China and USA edge closer to full-blown war as tit for tat sanctions prove growing risks

Joe Biden not being hard enough on China says adviser

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The United States had imposed sanctions on Chinese officials in Hong Kong due to their role in the recent security crackdown in the territory. In retaliation, counter-sanctions were announced by China, with seven US individuals and entities targeted.

One of those to be placed under sanctions is former US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, who served under Donald Trump.

During his time in office, Mr Ross expanded the number of Chinese firms that could not trade with American firms without a prior license, including Chinese telecom giants like Huawei and ZTE.

Others sanctioned by China include Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch’s China director; Carolyn Bartholomew, chair of US-China Economic and Security Review Commission; and Adam King of the International Republican Institute.

The move comes just days before US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to visit China in an attempt to address deteriorating ties between the nations.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the US was “undeterred” by China’s retaliation.

She said: “These actions are the latest examples of how Beijing punishes private citizens, companies and civil society organisations as a way to send political signals.”

Ms Psaki added that China’s latest actions illustrated the very risks about which the US government was issuing warnings.

But China’s foreign ministry said on Friday that the recent US sanctions were designed to smear Hon Kong’s business reputation and broke international law.

In a statement, the ministry said: “The US side concocted the so-called Hong Kong business advisory, baselessly smeared Hong Kong’s commercial environment, and illegally sanctioned Chinese officials in Hong Kong.

“These actions seriously violated international law and the basic principles of international relations, and seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs.”

The sanctions imposed by the US were in response to the National Security Law, introduced in Hong Kong last year.

The law criminalises secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces and carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Washington has also warned its business community of the “growing risks” posed by Beijing and Hong Kong.

While this isn’t the first time the two nations have impose tit for tat sanctions, it is the first time China has done so using a new anti-foreign sanction law, which was passed in June.

Since the enactment of the anti-foreign sanctions law last month, Beijing’s decision to impose counter-sanctions has been expected.

But the timing of it is indicative of the deteriorating US-China relations, particularly with the imminent visit of Ms Sherman on Sunday.

Ma Ji, a senior CV Starr lecturer at Peking University’s school of transnational law, said: “Washington has reiterated that Sherman’s visit and talk with the Chinese side will be from ‘a position of strength’, but Beijing may want to remind [the Biden administration] that they are equals.”

Ma added: “Of course, none of those targeted are in Biden’s inner circle, which means that Beijing still wants to continue the conversation with Washington.

“But by issuing this list shortly before Sherman’s visit, Beijing clearly intends to reduce her expectations.”

Mr Ross is just the latest former member of the Trump administration to be hit with sanctions by China.

In January, it announced sanctions against outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and 27 other top Trump officials.

The Biden administration called that move “unproductive and cynical”.

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