The Trump administration is planning to ramp up its pressure on China over the next few weeks, making moves it believes would further the president’s legacy as well as make it politically difficult for President-elect Joe Biden to reverse course.
Trump has refused to concede the race to Biden, but part of the goal of the Trump administration's China moves is to make it untenable for the next president to backpedal on the China crackdown.
A senior administration official told the Washington Examiner that “over the coming weeks, the Trump administration will continue to expand the depth and breadth of the historic actions it has taken over the past four years to protect the vital interests of the United States and its allies countering Beijing’s predatory and coercive behaviors.” The renewed push was confirmed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Council.
The official said actions being contemplated include protecting U.S. technology from exploitation by the Chinese military a week after Trump signed an executive order barring U.S. companies from doing business with a host of Chinese companies connected to the People’s Liberation Army. Trump argued that “the PRC’s military-industrial complex … constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat.”
The United States is also considering implementing further sanctions against Chinese government leaders committing abuses against the Uighurs in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang and that are involved with China’s illegal power grab in Hong Kong, according to the official, in addition to those already leveled against complicit Chinese Communist Party officials. The official said the Trump administration is also looking to counter China’s illegal and unregulated fishing industry, which experts have said harms the environment, violates sanctions, and sometimes uses forced labor. The U.S. has worked to block imports produced through the forced labor of Uighurs, and those efforts might now expand.
“President Trump has absolutely changed the game when it comes to implementing strong actions on the Chinese Communist Party over the past four years and forging a bipartisan and international consensus on the need to counter Beijing’s harmful policies,” NSC spokesman John Ullyot told the Washington Examiner. “Unless Beijing reverses course and becomes a responsible player on the global stage, future U.S. presidents will find it politically suicidal to reverse President Trump’s historic actions.”
The Biden transition team did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.
The Washington Examiner has also learned that there is a desire to reorient the U.S. to combat China in other ways.
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe will soon be speaking publicly about what the intelligence says about the China threat, including specific examples to illustrate Chinese espionage, with the goal of giving the average person a clearer view of what Chinese influence looks like in the U.S. The FBI and others have warned about the Chinese counterintelligence threat, and across the U.S. government’s agencies, there will likely be a move to put more China experts in senior roles. Many U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly made it clear that, although Russia poses a threat to the U.S., the China challenge is bigger. Ratcliffe told the Washington Examiner this summer that “China poses a greater national security threat to the U.S. than any other nation” and that he will be looking to continue that mindset shift toward great power competition in the coming weeks.
“From Director Ratcliffe's unique vantage point as the country's intelligence chief, he plans to lay out for the American people the breadth and depth of the challenges we face from China,” DNI senior adviser Cliff Sims told the Washington Examiner.
It is believed the use of Chinese-owned Huawei technology in fifth-generation wireless telecommunications will also soon see a renewed focus by the Trump administration, with plans to ratchet up the pressure on allies not to use Huawei and to warn that continuing to do so could result in a reduction of U.S. intelligence sharing. The Justice Department and U.S. intelligence agencies believe Huawei and other Chinese companies are working hand in hand with the Chinese government. The Justice Department unveiled a superseding indictment against Huawei in February, and the DOJ touted the successes of its two-year-old China initiative on Monday.
Trump told CBS’s 60 Minutes that China is “a foe in many ways” and “an adversary” in an October interview, whereas Biden said that “the biggest threat to America right now in terms of breaking up our security and our alliances is Russia” but that “the biggest competitor is China.”
Biden has faced questions about how tough he would be on China. Biden lavished praise on China during a state visit in 2011 as vice president, saying, “I believed in 1979 and said so then, and I believe now that a rising China is a positive development not only for the people of China but for the United States and the world.”
Biden also emphasized that he wasn’t “second-guessing” China’s one-child policy.
On the campaign trail in 2019, Biden said of China that “they’re not bad folks, folks” and that “they’re not competition for us.”
Republicans in the Senate have pushed for answers related to the pursuit of lucrative Chinese business deals by Biden’s son, Hunter, and his brother, James.
The Biden transition website currently lists four priorities — COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity, and climate change — and the coronavirus section contains a vow to reenter the World Health Organization immediately, which Trump announced the U.S. would leave, in part due to China’s influence over the group.
Bill Evanina, who leads the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, released an intelligence assessment in August that warned that Russia is “using a range of measures to primarily denigrate” Biden, while China “prefers” Trump not win reelection.
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