The Chinese government has announced sanctions against outgoing secretary of state Mike Pompeo and 27 other high-ranking officials under former United States President Donald Trump, accusing them of “prejudice and hatred against China.”
In a strongly-worded statement published after US President Joe Biden was sworn into office in the early hours of Thursday morning, Beijing time, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the former Trump administration officials were “anti-China politicians” who had undermined the relationship between the US and China.
“(They) have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-US relations,” the statement said.
China’s move underscores the fractious and oftentimes hostile relationship between Washington and Beijing during Trump’s time in office, and comes as China’s state news agency posted a message on social media proclaiming, “Good riddance, Donald Trump!”
Many of the 28 outgoing and former officials sanctioned by Beijing were considered to be influential in helping to steer the Trump administration’s more confrontational China policy, which saw clashes with Beijing on issues relating to trade, technology, regional security and human rights.
Among those listed by Beijing were former trade adviser Peter Navarro; former national security adviser Robert O’Brien and his former deputy Matt Pottinger; former health secretary Alex Azar; and former US Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft. Former top Trump aide Steve Bannon and former security adviser John Bolton were also included.
The 28 former officials and their immediate family members would be banned from entering mainland China, Hong Kong or Macao according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry statement. In addition, companies and institutions associated with those named would be restricted from doing business with China.
Navarro told CNN the sanctions were a “badge of honor from the dictatorship that has killed millions with its virus.” The Trump administration repeatedly insisted that China should bear sole responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic.
Thursday’s sanctions come in the wake of a series of final moves by the Trump administration targeting China, including sanctions aimed at officials and a declaration on its final day, that the Chinese government had committed genocide against Uyghur Muslims and ethnic and religious minority groups in its western region of Xinjiang.
Just over one week earlier, on January 11, Pompeo announced the US would lift decades-old restrictions on contacts between American and Taiwanese officials, a decision which prompted threats from Beijing.
China’s decision to impose sanctions against the outgoing Trump team follow comments made by Beijing in the hours preceding Biden’s inauguration, expressing hope that the new US President would “look at China rationally and objectively.”
At a regular press briefing Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying claimed the Trump administration had made numerous “fundamental mistakes” during the past four years resulting in “serious damage” to bilateral ties.
The Biden administration should instead, “look at China rationally and objectively, meet China halfway and, in the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, push China-US relations back to the right track of healthy and stable development as soon as possible,” said Hua.
“If the new US administration can adopt a more rational and responsible attitude in formulating its foreign policy, I think it will be warmly welcomed by everyone in the international community,” she added.
Biden National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne told CNN that imposing the sanctions on Inauguration Day appeared to be an “attempt to play to partisan divides.”
“It won’t work. Americans of both parties oppose this unproductive and cynical move. President Biden looks forward to working with leaders in both parties to position America to out-compete China,” she said.
‘Good riddance, Donald Trump’
Chinese state-run media has been celebrating the end of the Trump administration in a series of editorials, commentaries and social media posts in recent days.
On Wednesday, hours before Trump was due to leave the White House for the last time, state-run news agency Xinhua tweeted in English an image of the US Congress with the words, “Good riddance, Donald Trump!”
An official Xinhua commentary, with the headline “Farewell Trump,” was also widely circulated online in Chinese. “During the past four years, people haven’t seen America become great again,” it said and, referring to the US’ reputation as a beacon of democracy, added: “The ‘lighthouse’ is collapsing and the myth of ‘the apex’ is falling apart.”
The parting shots marked something of a rare direct attack on the former US President. For much of the last four years, Chinese state media has avoided specifically mentioning Donald Trump in its criticism of his administration.
In an editorial published on January 16, days before the handover of power, Xinhua bid farewell to “the current US administration and its final madness.”
Outgoing Secretary of State Pompeo also came in for direct criticism, with Xinhua publishing a separate commentary titled “Good riddance, Mike Pompeo.” Editor of the state-run tabloid the Global Times, Hu Xijin, responded to Pompeo’s labeling of China’s actions in Xinjiang by saying the US diplomat was “shameful” and an attention seeker.
“You are still going to be kicked out of your office today,” Hu said in a post to his official Twitter Wednesday.
In comparison, China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, issued a polite statement welcoming the new Biden administration on Wednesday shortly after the US president was sworn into office.
“China looks forward to working with the new administration to promote sound & steady development of China-US relations and jointly address global challenges in public health, climate change & growth,” the ambassador said on his official Twitter.
CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report.