“They have swindled the United States like no one else has before,” Trump said of China, denouncing the way that Beijing “raided our factories” and “gutted” the American industry, making Beijing a central role. compete in the remaining months of your re-election campaign.
Trump called China on “espionage to steal our trade secrets, of which there are many,” announced measures to protect US investors from Chinese financial practices, accused Beijing of “illegally claiming territory in the Pacific Ocean” and threatened the freedom of navigation.
The president said the United States would also take action on other fronts, including banning “certain foreign citizens of China” from entering the United States and sanctioning officials in China and Hong Kong for their direct or indirect role in “stifling” the Hong Kong freedoms. .
“Relations between the United States and China are in crisis,” said Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security. “We have touched the ground and continue to fall through it. Beijing will retaliate in response to Hong Kong steps taken by the administration, and then the ball will return to the President’s court. Things will get worse, potentially much worse.” before they get better. “
Trump’s announcement was a multi-party salvo in what has been a steadily escalating confrontation over trade, telecommunications, the media, student visas, the South China Sea, the coronavirus, and more recently , the question of Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The Cantonese-speaking enclave was handed over from the United Kingdom to China in 1997 under an agreement aimed at preserving Hong Kong’s autonomy in internal affairs, including the judiciary, and ensuring that its citizens can vote for its leaders.
“This week, China unilaterally imposed control over Hong Kong’s security,” Trump said Friday, calling it “a simple violation of Beijing treaty obligations to the United Kingdom.”
As a result, Trump said Hong Kong “is no longer autonomous enough to warrant the special treatment we have accorded to the territory” and his administration “will begin the process of removing policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different treatment and special”.
Management will impact the “full range” of agreements the United States has with Hong Kong, including its extradition treaty, dual-use technology export controls and more, Trump said. The United States will also revoke Hong Kong’s preferential customs and travel status, the president said.
Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said revoking Hong Kong’s special status and extending Trump’s tariffs to the enclave “would have little immediate impact,” given that in 2019, the United States imported less than $ 5,000. Millions of goods from Hong Kong that Trump could hit with new tariffs.
China probably counterattack
In comparison, the United States imported $ 452 billion worth of goods from China in 2019. However, Bown noted that Beijing could strike back in a way that would harm American companies.
“Ironically, it would be more shocking to trade if China responded with an escalation and a forced takeover of Hong Kong’s trade policy,” Bown said. “If Beijing could somehow extend its retaliatory tariffs it would have a greater impact, as the United States exports more than $ 30 billion a year to Hong Kong.”
Trump also said the State Department’s travel notice for Hong Kong will be revised “to reflect the increased danger of surveillance and punishment by the Chinese state security apparatus.”
Some former officials said Trump’s response could end up hurting Hong Kong residents.
“The Hong Kong-related provisions in Trump’s announcement were quite vague and it remains to be seen how quickly and extensively they are implemented,” said Danny Russel, a former senior director of Asian affairs at the National Security Council who is now vice president. at the Asia Society Policy Institute. “But it is not entirely clear that removing Hong Kong’s special status will make things better for the people we would like to help and, in fact, could inadvertently accelerate their loss of autonomy.”
‘Bold’ and appropriate
Others praised it.
“The president’s response to Hong Kong is bold and, in my opinion, appropriate,” said Fontaine, a former official with the State Department and NSC. “Beijing’s decision to end Hong Kong’s separate political system should trigger a US response, including by ending Hong Kong’s special economic situation. The administration has criticized and questioned issues of democracy and human rights abroad. and I’m glad it’s on its feet. ”
Trump was widely expected to announce a restriction on Chinese students, of whom some 350,000 come to the United States to study each year, and senior cabinet officials noted that limits on their entry would be just one of several moves that the president would do.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with Fox News on Thursday that Trump would make “a series of announcements” about China “in the coming days” and suggested that visa restrictions for Chinese graduate students and researchers could be among them. .
Shortly after Trump’s comments, the White House issued a presidential proclamation that suspended entry to the US. USA For Chinese graduate and postgraduate students and researchers that will take effect at noon on Monday and will remain in effect until the President rescinds it.
Authorities in the People’s Republic of China “use some Chinese students, mostly postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers, to operate as non-traditional gatherers of intellectual property,” the announcement said. These students “are at high risk of being exploited or co-opted by the PRC authorities and are of particular concern.”
Allowing those students to enter the United States “to study or conduct research in the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States,” the proclamation announced.
Trump’s Friday announcement is just the latest limit his administration has imposed on Chinese students and other Chinese entities.
In 2018, the State Department issued new time restrictions for visas for Chinese graduate students in fields such as aviation, robotics, and advanced manufacturing, which are considered sensitive to national security, reducing the period in which students could stay from five years to only one.
CNN’s Jason Hoffman, Jennifer Hansler, and Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.