Barely 48 hours before the arrival in China of one of US President Joe Biden’s most-trusted diplomats, Beijing on Friday announced its decision to impose counter-sanctions on seven US citizens and entities, including former US secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross, in retaliation against Washington’s earlier sanctions on Chinese officials over crackdowns in Hong Kong.
Biden’s administration announced sanctions on seven Chinese officials on Friday last week and warned US businesses of the “growing risks” posed by Beijing and Hong Kong.
It is not the first time Washington and Beijing have imposed mutual sanctions, but the latest round marks the first time China has done so using its new Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law, which was passed last month.
Others affected in Beijing’s “reciprocal counter-sanctions” are the current or former heads of a range of US organizations, including the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, Human Rights Watch, and the Washington-based Hong Kong Democracy Council.
In response to Beijing’s sanctions, one of the affected US citizens, Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson wrote on Twitter: “thanks, for the extra motivation!”
Since the enactment of the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law, Beijing’s decision to impose counter-sanctions was expected, but the timing of it is indicative of the deteriorating US-China relations.
It also came just less than 48 hours before US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s visit to China today.
“Washington has reiterated that Sherman’s visit and talk with the Chinese side will be from ‘a position of strength,’ but Beijing may want to remind [the Biden administration] that they are equals,” said Ma Ji (馬吉), a senior C.V. Starr lecturer at Peking University’s School of Transnational Law.
“Of course, none of those targeted are in Biden’s inner circle, which means that Beijing still wants to continue the conversation with Washington, but by issuing this list shortly before Sherman’s visit, Beijing clearly intends to reduce her expectations,” Ma added.
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