese officials for what they are known to be doing right now would provide a proportionate and powerful rebuke to their abuses. Moreover, it would illuminate the fact that American moral leadership remains alive and well, and that no dictator can easily diminish it. Such leadership would surely consolidate the U.S.-led international order.