u.s.-china tensions
June 2, 2020

Tensions between the United States and China continue to run high, and they likely won't simmer when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with survivors of the Tiananmen Square massacre Tuesday afternoon.

In 1989, student-led demonstrations aiming for democratic reforms in China were held in Beijing before the government forcibly suppressed the movement. Pompeo extending a hand to the surviving participants certainly seems like a shot at the Chinese Communist Party, especially as it cracks down on a contemporary pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Earlier Tuesday, Pompeo blasted pro-Beijing authorities in Hong Kong for denying permission to hold a vigil in remembrance of the massacre for the first time in 30 years.

But some critics of the Trump administration think the secretary's gesture is hypocritical, since just a day earlier federal police used tear gas and flash grenades to disperse a peaceful protest against police brutality at Lafayette Square across from the White House so President Trump could pose for a photo-op in front of the historic St. John's Church, and police have clashed violently with demonstrators across the country over the last several days. Tim O'Donnell

May 24, 2020

Wang Yanyi, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, told Chinese state media Sunday the lab was working on three live strains of bat coronavirus, but the closest genetic match to the virus that causes COVID-19 and sparked a global health crisis was only 79.8 percent. Therefore, Wang said, claims by the likes of President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the virus may have escaped from the facility are "pure fabrication."

As tensions between the U.S. and China have heightened since the outbreak, Trump and Pompeo have leaned into the lab-origin theory. But the scientific consensus remains that the pathogen was passed from bats to humans through an intermediary species at a wet market in Wuhan last year, although it's becoming more challenging to pinpoint the animal.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday that some political forces in the U.S. are trying to push the two global powers "to the brink" of "a new Cold War" and endangering global peace. Wang's concerns were broader than just the back and the forth over pandemic blame, however; he also criticized the U.S. for slowing nuclear negotiations with North Korea and warned Washington not to cross Beijing's "red line" on Taiwan. Wang did say foreign interference concerning Hong Kong's renewed anti-government protests was unwelcome, but he didn't single the U.S. out in that regard. Read more at The Guardian and Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

May 9, 2020

The back-and-forth continues.

The Department of Homeland Security said Friday the United States will shorten the visa length for Chinese journalists working for non-American news outlets to 90 days. Previously, journalists with Chinese passports were granted open-ended visas. They can apply for extensions under the new rules, but renewed visas will also last just 90 days. The new limit won't apply to reporters from Hong Kong, Macau, or to mainland Chinese citizens who hold green cards.

It's the latest development in a media war between Washington and Beijing that has intensified during the coronavirus pandemic. American officials said the rules were meant to counterbalance the "suppression of independent journalism" in China, whose government expelled journalists from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post in March. Before that, the U.S. reduced the number of Chinese citizens employed by multiple state-controlled Chinese news organizations to work in the country.

The New York Times notes the move wasn't unexpected; U.S. intelligence officials have long believed some journalists at Beijing-run outlets are spies, and the Trump administration has designated some Chinese news agencies as foreign government functionaries.

The heightened tensions between the world's two biggest powers didn't just show up in the media world Friday. U.S. lawmakers wrote to nearly 60 countries asking them to support Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization, a move that likely won't sit well with China. And Washington also blocked a United Nations security council resolution calling for a global ceasefire during the pandemic because it indirectly referenced the WHO, which the U.S. has blamed in conjunction with China for failing to suppress the outbreak. Tim O'Donnell

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