Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR contributor Rachel Cheung and Assistant Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curate the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive China Note by email every week.
Beijing timed its parting shot perfectly, not wasting a second to serve its revenge on the outgoing Trump administration, with which it had sparred for the past four years. Less than five minutes after Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20, China’s Foreign Ministry announced sanctions targeting 28 members of Donald Trump’s Cabinet and White House staff, as well as other outgoing officials. Accusing them of having “seriously violated China’s sovereignty,” the Chinese government barred them and their family members from entering the country and doing business with Chinese entities.
First on the list was former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had announced a flurry of China-related decisions just before his departure. These included designating China’s repression of the Uighur ethnic minority in Xinjiang province as a “genocide”; lifting decades-old restrictions on contacts between American and Taiwanese officials; and imposing sanctions on more Chinese and Hong Kong officials over their roles in the crackdown in Hong Kong. The inflammatory moves were seen as a way of saddling the incoming Biden administration with the choice of reversing the measures and appearing weak on China, or letting them stand to the detriment of bilateral ties.