In the weeks following President Biden’s inauguration, Chinese leaders launched an information campaign against the United States. Their flood of speeches, letters, and announcements was, as the press initially assumed, not primarily directed at the new government. It was an effort to target the US business community.
The Communist Party’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, addressed a virtual audience of American business leaders and former government officials in early February. He painted a rosy picture of investment and trade opportunities in China before warning that Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan were “red lines” that Americans should be very silent about. Mr. Yang expressed the Trump administration’s policy towards China and did not press his audience to lobby the Biden administration to reverse them.
General Secretary Xi Jinping, who was sitting in front of a mural of the Great Wall of China, beamed at the business elite in Davos, Switzerland, at the end of January. He urged them to oppose efforts by European and American policymakers to “decouple” segments of their economies from China. Mr. Xi also wrote a personal letter to a prominent US businessman calling on him to “make active efforts to promote economic and trade cooperation between China and the US.”
To make it clear that these were requirements, not proposals, Beijing announced sanctions against nearly 30 current or former US government officials (me among them). This was on top of the sanctions Beijing imposed on American human rights activists, pro-democracy foundations, and some US senators last year.
Beijing’s message is unmistakable: you have to choose. If you want to do business in China, it has to come at the expense of American values. They will meticulously ignore the genocide of ethnic and religious minorities within China’s borders. You have to ignore the fact that Beijing has failed to keep its main promises – including the international treaty that guarantees Hong Kong a “high level of autonomy”. and you have to stop dealing with security-conscious officials in your own capital unless you stand up for Beijing.