The Chinese government is planning sanctions against senior US officials who visit Taiwan and any American companies these individuals are affiliated with, according to Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Times, a tabloid controlled by Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily.
Such a move would follow recent efforts by US President Donald Trump’s administration to build closer ties with the self-governing island, which Beijing considers to be a renegade province, including a trip there last month by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Azar was the highest ranking cabinet member to visit Taiwan since Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, and the first senior administration official to visit since Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act into law in 2018.
“Based on what I know, China will sanction senior US officials who visit Taiwan, and American companies which they have ties with,” said Hu. “They will never be allowed to enter Chinese mainland and US companies they have ties with will also lose Chinese mainland market.”
Based on what I know, China will sanction senior US officials who visit Taiwan, and American companies which they have ties with. They will never be allowed to enter Chinese mainland and US companies they have ties with will also lose Chinese mainland market.
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) September 8, 2020
While in Taiwan, Azar met President Tsai Ing-wen, and Azar’s Taiwanese counterpart, Chen Shih-chung, to discuss issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although China protested Azar’s trip, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin warning that visits by US government officials to the island threatens “the stability of the Taiwan Strait”, Beijing has not yet taken any countermeasures in response.
US officials have also been calling a pledge in May by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) to build a US$12 billion chip factory in Arizona the start of closer economic relations with Taiwan and part of a plan to scale back ties with mainland China.
“To build on this great momentum, I am glad to share today that the US and Taiwan are establishing a new bilateral economic dialogue,” David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said in an online discussion hosted by the Washington think tank Heritage Foundation last month.
“These talks will explore the full spectrum of our economic relationship – semiconductors, health care, energy and beyond – with technology at the core,” he said.
Stilwell also defended US arms sales to Taiwan in his remarks.
“We will continue to help Taipei resist the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to pressure, intimidate and marginalise Taiwan,” he said. “The United States has responded and continues to respond to increased [People’s Republic of China] military pressure by providing necessary defence articles and other support.”
While the Chinese government has already announced sanctions on several US lawmakers and leaders of American non-governmental organisations, Beijing has so far taken such action against only one Trump administration official: US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback.
The move against Brownback, announced in July, was made in response to Trump administration’s sanctions against Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses against ethnic minority groups in the country’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region (XUAR).
The sanctions specifically name XUAR party secretary Chen Quanguo and three other top officials of the region’s leadership, as well as other unidentified people “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the unjust detention or abuse of Uygurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in July.
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