China’s Egregious Behavior Moves to Other Continents
The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) provocative, destabilizing and unprecedented level of coercive behavior in the South China Sea, Taiwan region and other areas in the central Pacific is not slowing.
“Beijing's desire is that all nations in the region question their own respective, lawful operations near the PRC, and [they] hope to coerce the cessation of unwelcome activities, even where international law is not on Beijing’s side,” warned Rear Adm. Tom Henderschedt, USN, director for Intelligence, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, J2, speaking at AFCEA TechNet Indo-Pacific on November 2 in Honolulu.
Adm. Henderschedt, who has spent the better part of his naval intelligence officer career focused on the PRC—including almost a decade living in Beijing as an attaché—stressed that the country’s PRC government, and its military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), has only grown more assertive, a far cry from their humbler nature back in 2006.
“While the [U.S.] Secretary of Defense strives for integrated deterrence, the Chinese Communist Party demonstrates integrated coercion on a daily basis in diplomatic, legal, economic and cultural spheres,” Adm. Henderschedt reported. “Beijing's rewriting of regional and cultural norms, whether its aggressive operations around Taiwan and in the South China Sea, its diplomatic temper tantrums or its economic coercion are a great threat to the international community today.”
It is China’s other “norm-bending behaviors” outside of military-related activities, however, that are of interest, the rear admiral noted.
“The PRC’s erosion of international norms, laws and rules extends well beyond maritime claims in the South China Sea, and it's distorting the integrity of law enforcement operations all over the world,” Adm. Henderschedt stated.
For example, several cities in Western Europe are reporting the setup of PRC police stations and law enforcement officers within their European borders.
“Extensively from a Chinese explanation, [they are there] to assist Chinese nationals and facilitate driver's license renewals,” the rear admiral shared. “These stations, however, appear to be outposts, which enable Operation Fox Hunt-like activities, the PRC’s extra-legal efforts to track down offenders abroad, including dissidents for crimes allegedly committed in the PRC. Once found, targets, including U.S. citizens, are frequently coerced into returning to the PRC or used as bargaining chips in criminal cases.”
The PRC’s erosion of international norms, laws and rules extends well beyond maritime claims in the South China Sea, and it's distorting the integrity of law enforcement operations all over the world.
Adm. Henderschedt stressed, however, that the PRC’s egregious activities in other countries extend well beyond its Operation Fox Hunt, which began in 2014 to covertly catch, torture and repatriate Chinese “criminals.”
“The PRC’s current extraterritoriality, however, is not limited to Operation Fox Hunt,” he suggested. “The PRC has significantly amplified its efforts to punish people well outside its own borders.”
In 2021, the country passed an Anti-Foreign Sanctions law that actually punishes citizens that comply with export controls or foreign sanctions, according to the National Law Review, the rear admiral explained.
“[It] prohibits the compliance with foreign sanctions and export controls that impact the PRC adversely,” the J2 said. “[It] is the PRC’s ‘own legal regime of extraterritoriality jurisdiction,’ largely levied to deter sanctions against the PRC companies and authorities.”
China’s most stunning behavior attacking the rules-based order is its “use of economic coercion to shape political decisions that Beijing finds uncomfortable,” Adm. Henderschedt continued. “In the fall of 2021, after Lithuania announced that it would open a Taiwan representative office, the PRC reacted with great ire for the temerity to use the word ‘Taiwan,’ instead of the somewhat more acceptable ‘Taipei.’”
Surprisingly, leaders in Beijing removed Lithuania from its online customs forms as punishment, a move that eliminated the possibility of imports or exports without the need for formalized and illegal sanctions against Lithuanians.
“As the Center for Strategic and International Studies identified, following Beijing's inability to shape Vilnius through this customs attack, Beijing next threatened sanctions on third country firms that did business with Lithuania upstarts, causing Europeans to ask Lithuania to ‘seek a constructive solution,” he noted.
Provocative and unprecedented, the People's Republic of China's measures against Taiwan last August & other actions emphasize the view of the PRC that it sets the standards for behavior, not the rules of international law: RDML Tom Henderschedt @USNavy J2 @INDOPACOM #AFCEATechNet— Kimberly Underwood (@Kunderwood_SGNL) November 3, 2022
Similar economic retaliation fell to Australia, given the PRC’s displeasure of Australian actions. “Beijing imposed 100% to 200% tariffs on Australian wine, having a desired impact of ending Australian access to its largest wine export market, in contravention of WTO [World Trade Organization] regulations,” the J2 said. “The PRC’s economic throw weight has placed nearly every country, including the United States, out of place vulnerabilities economic origin. All these normative behaviors have been accompanied by an extreme escalation of aggressive diplomatic measures, which are anything but diplomatic.”
Essentially, it is the PRC’s view that it should be the one to set the standards for allowable behavior through intimidation and coercion, the rear admiral noted.
“The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Intelligence Directorate continuously monitors the PRC’s military activities, the operations of the People's Liberation Army, including its components, on a daily basis,” Adm. Henderschedt stated. “U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander, Adm. John Aquilino, publicly and rightly cautions that the PRC is 'utilizing all norms of national power to uproot the rules-based international order in ways that benefit themselves at the expense of others.'"