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US Issues New Warning Over Travel to China, Citing ‘Exit Bans’

Tensions between the U.S. and China have escalated.

On Thursday the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 2 travel advisory for U.S. citizens heading to China, warning that they should “exercise increased caution.” It’s an update to an advisory from last January that cited arbitrary enforcement of laws and restrictions for U.S.-Chinese nationals with dual citizenship.

According to the State Department, Chinese authorities have “asserted broad authority” to keep U.S. citizens from leaving China by enforcing exit bans that have kept some in the country for years.

China has been employing the bans to compel U.S. citizens to participate in Chinese government investigations, lure people back to China from abroad and to help Chinese authorities resolve civil disputes favorably, the State Department said.

“In most cases, U.S. citizens only become aware of the exit ban when they attempt to depart China, and there is no method to find out how long the ban may continue. U.S. citizens under exit bans have been harassed and threatened,” according to the State Department.

U.S. citizens could be detained without access to U.S. consular services or details on their alleged crime. They may even be subject to interrogations and detention for reasons tied to “state security,” the advisory said.

Those traveling to China, the State Department said, should enter using their U.S. passport with a valid Chinese visa, which should be kept at hand at all times. Arrests or detention should be met with requests that police or prison officials notify the U.S. Embassy or nearest consulate.

The elevated travel advisory comes amid strained negotiations between the U.S. and China over trade. Talks are expected to continue this week as President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly work toward a deal that involves more than just back-and-forth tariff attacks.

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So far, the U.S. has levied $250 billion worth of tariffs on U.S.-bound China-made products and has threatened to slap its rival with $267 billion more in tariffs, though those threats are presently on hold until the president’s March 2 deadline to reach a deal.

On Thursday, Trump took to Twitter to say: “The United States Treasury has taken in MANY billions of dollars from the Tariffs we are charging China and other countries that have not treated us fairly. In the meantime we are doing well in various Trade Negotiations currently going on. At some point this had to be done!”

How “well” the U.S. is doing in the ongoing China trade negotiations likely will depend on how much the country gives in to Trump’s demands.

Referring to United States trade representative Robert Lighthizer, the key negotiator in the trade talks, William A. Reinsch, a former federal trade official told The New York Times, “Bob’s attitude toward China is very simple. He wants them to surrender.”

Continuing, Reinsch said, “His negotiating strategy is simple too. He basically gives them a list of things he wants them to do and says, ‘Fix it now.’”