China said Wednesday it was sanctioning more than two dozen members and ex-officials in former president Donald Trump’s government, including his secretary of state Mike Pompeo, for violating the country’s “sovereignty” by making “crazy” policy moves.
The move came as US President Joe Biden took the oath of office in Washington, ushering in a new administration that is expected to remain tough on China but commit to international cooperation after Trump’s divisive “America First” approach.
“Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted and executed a series of crazy moves,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Those actions, it added, have “gravely interfered in China’s internal affairs, undermined China’s interests, offended the Chinese people and seriously disrupted China-US relations.”
“China has decided to sanction 28 persons who have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and who have been mainly responsible for such US moves on China-related issues,” the foreign ministry said.
Apart from Pompeo, those sanctioned include Trump trade advisor Peter Navarro, national security advisor Robert O’Brien, assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs David Stilwell, health secretary Alex Azar and UN envoy Kelly Craft, among others.
Beijing also sanctioned former Trump national security advisor John Bolton and former senior advisor Steve Bannon.
The officials and their family members will be prohibited from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, the foreign ministry said.
“They and companies and institutions associated with them are also restricted from doing business with China,” it added.
Bolton, a hawkish veteran diplomat who has been a frequent critic of Trump since leaving the administration in September 2019, wrote on Twitter that he was proud to have prompted Beijing’s wrath.
“I’ve been sanctioned by the Communist Chinese government for ‘nasty behavior,'” he posted. “Great news for an inauguration day! I accept this prestigious recognition of my unrelenting efforts to defend American freedom.”
Throughout his last days in office, Trump butted heads with China over trade, security, technology, the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and the rights of people from Hong Kong to Xinjiang, home to the country’s Uighur minority.
On Tuesday, the administration’s last full day in office, Pompeo said Beijing’s sweeping incarceration of mostly Muslim minorities in the far western Xinjiang region amounted to genocide and crimes against humanity.
The Chinese foreign ministry hit back, accusing Pompeo of fabricating “sensational false propositions” throughout his term in office.
Pompeo’s vociferous criticism of Beijing has been a hallmark of his tenure, although he had earlier danced around directly alleging genocide.
Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said Tuesday that he agreed with Pompeo’s assessment.
Blinken and Biden’s Treasury pick Janet Yellen both signalled they will not let up on Washington’s efforts to combat China’s trade abuses, an area of common ground with Trump, who over the past four years unleashed a trade war that imposed billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese goods.
But Beijing pushed back, stating that “the Chinese government is firmly resolved to defend China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests.”
Blinken and Yellen have indicated the new administration’s commitment to promoting investments to make American firms and workers more competitive against Beijing.
However, the Biden administration overall is expected to be more measured in tone and to knit back together tattered alliances on the global stage.