Another week, another series of sanctions from the United States. The latest targets six officials including Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s only representative to the National People’s Congress Standings Committee, for the mass arrests of anti-government activists. Hong Kong’s top-ranking police officers, the security chief, the secretary for justice and the chief executive herself have already been sanctioned. Predictably, the city’s government issues an angry statement, but why would Secretary of State Mike Pompeo care when he has just days left in office? His scorched-earth series of punishment against central and local officials aims more to lay landmines and limit the options for the incoming Joe Biden administration than to penalise Chinese officials in any realistic way. It is also a tacit confession that his anti-China/Hong Kong campaign has failed. Beijing and Hong Kong should save their breath for Biden and Pompeo’s State Department successor Antony Blinken as well as Kurt Campbell, who is to be the new president’s frontman on China and Asia. These men may not be any friendlier to China than Donald Trump and Pompeo, but they are at least rational operators capable of formulating a coherent policy instead of taking scattered shots at enemies that end up, especially with China, ricocheting against American interests. This is the best argument that Biden and Co can use to reverse some of the more outlandish anti-China/Hong Kong measures of the Trump era, namely American interests are being hurt. China claims US sanctions have ‘no legal effect’, but analysts demur Pompeo’s Gotterdammerung is the equivalent of Hong Kong protesters’ laam chau , or mutual destruction; no wonder their mutual admiration. His reasoning is that all the harsh anti-China measures put in place will make it harder for Biden to reverse without being accused of going soft on or caving to China. But banning or dropping Chinese companies from Wall Street, for example, will mean they end up listing or relisting in exchanges in Hong Kong and Shanghai. American capital will just exit the US to chase higher returns in China. The trade war has actually widened the trade gap in China’s favour. State Street, the big US investment bank, almost lost its business as the manager of the Tracker Fund, Hong Kong’s first and most popular exchange-traded fund, because of Trump. Washington should admit the obvious: Hong Kong is not just China’s backyard but a special territory embedded with a high nationalistic value. Targeting the local government will make Beijing harden its stance on the city, not soften it.