In the pursuit of its own interests, the US constantly imposes unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdictions on third parties, thus becoming more and more of a major troublemaker for other countries as well as transnational companies. In the case of the sanctions on Iran, for instance, while former US president Barack Obama had already struck a deal with the country, the Trump administration afterwards declared that it was dumping the deal to renew sanctions on Iran. Incidents of this kind subject the business world to uncertainty in terms of decision-making.
The key to the US political design lies nowhere else other than in the “checks and balances” arrangement. However, this seems to only be applicable within the country. Once beyond US borders, the country’s power spins out of control as it knows no fear at all.
Guided by the doctrine of “America First,” Washington more frequently than ever has been trying to harm the interests of other countries and monopolize international public goods through domestic legislation.
In the name of law and order, the US government’s long-arm jurisdiction has become self-absorbed. Non-US companies and individuals are being forced to treat US laws as if they were international otherwise their business dealings will no longer be considered “legal” or “compliant with regulations” by the US. If left alone, the US will continue to use “laws” to push its interests overseas, forcing other countries to act in accordance with US rules through domestic legislation.
The question is then: How to put a stop to this? The EU answer has been “blocking statutes” that protect EU enterprises and individuals from unilateral US sanctions. If EU enterprises and individuals suffer losses from these sanctions, they may file lawsuits in EU courts for compensation from the parties that caused the losses or their acting representatives or agents. In other words, if US sanctions harm the interests of the EU, the latter will protect its companies through the power of the courts.
China also suffers from the US’ “long-arm jurisdiction,” as in this year’s Huawei and ZTE cases. Looking at the EU response, China may likewise consider adopting “blocking statutes” that make Chinese companies immune to unilateral US sanctions targeting other countries. If Chinese companies or individuals suffer losses by “violating” these sanctions, they may sue and claim compensation from the loss-causing parties in Chinese courts, and the Chinese government will lend a hand whenever necessary. Specific clauses and legislations may be formulated by drawing upon EU practice or adjustments accommodated in accordance with China’s specific situation.
Like the EU, China’s “blocking statutes” will be limited and passive defensive measures taken to safeguard its own interests. They are designed to protect Chinese enterprises from falling victim to the US’ long-arm jurisdiction. As far as multilateral sanctions affirmed by authoritarian bodies such as the United Nations are concerned, the government will require Chinese companies and people to honestly respect these rulings.
The legislative spirit behind “blocking statutes” is quite clear-cut; it denies applicability of unilateral US laws in companies operating in other countries, crushes validity of such laws through legislation and protects the legal rights and interests of companies and individuals abroad. Such statutes will send a clear message to the world and increase confidence in Chinese companies and individuals in international exchanges. To make such statutes more effective, China should increase collaboration and cooperation with the EU in law enforcement.
The US is not a global policeman, nor is it a global judge and jury. “Blocking statutes” can be the start of countries saving the world from becoming mired in the US’ legal system and safeguarding the balance of power in the field of international law.
The author is deputy director of the Center for American Studies, Fudan University.
(In Association with Global Times)