21 January 2021   Leave a comment

China has announced sanctions on 28 Trump Administration officials for their conduct toward China over the last four years. Interestingly, the sanctions did not include former President Trump himself. According to the South China Morning Post:

“Beijing announced sanctions against a slew of recently departed Trump administration officials over their positions on China on Thursday, barring them from entering or doing business with the country.

“Among those sanctioned were former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, and former deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger, considered one of the key architects of the Trump administration’s hardline China policies.

“In total, 28 people were targeted by the measures, which also apply to the individuals’ immediate family members. Besides mainland China, they will not be permitted entry to Hong Kong or Macau, while any companies or entities associated with them will be restricted from doing business with China.

“In a statement issued early Thursday morning, a foreign ministry spokesman said the individuals were responsible for a number of ‘crazy moves’ that had ‘gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-US relations’”.

It is unlikely that any of these officials had any current intentions to go to China, but the sanctions will seriously constrict their ability to conduct any business with China, Hong Kong, or Macau. The Chinese newspaper, Global Times, explains the underlying logic of the sanctions:

“The message was clear. It aimed to punish former officials who contained China in a reckless manner, telling those politicians that they should bear the consequences and meanwhile send out a warning to the US that when it comes to China policy, it should always respect China’s core interests and safeguard the bottom line of ethics and regulations, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.

“Lü Xiang, an expert of US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times Thursday that in US politics, there was a revolving door for US politicians to be employed in private sector companies, financial institutes and think tanks after they leave office. 

“The sanctions would seriously affect ‘the politicians’ road for gaining money,’ Lü said. ‘For instance, like Stilwell on the sanction list, we met in Washington when he was going to retire from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2015,’ Lü said. ‘At that time, the issues that most interested him were about doing business.'”

US President Biden has indicated that he does not plan to make any rapid changes toward China, particularly on the issue of the tariffs imposed on China by the Trump Administration. Nonetheless, the Biden Administration was critical of China’s moves, although the critical language was not especially harsh:

“‘Imposing these sanctions on Inauguration Day is seemingly an attempt to play to partisan divides,’ Biden’s National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said in a statement to Reuters.

“‘Americans of both parties should criticize this unproductive and cynical move. President Biden looks forward to working with leaders in both parties to position America to out-compete China,’ Horne said.”

President Biden, however, seems to be well aware of the fact that China is in a much stronger position in world affairs given the ineptitude of the Trump Administration. And China is too important to the US and the global economy to allow hostility to fester, as explained by Javier Solana and Eugenio Bregolat:

“The US-China relationship is ‘too big to fail.’ Because continued deterioration would bring unacceptable risks for them and the entire world, both countries should seize the opportunity to put relations on a new footing. The framework for peaceful coexistence that Biden and his team hope to find will require maintaining a fine balance between principles and realities. To be sure, combining competition with cooperation will not always be easy, but the new US administration is perfectly capable of passing this critical, era-defining test.

Posted January 21, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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