Pompeo Frames New China Sanctions as Taste of Its Own Policies

Screenshot of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivering remarks at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California, on July 23, 2020.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Announcing new travel restrictions on Chinese diplomats and limiting their ability to attend American academic events, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo billed the move Wednesday as a step toward “restoring reciprocity.”

“For years the Chinese Communist Party has imposed significant barriers on American diplomats working inside the PRC,” Pompeo said in a briefing at the State Department. “Specifically, the Chinese Communist Party has implemented a system of opaque approval processes designed to prevent American diplomats from conducting regular business, attending events, securing meetings and connecting with the Chinese people.” 

Pompeo emphasized that Chinese diplomats visiting university campuses or meet local officials will now meet a similar approval process in the United States going forward, and that China will need State Department approval to host groups of more than 50 people outside embassy property.

Pompeo’s remarks and a statement also promise periodic reviews for official social media accounts belonging to the People’s Republic of China embassy and consulate, meant to ensure they are “properly identified” as Chinese government accounts.

Pompeo also mentioned an August letter State Department Undersecretary Keith Krach penned to the Governing Boards of American Universities, where Krach mentions the “growing threat of authoritarian influence” on American campuses and to university endowments.

University boards must take preventative steps against this infiltration, Pompeo advised, suggesting steps such as disclosing Chinese investments in endowment funds and divesting from Chinese companies on the Commerce Department’s list of sanctioned entities.

That registry grew last week when the U.S. announced it would sanction two dozen companies for their role in building military islands in the South China Sea. The sanctions will ban those companies — mostly construction and telecommunications companies — from purchasing certain American products. 

“We’re simply demanding reciprocity,” Pompeo said. “Access for our diplomats in China should be reflective of the access the Chinese diplomats in the United States have and today’s steps will move us substantially in that direction.”

David Stilwell, the State Department’s assistant secretary of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the department had asked Chinese diplomats in October to notify officials about their in-state movement. This was an effort to get Chinese diplomats to understand the U.S.-China relationship was “way out of balance,” he said.

“Balance to me equates to stability,” Stilwell said, “and the instability of this relationship causes all of us concern. We’re taking steps to fix that.”

Stilwell said while he did not know how Chinese diplomats might respond to new sanctions, he relied on members of the American media to convey the disproportionate give and take between the countries. 

“If there’s concerns about reciprocal — what they call reciprocal, retaliation is a better word — let’s make sure we paint a very clear picture of what they’re doing, what that real balance looks like,” Stilwell said. “You know, there’s 150 or more Chinese state media folks who work for the ministry of propaganda here in the U.S. operating without restriction and there’s only a handful of American journalists left in China right now. Let’s paint that picture so everyone understands what we’re talking about.”

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