The protests in Hong Kong have caught America’s attention, and rightly so. The waving of American flags, the singing of our national anthem, and even signs that wish citizens of Hong Kong had Second Amendment rights resonate with your Patriot Post team.
Some have complained that President Donald Trump has not been more vocal in supporting the demonstrators. Well, his comparative resistance to speaking out can be best described in the ongoing trade negotiations. It’s never a smart play to insult those with whom you are trying to make a deal. How inclined are you to listen to Beto O’Rourke or Pete Buttigieg since they began implying you’re racist if you vote for President Trump’s reelection?
With a couple of tweets, though, President Trump has opened the door to not only escalate the trade war but also have new grounds to walk away. The first tweet, noting the delay on some new tariffs, said that China “wants to make a deal.” He then added, “Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!” The second tweet was in a similar vein, when he said, “I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it.”
We in our humble shop know our history — especially from just three decades ago when Chinese government thugs earned the nickname “Butchers of Beijing” by sending troops and tanks to crush peaceful pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. President George H.W. Bush made a huge mistake in not hammering China with sanctions then. His successors, who kept giving China “Most Favored Nation” trading status, compounded that error.
The results of the decades of unfettered trading with Beijing are now apparent: China has become an economic power, its military has improved by leaps and bounds, and the nation poses a serious geopolitical threat. This is particularly true of China’s naval buildup, which has helped turn the South China Sea into a maritime powder keg. In spite of this, the U.S. foolishly also cut its navy, particularly the hard-to-build aircraft carriers.
While the wisdom of the trade war on economic grounds has been debated (although there is tons of evidence China is not trading fairly and thus started the trade war), should China replicate Tiananmen Square in Hong Kong, the calculus will shift into a more moral/human rights dimension. In that case, President Trump can argue that China cheating us out of money and jobs is one thing, but the wholesale violations of basic human rights by China warrants cutting off talks and imposing tariffs and sanctions.
The thing is, with two tweets, the more difficult position is no longer Trump’s, it’s Xi’s. If he lets the protests continue, or gives in, the regime’s grasp on power becomes weaker, and it could lead to more. The Chinese saw what happened to the Soviet Union — and they know they need to keep it under tight control.
But now the preferred means of control, a Tiananmen Square-esque crackdown, could be just as risky for Xi. The crackdown would maintain political control, but it would also result in sanctions and tariffs that would be even tougher than those in place now. Furthermore, other American allies could very well join in, adding even more economic pressure.
The people of Hong Kong are in a desperate situation, and they deserve the support of the United States of America. And their plight should loudly remind us of the importance of our First — and Second — Amendment rights.