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China Issues Counter-Sanctions After U.S. Warned Against Doing Business In Hong Kong

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today, China imposed fresh sanctions on a handful of U.S. individuals. It's retaliation for sanctions the Biden administration imposed on Chinese officials last week over Beijing's crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong. This latest tit for tat comes just days before a visit to China by Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman. And U.S.-China ties are already tense, though, as NPR's John Ruwitch reports, there is no sign China's sanctions will derail the visit.

JOHN RUWITCH, BYLINE: The sanctions are the first imposed by China under a new law passed in June which facilitates retaliation for foreign sanctions. Among those it hits are former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the China Director at Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson. For years, Beijing's responded to U.S. sanctions and tariffs with tit for tat measures. In Beijing's calculation, it had to respond to the U.S. Bonny Lin, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says doing so before Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's trip makes sense.

BONNY LIN: Would this appear better if it happened a couple days after Deputy Secretary Sherman's trip?

RUWITCH: That, she says, might risk being interpreted as a signal that the meeting didn't go well. And Sherman will be the most senior U.S. official to travel to China since President Biden took office. Relations are at their worst in decades, but there's speculation that the trip could start to lay the groundwork for a meeting sometime this year between Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

LIN: There is a desire to be able to showcase that the two world leaders can work together.

RUWITCH: And part of that is being able to meet and discuss issues they agree on, as well as those where they have differences.

LIN: And I really hope, as we see more of these incidences on either side, that they won't derail progress towards a leadership meeting

RUWITCH: Because both sides, she says, have significant incentives for Biden and Xi to meet sooner rather than later.

John Ruwitch, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.