In September, the United States government placed restrictions on the activities of Chinese diplomats. This was done to highlight the non-reciprocity in U.S.-China bilateral relations, with Beijing being unable to uphold the values of equal treatment.
In China, the government has implemented opaque approval processes that are aimed at limiting U.S. diplomats from carrying out normal business activities in the country, as well as blocking them from connecting with the Chinese people. Attempts to host cultural events, visit university campuses, secure official meetings, etc., are often obstructed through various excuses by the Chinese administration. In contrast, Chinese diplomats in the U.S. enjoy complete freedom when it comes to such activities. This represents an imbalance in U.S.-China bilateral relations.
“The United States insists on reciprocal access to educational and cultural institutions for U.S. diplomats around the world. These new requirements on PRC diplomats are a direct response to the excessive restraints already placed on our diplomats by the PRC, and they aim to provide further transparency on the practices of the PRC government. Should the PRC eliminate the restrictions imposed on U.S. diplomats, we stand ready to reciprocate,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
This lack of reciprocity from China is not something limited to the diplomatic sphere alone. American journalists face numerous challenges while working in China, with their reporting constantly censored and restricted. Chinese journalists, on the other hand, have had the freedom to operate in the U.S. without having to adhere to any governmental requirements.
Similarly, American businesses are often put at a disadvantage in China since Beijing lavishes subsidies and other benefits on local companies, making it tough for U.S. firms to compete domestically. However, Chinese companies have taken advantage of America’s open market, freely trading in the U.S. with few to no restrictions on their business activities.
It is under these circumstances that a call for reciprocity in the U.S.-China relationship has been strengthening in America. Without such reciprocity, American businesses, along with the political landscape and society, will simply be taken advantage of by forces supporting the Chinese communist regime.
Earlier this year, the “True Reciprocity Act of 2020” was introduced. The bill proposed that the U.S. government compile a detailed report of the obstacles placed by Beijing that impede the free work of American officials, businesses, diplomats, NGOs, and journalists in the Asian nation.
EU and reciprocity
The idea of a reciprocal relationship with China has been a hot topic in Europe as well. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently warned Beijing that the EU will begin restricting Chinese companies from accessing its market if China does not provide more access to European businesses in its market. Merkel will be chairing a meeting with 27 member states of the EU this November to discuss the trade barriers that have been placed by China which are hampering European businesses.
This comes at a time when the EU is already agreeing to restrict “high risk” companies from being involved in setting up a 5G network in the region, a move that will deliver a big blow to the Chinese telecom giant Huawei. At the recent EU summit, the leaders asked the European Commission to identify key areas where the bloc is too reliant on China and the U.S. and to come up with alternative solutions. The leaders specifically highlighted the need to make industrial output autonomous and competitive and raised concerns about the EU’s dependence on China for drugs.