U.S. Adds Sanctions Over Internment of Muslims in China

China hawks in the administration blamed Mr. Trump and top economic advisers, including Mr. Mnuchin, for holding back on sanctions in order to avoid jeopardizing trade talks with China and to cozy up to Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader. But now, as the pandemic roils the United States and endangers the president’s prospects of re-election, Mr. Trump has begun to sour on maintaining cordial relations with China, and the hawks have greater leeway to pursue tougher actions on China and to try to set the two nations on a long-term course for confrontation.

Mr. Trump’s campaign strategists have also urged him to attack China in an attempt to turn the spotlight away from the president’s failures on the pandemic and the economy.

“Today’s designations are the latest U.S. government action in an ongoing effort to deter human rights abuse in the Xinjiang region,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the most vocal of the China hawks, said in a statement on Friday.

The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps was founded in 1954 as a group entwined with the People’s Liberation Army that would oversee the deployment of large numbers of ethnic Han citizens, many of them military veterans, to Xinjiang to build farms, factories and towns that would allow China to consolidate control of the important border region and the many ethnic minority groups there.

As of 2009, the group, which reports directly to Beijing, had an annual output of goods and services of $7 billion, and the settlements and entities overseen by the bingtuan, or soldiers corps, included five cities, 180 farming communities and 1,000 companies. They also run their own courts, universities and media organizations.

On July 9, the United States imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials associated with Xinjiang policy, including Chen Quanguo, the party chief of the region and a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s 25-member ruling Politburo. That move was largely symbolic, but it sent a stronger message than an October 2019 action in which the administration placed 28 Chinese companies and police departments deemed to be associated with Xinjiang abuses on a blacklist that forbids American companies from selling technology and other goods to them without a license. At that time, the State Department also announced visa restrictions on some Chinese officials.

On July 20, the Trump administration added 11 new Chinese entities, including companies supplying major American brands like Apple, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, to the list that restricts them from purchasing American products, saying the firms were complicit in human rights violations in Xinjiang. That brought to 48 the total number of Chinese companies and security units on the U.S. entity list for violations related to Xinjiang.

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