Jim Risch, head of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted on Thursday that in sanctioning 28 national security officials, China’s Communist Party was already testing the Biden administration’s “resolve to continue a tougher, competitive approach towards China”.
“Together, Republicans [and] Democrats must show Beijing we will not be deterred from defending US interests,” he tweeted.
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China’s foreign ministry announced the sanctions against a list of US individuals and their families just 20 minutes after Biden was sworn in on Thursday, accusing those targeted of having “seriously violated China’s sovereignty” and being largely responsible for a “series of crazy moves” in US policy on China.
Ten of the people on the list were former members of the Trump administration, including secretary of state Mike Pompeo, trade adviser Peter Navarro, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, health secretary Alex Azar and deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger.
“China has pointed out multiple times that these anti-China politicians will pay for their crazy acts,” ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
“We hope the new US administration will view China and China-US relations in an objective and rational manner.”
China’s action came after Pompeo said Beijing’s repression in the far western region of Xinjiang against Uygurs and members of other ethnic minorities amounted to ongoing “genocide and crimes”.
Washington has imposed its own sanctions on Chinese officials and entities over the policies in Xinjiang, as well as on Hong Kong and Chinese officials over Beijing’s political crackdown in Hong Kong.
Michael McCaul, the leading Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted that Beijing had showed its true colours by sanctioning US officials for telling the truth – that the Communist Party was “guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide”.
“I strongly urge the Biden administration to quickly condemn these baseless, impotent sanctions and make good on its early commitments to prioritise strategic competition with the [Communist Party],” he said.
Biden’s National Security Council also weighed in, calling the sanctions “unproductive and cynical”, urging Americans from both parties to criticise the move.
“Imposing these sanctions on Inauguration Day is seemingly an attempt to play to partisan divides,” council spokeswoman Emily Horne told Reuters. “President Biden looks forward to working with leaders in both parties to position America to out-compete China.”
Hua, from the Chinese foreign ministry, responded on Friday by accusing the Trump administration of having imposed thousands of sanctions on China.
She said Beijing’s measures were “completely appropriate and necessary, fully demonstrating the Chinese government’s firm determination to safeguard national interests”.
“We have long said that unilateral sanctions harm others and hurt oneself, and just like a boomerang, sooner or later it will fly back,” she said.
“McCaul’s comments fully expose how some US politicians only allow the US to engage in arbitrary suppression and do not allow others to justly defend themselves against bullying, hegemony and hegemonic logic.”
Beijing has called for a reset in relations with Washington, after months of disputes over issues including trade, technology, strategic influence, ideology, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea.
But analysts said the political consensus in Washington for a tougher policy on China had hardened and Beijing’s increasingly assertive foreign policy would make it difficult for an easing in the strategic rivalry.
Drew Thompson, a former US Defence Department official responsible for China, Taiwan and Mongolia, said he expected Chinese President Xi Jinping would seek to reverse some of the Trump administration’s measures on China, but Biden had little incentive to compromise.
While Biden would certainly seek to engage with Xi, China was deeply committed to its existing model of governance and its more aggressive and often antagonistic foreign policy, he said.
“This leaves little room for Biden to explore areas of meaningful cooperation, leaving the two sides to manage differences and focus on reducing the risk of miscalculation and avoiding conflict,” he said. “There is a strong bipartisan consensus in the United States about the challenge that China presents to US interests, and the need to be more forceful and assertive to protect them,” he said.
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