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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump will enact a series of hardline policies during his final 10 weeks to cement his legacy on China, senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the plans tells Axios.

Why it matters: He'll try to make it politically untenable for the Biden administration to change course as China acts aggressively from India to Hong Kong to Taiwan, and the pandemic triggers a second global wave of shutdowns.

  • Watch for National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe to publicly describe in granular detail intelligence about China's nefarious actions inside the U.S.

Details: Trump officials plan to sanction or restrict trade with more Chinese companies, government entities and officials for alleged complicity in human rights violations in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, or threatening U.S. national security.

  • The administration also will crack down on China for its labor practices beyond Xinjiang forced labor camps.
  • But don't expect big new moves on Taiwan or more closures of Chinese consulates in the U.S., officials say.

National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot told Axios, "Unless Beijing reverses course and becomes a responsible player on the global stage, future U.S. presidents will find it politically suicidal to reverse President Trump’s historic actions."

Behind the scenes: Senior administration officials are discussing expanding a Defense Department list of Chinese companies deemed to have ties to the Chinese military.

  • An executive order issued last week barred U.S. investment in 31 such companies, and any additions would likely face a similar restriction.
  • Officials plan to target China's growing use of forced labor in the highly competitive fishing industry. Coerced and unpaid labor isn't just a human rights concern — it can also give Chinese fisheries an advantage over rivals in an industry with geopolitical significance.
  • Trump officials have been looking to move more hawkish China experts into senior roles across the government, another senior official added.

What they're saying: "Director Ratcliffe will continue playing a leading role, in coordination with other national security principals, in delivering a necessary mindset shift from the Cold War and post-9/11 counterterrorism eras to a focus on great power competition with an adversarial China," DNI senior adviser Cliff Sims tells Axios.

  • The Biden transition team declined a request for comment.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Nov 20, 2020 - World

Trump's last-minute foreign policy whirlwind

Trump visits Afghanistan in 2019. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is working quickly to shift U.S. policies and, where possible, bind the incoming Biden administration to them.

Why it matters: All of these steps are being taken without any coordination with Biden's team, which still lacks access to the intelligence and resources typically made available during a transition. In many cases, the Trump administration is trying to proactively thwart Biden's agenda.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Key government agency says Biden transition can formally begin

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy. Photo: Alex Edelman/CNP/Getty Images

General Services Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that she has determined the transition from the Trump administration can formally begin.

Why it matters: Murphy, a Trump appointee, had come under fire for delaying the so-called "ascertainment" and withholding the funds and information needed for the transition to begin while Trump's legal challenges played out.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key information about the effective COVID-19 vaccines — Oxford and AstraZeneca's vaccine won't just go to rich countries.
  2. Health: U.S. coronavirus hospitalizations keep breaking recordsWhy we're numb to 250,000 deaths.
  3. World: England to impose stricter regional systemU.S. hotspots far outpacing Europe's — Portugal to ban domestic travel for national holidays.
  4. Economy: The biggest pandemic labor market drags.
  5. Sports: Coronavirus precautions leave college basketball schedule in flux.