President Donald Trump and members of his administration are in the early stages of discussing plans to block members of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from entering the U.S., according to four sources familiar with the discussions who spoke with The New York Times.
Trump has not yet signed off a decision, and officials were reportedly considering a number of questions about the limit of the visa ban. The Wall Street Journal, also reporting on the potential order, indicated open questions about the extent of the ban included whether the ban would apply to all CCP and their family members travelling to the U.S., or if the order would apply retroactively to members of the party already in the country.
How the U.S. would route out all CCP members is also unclear as party membership information is not publically available. The controlling Chinese party is also believed to have around 90 million members. With family members also being considered, the ban could affect hundreds of millions of Chinese nationals.
The White House did not respond to a Wall Street Journal request for comment, however an informal advisor to Trump did speak with The Journal about the proposal.
“It would be an important step in the direction that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been going in the last few months, to delegitimize the Communist Party and its 90 million members,” said Mike Pillsbury, an informal advisor to Trump and director of the Center for Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute in Washington.
Pillsbury told The Journal that the visa ban may be an attractive offer as the Chinese government may not be able to impose an effective counter response.
“They may be willing to [enact the visa ban] because the Chinese will not have a counter measure in terms of banning all Republican members from visiting China, which would be absurd.” Pillsbury said.
Jude Blanchette, a China scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, however discouraged the idea of such a visa ban in comments to The New York Times.
“The overwhelming majority of CCP members have no involvement or input into Beijing’s policymaking, so going after the entire party membership is like China sanctioning all Republicans because of frustrations with Trump,” Blanchette said. “Such a move would inflame public opinion in China, as this would target nearly 10 percent of the entire Chinese population and would do so based on blanket assertions of guilt.”
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman also responded to the reported visa ban being considered.
“We hope that the U.S. will stop doing such things that violate and disrespect the basic norms of international relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, said at a briefing. “That will not help to safeguard its own image, credibility and status as a great power.”
The proposed visa ban comes amid much efforts by the Trump administration to challenge China on multiple fronts. Trump has criticized China’s handling of the coronavirus, as well as its decision to impose new national security controls over the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong and human rights abuses against ethnic minority group’s like the Uyghurs.
Last week, the U.S. sanctioned a Chinese government agency and four officials connected to Chinese Uyghur internment camps. The sanctions froze any U.S. held assets belonging to the entity and the four officials and banned them and their family members from entry into the U.S.
On Monday the U.S. also rejected Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea, officially challenging Chinese claims to the disputed sea region for the first time.