The United States said on Wednesday it would now require senior Chinese diplomats to get State Department approval before visiting U.S. university campuses and holding cultural events with more than 50 people outside mission grounds.
Washington cast the move as a response to what it said was Beijing’s restrictions on American diplomats based in China. It comes as part of a Trump administration campaign against alleged Chinese influence operations and espionage activity.
The State Department said it also would take action to help ensure all Chinese embassy and consular social media accounts were “properly identified.”
“We’re simply demanding reciprocity. Access for our diplomats in China should be reflective of the access that Chinese diplomats in the United States have, and today’s steps will move us substantially in that direction’” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a news briefing.
It was the latest U.S. step to restrict Chinese activity in the United States in the run-up to the November presidential election, in which President Donald Trump has made a tough approach to China a key foreign policy platform.
Pompeo also said Keith Krach, the State Department’s undersecretary for Economic Growth, had written recently to the governing boards of U.S. universities alerting them to threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.
“These threats can come in the form of illicit funding for research, intellectual property theft, intimidation of foreign students and opaque talent recruitment efforts,” Pompeo said.
He said universities could ensure they had clean investments and endowment funds, “by taking a few key steps to disclose all (Chinese) companies’ investments invested in the endowment funds, especially those in emerging-market index funds.”
On Tuesday, Pompeo said he was hopeful Chinese Confucius Institute cultural centers on U.S. university campuses, which he accused of working to recruit “spies and collaborators,” would all be shut by the end of the year.
Last month, Pompeo labeled the center that manages the dozens of Confucius Institutes in the United States “an entity advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence” and required it to register as a foreign mission.
The State Department announced in June it would start treating four major Chinese media outlets as foreign embassies, calling them mouthpieces for Beijing.
It took the same step against five other Chinese outlets in February, and in March said it was slashing the number of journalists allowed to work at U.S. offices of major Chinese media outlets to 100 from 160 due to Beijing’s “long-standing intimidation and harassment of journalists.”