US Will Take Tougher Action Against Beijing Amid Growing Resolve to Counter Threats, Experts Say

May 30, 2020 Updated: May 31, 2020

The United States will continue to step up pressure on Beijing, observers say, after President Donald Trump announced a series on measures tackling threats posed by the communist regime.

In a strongly-worded speech on May 29, Trump decried Beijing’s “absolute smothering” of Hong Kong’s freedoms, rampant theft of American intellectual property, coverup of the CCP Virus outbreak, and influence over the World Health Organization (WHO).

In response, he announced a range of measures: the revocation of Hong Kong’s special status with the United States, sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials, formal withdrawal from the WHO, the barring of Chinese graduate students tied to the Chinese military, and a review into Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges.

“I don’t think Chinese leaders have ever heard an American president talk to them this way in public before,” China expert Gordon Chang told NTD, an affiliate of The Epoch Times.

The tone of Trump’s remarks was “not only adversarial but angry,” Chang said, adding that the speech signaled that the United States has a “whole new posture” towards the regime–that of an adversary.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured since the signing of the phase-one trade deal in January with the Trump administration signaling increasing frustration over the regime’s responsibility in causing the pandemic and its continued lack of transparency.

“Beijing should understand that there’s a new tone in Washington, and they’re not going to like it,” Chang said.

The Chinese regime has yet to formally respond to the administration’s actions. Earlier this week, Beijing indicated it would take countermeasures if the United States were to proceed with punishing it over its imposition of the national security law for Hong Kong.

Trump said that Beijing’s move showed that it had broken its word given during the city’s handover in 1997. The regime had pledged to allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy not enjoyed in the mainland under the framework “one country, two systems.”

“China has replaced its promised formula of ‘one country, two systems’ with ‘one country, one system,'” Trump said.

The president said Hong Kong was no longer sufficiently autonomous to warrant U.S. economic privileges, adding the administration would take action to “revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China.”

Trump said Washington would also impose sanctions to Chinese or Hong Kong officials involved, directly or indirectly, in eroding the city’s autonomy.

Harry J. Kazianis, a national security expert at the Washington-based think tank Center for the National Interest, said the administration may sanction officials in Hong Kong’s police department and in Beijing’s intelligence apparatus responsible for subjugating the freedoms of the Hong Kong people.

He said the administration may also use the Global Magnitsky Act to target Chinese officials for human rights abuses. The Magnitsky Act authorizes the U.S. government to punish foreign violators of human rights by freezing their U.S.-based assets and barring their entry into the country.

“I think you are going to see the administration ramp up its approach on China,” Kazianis told NTD, an affiliate of The Epoch Times.

Separately on Friday, Trump took further action to counter Chinese state-sanctioned economic espionage by issuing a proclamation blocking entry to Chinese graduate or post-graduate students from universities affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army.

The move came amid increasing federal action targeting IP theft at U.S. research and academic institutions. The justice department in recent months has launched a spate of prosecutions against Chinese and American researchers and academics for theft of trade secrets, and failure to disclose funding from Chinese talent recruitment programs.

Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges are also in the administration’s crosshairs, with an upcoming review into whether they should be subject to U.S. auditing and disclosure rules.

The Chinese regime has blocked U.S. regulators from inspecting the audit work papers of Chinese companies, saying they contain “state secrets.”

Critics say the lack of oversight of these companies puts American investors at risk, citing the growing number Chinese companies embroiled in fraud scandals, the latest being U.S.-listed Luckin Coffee which in April reported that an internal investigation found it had fabricated more than $300 million in sales.

On the tech front, the United States has taken a series of actions in the past few weeks targeting security threats posed by Chinese companies.

It recently tightened restrictions on Chinese telecom giant Huawei by blocking the company from being able to acquire, from global chipmakers, crucial semiconductors that power its smartphones and telecom gear.

The commerce department on May 22 blacklisted 24 Chinese companies and government bodies over their links to weapons development for the Chinese military. Earlier in April, the department released rules to make it tougher for U.S. companies to export certain types of advanced technology to China that might aid its military, even if the items are for civilian use.

Kazianis said the administration will get tougher on the regime ahead of the 2020 presidential election, given that China will be one of Trump’s top campaign issues.

“I think he is going to rightfully blame China for a lot of economic damage that has been done to this country,” Kazianis said, referring to the regime’s role in causing the global spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus. “And I think a lot of the American people are going to believe that.”

Follow Cathy on Twitter: @CathyHe_ET