The Trump administration is planning a series of hardline actions against China with the aim of making it politically untenable for a Biden administration to reverse the moves, administration officials told Axios.
According to the officials, the administration plans to sanction or restrict trade with Chinese companies, officials, and government entities. The actions will be related to alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, so-called threats to US national security, and China’s fishing industry. An official told Bloomberg that actions might also be taken to protect US technologies from “exploitation” by China’s military.
“Unless Beijing reverses course and becomes a responsible player on the global stage, future US presidents will find it politically suicidal to reverse President Trump’s historic actions,” National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot told Axios.
The report comes a week after President Trump signed an executive order banning US investment in Chinese companies that Washington claims are linked to China’s military. Also last week, the US sanctioned officials in China and Hong Kong over the Hong Kong national security law, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration is “not finished yet” with being tough on China.
The Axios report says to watch for Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe to “publicly describe in granular detail intelligence about China’s nefarious actions” inside the US.
“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,” a Ratcliffe advisor told Axios.
The 2018 National Defense Strategy outlines the US military’s priorities, a shift away from counterterrorism in the Middle East towards so-called “great power competition” with Russia and China.
The Trump administration has pursued a hardline approach towards China since 2017, but the policies and rhetoric have become increasingly hostile in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Part of the anti-Beijing policies has been an increase in US military activity in the Pacific, particularly the South China Sea, where the US challenges China’s claims by sending warships and military aircraft into the area.
Biden is not expected to soften Washington’s stance towards Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea. Michele Flournoy, the frontrunner to be Biden’s Pentagon chief, wrote in Foreign Affairs that the US should have the ability to sink all Chinese vessels in the South China Sea “within 72 hours” as deterrence for Beijing’s activity in the waters.