President Donald Trump is preparing a human rights and trade crackdown on China in the next two months in a bid to force President-elect Joe Biden to continue a hardline approach after he takes office Jan. 20.
A senior Trump administration official told The Post that “over the coming weeks, the Trump administration will continue to expand the depth and breadth of the historic actions it has taken over the past four years to protect the vital interests of the United States and Its allies countering Beijing’s predatory and coercive behaviors.”
Trump in 2018 launched a tariff-driven trade war with China — over Biden’s criticism — to force concessions that benefit US companies, and Trump signed sanctions bills this year over China’s elimination of Hong Kong autonomy and suppression of Uighur Muslim minorities.
The administration official said that “actions being contemplated include protecting American technology from [Chinese military] exploitation, countering illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing, and further sanctions against [Chinese Communist Party] officials or institutions causing harm in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.”
Trump initially developed a warm relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, hosting him in 2017 at his Mar-a-Lago resort. But the bond soured with Trump’s wide-ranging trade war and this year, Trump repeatedly accused China of allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to happen, calling it the “China virus” and accusing the Communist nation of trying to cover up rather than deal with containing the virus in its early stages.
During the presidential campaign, Trump highlighted Biden’s advocacy for China joining the World Trade Organization in 2001 and claimed China would “own” the US if Biden won due to his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings.
John Ullyot, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said: “President Trump has absolutely changed the game when it comes to implementing strong actions on the Chinese Communist Party over the past four years and forging a bipartisan and international consensus on the need to counter Beijing’s harmful policies.”
The planned lame-duck actions against China were first reported Sunday by Axios.
By Steven Nelson
Original Title: Trump to implement China crackdown before Joe Biden takes office
Scoop: Trump plans last-minute China crackdown
President Trump will enact a series of hardline policies during his final 10 weeks to cement his legacy on China, senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the plans tells Axios.
Why it matters: He’ll try to make it politically untenable for the Biden administration to change course as China acts aggressively from India to Hong Kong to Taiwan, and the pandemic triggers a second global wave of shutdowns.
- Watch for National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe to publicly describe in granular detail intelligence about China’s nefarious actions inside the U.S.
Details: Trump officials plan to sanction or restrict trade with more Chinese companies, government entities and officials for alleged complicity in human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, or threatening U.S. national security.
- The administration also will crack down on China for its labor practices beyond Xinjiang forced labor camps.
- But don’t expect big new moves on Taiwan or more closures of Chinese consulates in the U.S., officials say.
National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot told Axios, “Unless Beijing reverses course and becomes a responsible player on the global stage, future U.S. presidents will find it politically suicidal to reverse President Trump’s historic actions.”
Behind the scenes: Senior administration officials are discussing expanding a Defense Department list of Chinese companies deemed to have ties to the Chinese military.
- An executive order issued last week barred U.S. investment in 31 such companies, and any additions would likely face a similar restriction.
- Officials plan to target China’s growing use of forced labor in the highly competitive fishing industry. Coerced and unpaid labor isn’t just a human rights concern — it can also give Chinese fisheries an advantage over rivals in an industry with geopolitical significance.
- Trump officials have been looking to move more hawkish China experts into senior roles across the government, another senior official added.
What they’re saying: “Director Ratcliffe will continue playing a leading role, in coordination with other national security principals, in delivering a necessary mindset shift from the Cold War and post-9/11 counterterrorism eras to a focus on great power competition with an adversarial China,” DNI senior adviser Cliff Sims tells Axios.
- The Biden transition team declined a request for comment.
By Jonathan Swan & Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian