As tensions between the United States and China continue to worsen, the Trump administration is reportedly considering their most drastic move yet – banning all members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and their families from traveling to the US.
According to sources familiar with the matter speaking to The New York Times, the draft of this proclamation contains language that would prohibit access of targeted individuals into the country and also authorize the US government to revoke the visas of party members already in the US, leading to their expulsion. There is the added possibility that members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and executives at state-owned businesses will be targeted.
This move, if implemented, could potentially cause irreparable damage to US-China relations, which have been in free fall in recent months. All 92 million members of the CCP, from its highest ranking diplomats to their rank-and-file, could be affected by the ban, with the number jumping to a potential 270 million if families are included.
More strain on tense US-China relationship
Existing tensions between the two nations have been put under increasing strain as a result of Trump administration officials’ efforts to combat the CCP. Multiple disputes have arisen from this conflict, most notably over Beijing’s lack of transparency at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the detainment of Uighur Muslims in internment camps and the erosion of freedom in Hong Kong.
When questioned in an interview on Thursday about the possibility of the travel ban, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “We’re working our way through, under the President’s guidance, about how to think about pushing back against the Chinese Communist Party,” stopping short of confirming the move.
“I don’t comment on things we’re working on inside,” he said, with the details yet to be finalized and presented to Trump. “When we’re prepared to present it to the President … we’ll let him make the ultimate decision.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a separate press briefing, “we keep every option on the table with regard to China” and that the President “has not ruled out any options.”
Despite the US government’s apparent determination to counter the CCP, the scale of the proposed travel ban presents its own practical issues.
While CCP officials have been tied to contentious human rights issues that have fallen under the global spotlight, the party also remains an ordinary aspect of life in China. With many Chinese struggling to battle poverty, joining the CCP provides citizens with opportunities to advance in various sectors. Lower-ranking party members hold jobs such as supervising schools, offering child care services or even acting in movies.
There are also many individuals within China, and the CCP itself, who do not conform to official ideology. Some attend underground Christian churches, for example, or complain about corruption among local officials. These travel bans would trickle down to these citizens as well as their children, who could be banned from attending American universities under this proposed presidential order.
“The overwhelming majority of C.C.P. members have no involvement or input into Beijing’s policymaking, so going after the entire party membership is like China sanctioning all Republicans because of frustrations with Trump,” said Jude Blanchette, a China scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Furthermore, US authorities do not have complete lists of party members. Considering the fact that almost three million Chinese nationals visited the US in 2018 – although the number has since dropped because of the pandemic – it would be difficult to immediately identify party members to prevent their entry.
So far, the Trump administration has already implemented travel restrictions on various Chinese citizens, such as graduate students, journalists and officials responsible for the mistreatment of Uighur Muslims or Hong Kong people. It has also implemented other sanctions on Chinese banks and companies to further pressure Beijing.
When questioned about reports of the potential US travel ban against CCP members on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, “if they are indeed true, I think it’s very pathetic.
“As the strongest power, what impression does it want to leave to the world except for hurling sanctions?” she posed.
“We hope the US will refrain from doing more things that disdain the basic norms governing international relations and undermine its reputation, credibility and status as a major country.”
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