Skip to main content

Why now? China, Hong Kong, and Trump

Lost in the escalating crisis in Hong Kong is the simple question of, ‘why now?’ Why did President Xi Jinping choose, in the middle of sensitive trade talks with the United States, to provoke a crisis in Hong Kong over a proposed extradition law. The answer is simple: to make trade negotiations more complicated, to put President Donald Trump in a seemingly no-win situation, and to demonstrate to Hong Kong, Taiwan and surrounding areas who is master of Asia. Understanding this is paramount.

China has long been at economic war with the United States. Since the start of Trump’s presidency and his ‘America First’ foreign policy, Beijing has been engaged in political warfare as well, eager to persuade Wall Street and other financial interests that getting tough on trade will be bad for the United States and the global economy. President Trump has backed his tough rhetoric with tariffs and sanctions.

The current controversy arose from a proposed law enabling the PRC to extradite Hong Kong’s citizens back to the Mainland. Few in Hong Kong are under the illusion that the PRC’s Ministry of State Security would not do this, even without a law, to anyone who it deemed enemies of the state. The PRC is, after all, a totalitarian communist dictatorship. The purpose of proposing the law was therefore purely political: to signal to the people of Hong Kong that the time had come to make a choice — willingly submit to their masters in Beijing or face devastating consequences.

That the freedom-loving people of Hong Kong should protest was to be expected. They were promised autonomous rule until 2047, as a Special Administrative Region, under China’s treaty with Great Britain. Generations of citizens have spent their entire lives in a bastion of economic freedom with relatively open political discourse. They were not going to take this law lying down, and the PRC knew this.

It is therefore instructive that President Xi chose this moment to assert the PRC’s power over Hong Kong and create today’s public spectacle of violence and unrest. It is said, after all, that the Chinese economy is weak, perhaps even in desperate straits. But Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were shown the door recently in Shanghai rather than advance negotiations. Because of this, China will suffer the effects of new tariffs, exacerbating an already slowing economy. This would suggest that the PRC economy is not so weak and that they are willing to endure whatever short-term pain this causes to prove a point: They are in charge of their own destiny. And, to state the obvious, a downturn in the global economy would hurt Xi less than it would President Trump — who is running for reelection.

Indeed, Xi and the Chinese Communist Party will always put the well-being of the CCP first. Chairman Mao believed that everything was subordinate to the Party and the Central Committee that runs it, and Xi believes himself both the intellectual and political heir to Mao. What matters most to his radical cadre is preserving the supremacy of their totalitarian Communist dictatorship and its principles. That is, to their way of thinking, the essential component of governing 1.4 billion people. These stakes mean that no evil, no excess and no abuse of power can be too great if they secure the regime.

But Xi’s heavy handedness in Hong Kong makes more sense if his target is really Trump. Like no president before him, he has stood up against the PRC. And Xi and the CCP were not expecting his steadfast refusal to accept a trade deal absent an enforcement regime that ensured the PRC would not continue their multi-trillion-dollar theft and forced technology transfer of American intellectual property. President Trump has staked a large part of his presidency not only on righting this wrong but on making better trade deals across the board. This is not lost on the Chinese Communist Party.

It seems clear that by provoking a crisis in Hong Kong, it is the hope of Xi and the CCP to trap Trump in a complex situation he does not control and give political fodder to the Democrats running for president. The large-scale human rights abuses that may yet occur will test the president and his administration and make trade and tech deals more difficult.

Beijing intends to demonstrate to the American people that President Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy comes with a cost: It is dangerous and risks real superpower conflict, not to mention economic crisis. And if the Chinese use of force also intimidates the people of Hong Kong and sends a similar message to the free people of Taiwan, so much the better.

President Trump is quite right to say Xi is simply waiting out his presidency. In reality, any trade deal that includes an enforcement regime to stop the theft of intellectual property will require a fundamental change to China's economic system that is, at one level, inconceivable. If Trump is able to get that concession it will be an unparalleled masterstroke. But for President Xi, whose economic team denies that the theft of intellectual property even occurs, it is far preferable to wait for a Democrat — or nearly any other future Republican president — in order to continue to exploit the United States.

Yet the Chinese have exposed themselves to great risk with this dangerous game. Once the People’s Liberation Army rolls in, the lie is over that Hong Kong ought to be treated separately from the Mainland, as it is today under the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992. Today, Hong Kong enjoys the equivalent of Most Favored Nation status and is treated different than the PRC, especially as we enter this new round of tariffs and restrictions on Chinese industries. Revisions to the Hong Kong Policy Act should not be made lightly; they would deal a blow to Hong Kong no less than the PRC. But if the people of Hong Kong are to suffer the loss of their freedom, so too will the PRC suffer the loss of their financial crown jewel that is Hong Kong.

Such bold action by the PRC suggests they are willing to suffer this fate — the continued imposition of tariffs, a decoupling of the US and Chinese economies, and a profound estrangement from the world’s largest consumer market. For all the systemic problems associated with their state-run mercantilist economy, they believe they can weather the storm come what may.

This is a lesson that ought not to be lost on the West. Certainly, it will not be lost on the president that Xi is creating this crisis in order to hurt his re-election. Xi is doing this because Trump is the one man who has stood up to the Chinese in the last half century. Let us hope the American people are themselves resilient enough to understand this and all that is at stake.


Popular posts from this blog

First COVID-19 death in Lubbock: City confirms 10 additional cases

The City of Lubbock confirmed its first COVID-19 related death in a news release on Saturday. The individual was a male in his 60s who had underlying health conditions and was a resident of Lubbock, according to the release.

As of 5 p.m. on Saturday, the City of Lubbock has confirmed 10 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in Lubbock County to 41, according to the release.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has reported additional cases of COVID-19 in the surrounding areas to Lubbock County, including seven in Hockley County, one in Terry County, one in Gaines County, one in Hale County and one in Yoakum County, according to the release.

The City of Lubbock Health Department will continue monitoring individuals to reduce the risk of the transmission of COVID-19, according to the release.

Lubbock County now has 31 confirmed COVID-19 cases

Officials with the City addressed issues surrounding the COVID-19 cases confirmed at Whisperwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center during a news conference Friday evening.

Katherine Wells, director of the Lubbock Health Department, said there were a total of 31 COVID-19 cases in Lubbock County as of 4 p.m. Friday.

"The health department received eight positive test results with Lubbock County residents today, so that was a big increase," she said. "It was the largest number of positive results we received in a one-day time period."

Out of the eight cases confirmed Friday, the investigation is still ongoing for one case, one individual got the virus while traveling domestically and the other six cases were exposed to other known cases, according to the City of Lubbock.

The individual with the ongoing investigation is 20 to 22-years old, the domestic travel case is 10 to 19-years-old and the other six cases consist of two individuals that are 30 to 39, two that ar…

Basketball tournament may have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in the region

Hockley County Judge Sharla Baldridge has confirmed that a report from the Texas Department of Health Services states that a March 7 high school regional basketball tournament at South Plains College may be a contributing factor to the spread of COVID-19 in the region.

"According to the Texas Department of State Health Services they have been able to identify a possible common event with some of the confirmed cases in our region who attended an event in Levelland on March 7th, said event being a regional boys basketball tournament held at South Plains College. At this time this event does not seem to be a common attribute in any of Hockley County’s confirmed cases.

"The Health Department will continue their investigations in our Hockley County cases and I will share any pertinent information that I can share with the public, as I receive it.

"With much appreciated assistance from Congressman Jodey Arrington via a conference call on March 24th , I am now able to obtain …

Two more confirmed COVID-19 cases in Potter County: 20 total cases in Panhandle area

The Amarillo Public Health Department’s COVID-19 daily report card released on Saturday, revealed two more confirmed cases in Potter County. There are now 20 cases of COVID-19 in the Texas Panhandle:

Swisher County: 1

Potter County: 4

Randall County: 3

Castro County: 8

Deaf Smith County: 2

Oldham County: 2

Ten thousand coronavirus deaths in Italy

On March 7, the coronavirus death toll in Italy was 233. As of March 28, Italy’s coronavirus death toll was 10,023.

Some skeptics of “social distancing” have suggested that if most Americans had generally carried on with life as usual, the coronavirus would not present any greater threat than the seasonal flu or car crashes, each of which kill about 40,000 Americans a year. The fact that 10,000 people have died from the coronavirus in three weeks in Italy — a country with one-fifth the population of the United States — should dispel such wishful thinking.

And keep in mind that this is the death toll in Italy weeks after lockdowns were imposed — first within the region of Lombardy on February 21 (affecting only about 50,000 people) and then on March 9 for the entire country.

The spike in the daily death toll in Italy — a record 919 coronavirus deaths were recorded on March 27 alone — does not mean that the national lockdown is not working.

There is an average five-day delay between in…