Trump Administration Weighing Travel Ban On Chinese Communist Party Members

Topping off a day of increasingly aggressive tit-for-tat escalations between the US and China, the NYT reported late on Wednesday that the Trump administration is considering an extensive travel ban to the United States by members of the Chinese Communist Party and their families, a move that would almost certainly prompt retaliation against Americans seeking to enter or remain in China and further exacerbate tensions between the two nations.

President Xi Jinping of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in May

Such a ban would be "the most provocative action against China by the United States since the start of the trade war between the two countries in 2018" and would further deteriorate U.S.-China relations, which after several years of open clashes over economics, technology and global influence have devolved into a de facto new Cold War.

Additionally, the draft proclamation could revoke the visas of party members and their families who are already in the country, leading to their expulsion. The NYT further adds that some of the proposed language is also aimed at limiting travel to the United States by members of the People’s Liberation Army and executives at state-owned enterprises (even though many of them are likely to also be party members).

The presidential order would cite the same statute in the Immigration and Nationality Act used in a 2017 travel ban on a number of predominantly Muslim countries that gives the president power to temporarily block travel to the U.S. by foreign nationals who are deemed “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” The 2017 ban was fought in the courts and expanded this year.

Then again, this being the NYT, the whole report may well be fake news based on a non-existent (or conflicted NSA) source seeking to spark even more conflict in the already strained US-Sino relations, and the paper of records tacitly hints as much saying that "details of the plan have not yet been finalized, and President Trump might ultimately reject it."

Assuming Trump is indeed considering such a ban, it wasn't clear just how such a ban would be implemented: the Chinese Communist Party has 92 million members, and the U.S. government has no knowledge of party status for a vast majority of them. So trying to immediately identify party members to either prevent their entry or expel those already in the United States would be difficult. Meanwhile, almost three million Chinese citizens visited the United States in 2018.

As the NYT further adds, officials at the White House, State Department and Department of Homeland Security have been involved in the discussion over the ban. Officials at those agencies also continue to debate a variety of formulations for banning Chinese travel to the United States short of barring all party members, such as targeting only the 25 members of the ruling Politburo and their families.

Ironically, the report follows just hours after another anti-Trump outlet, Bloomberg, reported that the president "doesn’t want to further escalate tensions with Beijing, and has ruled out additional sanctions on top officials for now, according to people familiar with the matter."

So which is it: no sanctions or sanction 92 million Chinese communists? It's safe to say that the truth is somewhere inbetween.