WASHINGTON, Oct 17: Chinese diplomats will notify the State department before meeting with state and local officials, the Trump administration said on Wednesday, calling it reciprocal to similar restrictions being faced by US diplomats in China.
This action is a response to what the Chinese government does to limit the interactions that US diplomats can have in China with Chinese stakeholders, a senior State department official told reporters during a conference call.
The announcement by the Trump administration comes at a time when the US and China—the largest economies of the world—are locked in a trade battle.
The department has implemented a mandatory pre-information process for the movement of Chinese diplomats in the US, the official said on the condition of anonymity.
“What we’re trying to accomplish here, is just to get closer to a reciprocal situation, hopefully with the desired end effect of having the Chinese government provide greater access to our diplomats in China,” the official said.
The official said until that happens, the US is going to take some actions that will go some ways toward levelling the playing field.
“So starting from today, the State department is going to be requiring that all of the PRC (People Republic of China) foreign missions—their embassy and their various consulates around the US—will have to notify the Department of State in advance of official meetings with state officials, official meetings with local and municipal officials, official visits to educational institutions, and official visits to research institutions,” the official said.
The department does not require a Chinese official to get permissions, but is “merely asking that they notify us in advance of such meetings which, again, that’s different from what happens many times in China, where our diplomats are forced to seek permission and are often denied such permission”, the official explained.
The US is not placing the onus of this notification requirement on any of its stakeholders. State, local, educational officials none of them have to take any actions whatsoever, the official said, adding that the onus will fall on the Chinese consulates and embassy to notify the State department in advance of meetings.
“Our goal is to get the Chinese authorities to allow our diplomats in China to engage with provincial and local leaders, Chinese universities, and other educational and research institutes freely, the same way that Chinese diplomats are able to do here,” the official said.
Responding to a question, the official hoped that China will comply with the requirement and said if they do not, then the State department will address it.
Noting that this thing has been in the works for some time, the official said it is not directly linked to any other part of the relationship.
“What I will tell you is across a broad range of the US-China relationship and there are many aspects where this administration is vigorously seeking to level the playing field.
“You say that in trade and any number of other areas. This is another one of those areas where for a number of years, several years, there’s a clear gap between the way US diplomats are able to do their job in China versus the liberties that Chinese diplomats posted here in the US are able to do their job,” the official said.
Even by these measures, the US is even at the level where the Chinese are, the official said.
“But we’re hopeful that if we can get their attention, that we might be able to effect a more level playing field where both their diplomats here and our diplomats there are able to have much more free and open access to all the stakeholders that are required to do a good job as a diplomat,:” said the State department official. (PTI)