At its first plenary meeting on Monday afternoon, the ongoing 29th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress heard a report on the second review of the draft anti-foreign sanctions law.
Given the bipartisan anti-China consensus that, of late, has fast-tracked almost every legislation targeting China in the United States Congress, it is well within anticipation that the draft law will be on a faster track than most others. On the one hand it meets a pressing practical need, and on the other it fills a gap in the country's framework of laws, offering strong legal support for a firm response to any unilateral and discriminatory action by foreign countries.
Pressed hard lately by the "long-arm jurisdiction" and subsequent sanctions of the US, there have been passionate calls for updating the country's legal "toolkit" to safeguard the rights of Chinese institutions, enterprises and individuals.
Amid louder voices for making a law tailored specifically to the increasingly rampant foreign sanctions around this year's annual sessions of the NPC and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the fourth meeting of the 13th NPC Standing Committee proposed such a law. The draft law, according to both domestic media and experts, is a proper reply in the spirit of "doing unto them what they do unto us". Some have even said that passing the draft law will be a signal of China-US strategic competition entering an era of "legal battles".
It would be misleading, however, to read it as being tailored just to the US sanctions. The high-handed US sanctions certainly deserve a forceful legislative pushback, but Washington is obviously not the only source of foreign sanctions. Not to mention that, imperative as it is, the making of a national law always entails a cooler head than addressing an immediate political expediency.
Since the onset of the China-US trade war in 2018, a considerable number of Chinese government institutions, officials, and State-owned and private companies have been blacklisted by the US and the European Union and subjected to various forms of sanctions based on their domestic laws.
Beijing has fought back, blacklisted and sanctioned some US and EU institutions, individuals and companies. But all in the form of executive decrees, such as the Rules on Counteracting Unjustified Extra-territorial Application of Foreign Legislation and Other Measures and the Provisions on the Unreliable Entity List by the Ministry of Commerce, which as many have complained are inadequate for the task at hand.
With its focus on moves against sanctions and interference and countering long-arm jurisdiction, the proposed bill provides legal support and guarantee for the country to counter discriminatory measures by a foreign country in accordance with the law.
Many hope that, equipped with the upcoming law, the country will have a deterrent against foreign countries' abuse of sanctions.