Chinese diplomats in the US will have to inform the State Department in advance of any official meeting they plan to hold in the territory from now on, President Donald Trump’s government reported Wednesday.
With this measure, the State Department seeks to “level the playing field” between the conditions in which U.S. diplomats work in China and Chinese diplomats in the United States, with the aim of pressuring Beijing to grant more freedom to the officials who are on its territory.
“Starting today, we are going to require all foreign missions of the People’s Republic of China (its embassy and consulates in the United States) to notify the State Department in advance of their official meetings,” a senior official said in a telephone press conference.
The requirement affects meetings “with state, local and municipal officials” of the country, as well as “official visits to educational and research institutions,” said the source, who asked for anonymity.
The official said that, in China, U.S. diplomats not only have to warn that they plan to hold such meetings, but that “they are obliged to ask for permission and are often denied it”.
The new measure “does not require any Chinese official to obtain permission from the State Department” to hold meetings, but “simply asks that the diplomatic agency be notified” prior to any such meetings, he said.
“What we are trying to achieve is to get closer to a reciprocal situation, with the desired effect of the Chinese government providing greater access to our diplomats in China,” the official said.
The relationship between Washington and Beijing has weakened this year because of the trade war launched by Trump, and tension was heightened this month by the government’s decision to sanction about 30 Chinese officials and companies for their links to the repression of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China.
But the source assured that the measure related to diplomats “has been working for a long time”, and is not related to the other peaks of tension in the relationship.
“This action is a response to what the Chinese government is doing to limit the interactions of our diplomats (…). We want them to be allowed to interact freely with provincial and local leaders, Chinese universities and other educational and research institutions,” the source stressed.