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Chinese soldiers perform a flag-raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square in Beijing this month. Photo: Li Nan/VCG via Getty Images


Chinese officials told the Trump administration they may detain Americans in China if the DOJ prosecutes scholars with ties to the Communist country's military, the Wall Street Journal first reported and Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: It's the latest escalation in tensions between the U.S. and China and comes four months after Chinese authorities charged two Canadians with espionage in what American and Canadian officials believe was to avenge the arrest in Canada of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou — who may face extradition to the U.S.

Driving the news: The Trump administration on July 22 ordered officials to close China's consulate in Houston, citing commercial espionage and intellectual property theft concerns.

  • A day later, the DOJ announced it had charged four researchers with visa fraud "in connection with a scheme to lie about their status as members" of the Chinese military. China shut the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, the capital of southwestern China's Sichuan province, on July 27.
  • Last month, the U.S. revoked over 1,000 visas of Chinese nationals under a proclamation by President Trump aimed at student researchers suspected of having links to China's military.

Of note: While a State Department spokesperson would not comment on any specific threats, he pointed to the current travel advisory issued Sept. 14 that urges Americans to reconsider travel to China "due to COVID-19 and arbitrary enforcement of local laws."

  • The advisory states that China's government arbitrarily carries out wrongful detentions and imposes exit bans on citizens of the U.S. and other countries "to gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments," among other reasons.
  • John Demers, head of the DOJ’s national security division, said in a statement to the New York Times, "We are aware that the Chinese government has, in other instances, detained American, Canadian and other individuals without legal basis to retaliate against lawful prosecutions and to exert pressure on their governments, with a callous disregard of the individuals involved.
"If China wants to be seen as one of the world’s leading nations, it should respect the rule of law and stop taking hostages."
— Demers

What they're saying: Hu Xijin, chief editor of the Chinese state-affiliated Global Times news outlet, tweeted Sunday that "the US has detained ... some Chinese scholars on spy charges, which is not good to safety of some U.S. nationals in China.

  • "Does Washington need to be warned? It's common sense. In my view, hegemony has turned some U.S. elites stupid, or they're pretending to be stupid."

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Nov 25, 2020 - World

China's Xi Jinping congratulates Biden on election win

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to President-elect Biden on Wednesday to congratulate him on his election victory, according to the Xinhua state news agency.

Why it matters: China's foreign ministry offered Biden a belated, and tentative, congratulations on Nov. 13, but Xi had not personally acknowledged Biden's win. The leaders of Brazil, Mexico and Russia are among the very few leaders still declining to congratulate Biden.

U.S.-based Chinese activists targeted by Guo Wengui supporters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the weeks before the U.S. presidential election, three prominent Chinese activists in the U.S. found their homes surrounded by anonymous protesters who accused them of spying for the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The three activists, who had fled China due to repression from Chinese authorities, now face physical threats on U.S. soil.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
Nov 24, 2020 - World

Remote work shakes up geopolitics

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The global adoption of remote work may leave the rising powers in the East behind.

The big picture: Despite India's and China's economic might, these countries have far fewer remote jobs than the U.S. or Europe. That's affecting the emerging economies' resilience amid the pandemic.

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