Chinese diplomats in the United States face new limits on travel and meetings in the U.S., Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said, as the Trump administration moves to match Communist Party restrictions on American diplomats and impose costs for what it calls unfair treatment.
Under the new rules, senior Chinese diplomats must get approval to visit university campuses or meet with local officials, the State Department said in a statement Wednesday. Also, any Chinese-hosted cultural events outside of consular posts will need approval if the audience is larger than 50 people. And the State Department will require that diplomatic social media accounts are identified as government-controlled.
“We’re simply demanding reciprocity,” Pompeo told reporters, indicating that the U.S. restrictions would be lifted if China removes its requirements. “Access for our diplomats in China should be reflective of the access that Chinese diplomats in the United States have.”
It’s only the latest in a series of aggressive actions — from economic sanctions and trade limits to diplomatic condemnation — that the Trump administration has imposed on the grounds that it is pushing back against Chinese aggression and restoring balance in relations between the world’s two biggest economies. Pompeo contends that China is waging a full-scale campaign of spying and intellectual property theft in the U.S.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington said the U.S. “has imposed yet another unjustified restriction and barrier on Chinese diplomatic and consular personnel.”
In an emailed statement responding to the new rules, the embassy urged the U.S. “to correct its mistake, revoke this decision and provide support and facilitation for Chinese diplomatic and consular personnel in the U.S. to perform their duties.”
For years, American diplomats in China have been severely limited regarding whom they can meet and where they can travel. The restrictions on university visits also reflects a broader concern in the administration that Chinese students and diplomats use those contacts to steal American technology and research.
The administration also has begun limiting the number of journalists Chinese media can employ in the U.S., a response that officials argue was compelled by China’s decision to expel American reporters from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and other outlets. Only a handful of American reporters are now living in China, while dozens of Chinese journalists remain in the U.S.
The U.S.-China relationship is “clearly way out of balance,” Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell told reporters at the same briefing. “We’re taking steps to fix that.”