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China approves law to counter foreign sanctions even as Commerce Ministers of US and China talk to better the cooperation

China’s national legislature has approved a new law against foreign sanctions, aimed at providing a legal basis for the country’s countermeasures against such actions. The anti-foreign sanctions law was passed on Thursday at the closing session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, but details of the law have not yet been made public.

State media reported, the move was intended to provide a legal basis for China to respond to sanctions. It is the first major retaliatory legal move by China as it has issued counter-sanctions in response to sanctions against it from the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada over Beijing’s handling of Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

Local media reported that there have been concerns among foreign companies over the lack of transparency around the legislative process and the potential impact on businesses in China. Foreign companies are worried of being made scapegoat in the war of sanctions. Observers said the law would put pressure on foreign businesses to stop complying with Western sanctions as they could face retaliation in China.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that the passage of the new law showed China’s determination to protect its sovereignty and core interests and would not affect its relations with other countries. The new legislation is the strongest tool so far for China to respond to foreign sanctions. It had also unveiled an ‘unreliable entity’ list for foreign businesses last September. As per reports, the new law will be enacted when China feels the need of it.

In another important and related development, China’s Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao spoke with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo over the phone Thursday on how to better cooperate on trade and investment, the latest sign of growing economic engagement between the two countries even though the US is continuing its tough policies towards China in other spheres. The commerce ministers’ virtual meeting followed Chinese Vice Premier Liu He’s meetings over the past two weeks with both US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and as US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on their economic relationship.

Meanwhile, the US President Joe Biden has dropped former President Donald Trump’s orders issued last August seeking a ban on China’s TikTok and WeChat. Under a new executive order, the US will assess apps associated with foreign adversaries of their potential national security implications and how American personal data is used. Biden also revoked other Trump ban which targeted eight other Chinese apps.

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