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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Chinese government is demanding that multinational firms cut ties with Lithuania or else lose access to China's markets, after the Baltic state allowed Taiwan to open an unofficial representative's office there.

Why it matters: Beijing is beginning to implement a de facto sanctions regime to enforce its geopolitical interests around the globe.

The big picture: Though China's pressure lacks the global heft of U.S. financial sanctions, China's economy has become so large that many companies, and countries, see it as vital — making denial of access to that market a serious threat.

  • Unlike U.S. sanctions, which are publicly announced de jure sanctions typically enacted to uphold multilateral principles such as countering weapons proliferation and funding for terrorism, China's unfolding sanctions regime is opaque and usually deployed to uphold its narrow political interests.

What's happening: Lithuanian government officials and industry representatives told Reuters that China was pressuring multinational firms that do business with China to cut Lithuanian products out of their supply chains.

  • German car company Continental, which has facilities in Lithuania and sells parts to China, is one company that has faced direct pressure from China, according to Reuters.
  • Lithuania's diplomats and their families (and at least one cat) evacuated China last week after authorities demanded they turn in their diplomatic IDs, raising fears that Beijing might strip them of immunity.

What to watch: The European Commission has said it may take the issue to the World Trade Organization.

Go deeper: Lithuania's deputy foreign minister on nation's "realistic" approach to China

Go deeper

Updated Jan 14, 2022 - World

HRW criticizes Biden over "mixed signals" on human rights

Photo: Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Human Rights Watch criticized President Biden and other leaders of democratic nations for sending "mixed signals" on human rights in its annual World Report published on Thursday, saying they "are not meeting the challenges before them."

Why it matters: Though Biden pledged to put human rights at the center of his foreign policy, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote that weapon sales to repressive governments and public reticence on certain human rights violations place those promises in question.

Hope King, author of Closer
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.

First look: Senators propose bill to ban corporate PACs

Sens. Jon Ossoff and Mark Kelly. Photos: Chip Somodevilla (left), Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

Sens. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) will soon propose a bill prohibiting for-profit corporations from establishing and managing political action committees, according to a copy of the legislation obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The introduction of "The Ban Corporate PACs Act" comes amid heightened scrutiny on Capitol Hill regarding money in politics, including efforts to bar companies from influencing political campaigns and federal elections. It would likely face a court challenge and First Amendment concerns.