Jack Ma, China's most famed entrepreneur, has run into trouble that is shocking investment circles. Photo: AFP / Minasse Wondimu Hailu / Anadolu Agency

The United States said Thursday all options were open to pressure China, which voiced outrage over reports that President Donald Trump is considering a sweeping visa ban on communist party members.

The New York Times and later The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump is reviewing a proposal to refuse US entry of all members of the ruling party – which encompasses a who’s who of the political and business elite in the world’s most populous nation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked about the reports on Fox News, said the administration was looking at “pushing back against the Chinese Communist Party.”

“We want to make sure we do it in a way that reflects America’s tradition, and there are lots of ideas that are under review by the president and by our team,” he said, without commenting directly.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said of Trump at a briefing: “He has not ruled out any action with regard to China.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called the reported visa ban idea “very pathetic” for the world’s “strongest power.”

“We hope the US will refrain from doing more things that disdain the basic norms governing international relations and undermine its reputation, credibility and status as a major country,” she told reporters.

Trump has been ramping up pressure on China – repeatedly blaming the Asian power for not preventing the coronavirus pandemic, which is taking a heavy toll in the United States months ahead of elections.

Last week the State Department said it would refuse visas for three senior Chinese officials over abuses in the Xinjiang region, where rights groups say more than one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are incarcerated.

But a sweeping ban on members of the Chinese Communist Party would be an extraordinary undertaking, requiring US authorities to step up screening of the three million Chinese who visited each year before the pandemic disrupted travel.

Chinese state media last year said that more than 90 million people belonged to the party, with 35% of them “workers and peasants.”

For many Chinese, membership in the 99-year-old party is seen as vital for advancement. Many observers were startled in 2018 to learn that Jack Ma, the billionaire businessman behind e-commerce titan Alibaba, belonged to the party.