Between A Rock And A Hard Place – U.S. – China Trade and Hong Kong

The chances of evolving a new trade agreement with China have become highly questionable – and this is despite the fact that both of the leaders of the United States and PRC (The People’s Republic of China) want the accord. The ongoing struggle by the young people of Hong Kong for freedom and independence of governance was justified by the 1997 statute agreed upon with the U.K. These young people are willing to die and the Chinese authorities, civilian and military, are willing to kill them.

Why has this happened? It has happened because Xi Jinping, in order to remain in power, must exercise that power by gaining control of all aspects of Hong Kong’s existence in civil, military and political terms. Xi has no chance any more than President Trump has any alternative but to condemn China’s political military ambition; all that they say is in their sphere of influence and legal right. There is no other way to say it: Many in the leadership of China are on the march to establish Imperial China in the convenient totalitarian guise of a communist nation.

The military aspect of the plan has been well thought out and organized. However, is Xi in the political position to influence the tactical aspects of any military or quasi-military action? The answer is a firm, “Who knows?” Security decisions such as those affecting Hong Kong are devices in the hands of the Central Military Commission (CMC) – of which Xi is the Chairman. The legitimacy of the law under which the PRC is operating now, in regard to Hong Kong, stems from an ordinance created in 1922 by the British to halt port strikes, then used again in 1967 to end pro-communist riots. This precedent has been noted to Washington and the Trump Administration cannot ignore the legal aspect of the precedent. This legalism may impress Washington and Beijing, but it is far less important than the reality of oppressing the will of the Hong Kong people.

The symbolism of the official action against its own civilians is easily related to the earlier actions of putting down the dissidence of the Uighur minority. The instrument paramount in that action was a special domestic paramilitary unit known as the People’s Armed Police (PAP). This special force is well-equipped and trained to forcefully control any form of internal dissidence. The PAP reports to the CMC that administers all the PRC military. Xi Jinping is the Chairman of the CMC! Because of this command structure there has been no way for Xi to disassociate himself from the Hong Kong actions, even if he wanted to.

This chain of command issue has placed the White House in a bind when it comes to creating a friendly view of the contemporary situation that would allow for an even-handed trade negotiation. It certainly forces the American President into a position where his much-heralded friendship with Xi must be sorely tested for Donald Trump’s own political status both domestically and internationally.

Xi could make things much easier for his “friend,” but the Chinese leader would have to sacrifice his strong dominance of Beijing’s political scene to do so. At the same time, Xi would have to come up with an economic agreement with his U.S. counterpart that the latter can characterize as a valuable deal for the United States.

Obviously, the leadership of the young people of Hong Kong are aware of the difficult position in which they hold Xi who very much needs an advantageous trade deal with the U.S. So far, Xi has shown little or no desire to ameliorate his forces’ actions against the determined HK dissidents. It is possible, of course, for Xi and his Beijing communist leadership to seek some form of friendly outside intervention, but that would not only be an admission of weakness, but also contrary to Chinese law.

The unfortunate possibility exists that the Chinese military, in its several forms, will be pushed to launch a serious physical attack on the Hong Kong protestors. Washington would call for United Nations (UN) intervention to which Beijing would have to react in such a manner that their independence and sovereignty would appear to be challenged.

There is no other way to say it. Beijing and Washington are between a rock and a hard place!