Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 11 September 2020



China Retaliates Against U.S. Diplomats, Including in Hong Kong

Bloomberg News
Updated on 
  • Beijing says U.S. has violated international laws, norms
  • Move comes amid a broader conflict between U.S. and China
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photographer: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Beijing said it will take unspecified retaliatory measures against U.S. diplomats in China, including those working in Hong Kong, following earlier moves by the Trump administration to limit the ways Chinese diplomats can operate on U.S. soil.

China notified the U.S. of the “reciprocal” measures being taken against its diplomats, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a statement on Friday evening, without giving any details.

“The U.S. practice has severely violated international law and basic norms governing international relations and disrupted China-U.S. relations and normal exchanges between the two sides,” Zhao said.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo earlier this month unveiled new rules on Chinese diplomats designed to match those already imposed on American diplomats in China. Under those updated rules, senior Chinese diplomats must seek approval to visit university campuses or meet with local government officials, the State Department said in a previous statement.

Sanctions Bite

Unlike some U.S. sanctions, which have had a significant impact on Chinese technology and financial firms, as well as some officials, Chinese sanctions sometimes appear to mean little.

None of the dozen American individuals sanctioned since July have received notice of what the penalties would entail, including Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. Beijing’s pledged sanctions against U.S. firms including Lockheed Martin Corp., which sells weapons systems to Taiwan in defiance of China, have also had little impact, according to some industry analysts.

The new developments come as the two super powers engage in a broader tit-for-tat battle on everything from trade and technology to media accreditation and diplomatic protocols.

The administration of President Donald Trump has taken a range of measures, from hitting out at Chinese technology companies to slapping sanctions on officials in Hong Kong and imposing stricter requirements for Chinese journalists in the U.S. China has also expelled U.S. journalists.

In July, the State Department also ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston closed “to protect American intellectual property and Americans’ private information,” prompting China to days later shut the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.

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