According to an exclusive interview story with Axios, President Donald Trump signed a trade deal with China but did not impose sanctions for China’s human rights violations against the Uyghur minority or for the impending moves by Beijing to take over law enforcement in Hong Kong. Trump answered questions about sanctions by saying “…when you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on – we’ve done a lot.” He went on to say “I put tariffs on China, which are far worse than any sanction you can think of.”
Tariffs are import taxes designed to protect American workers and companies from unfair competition introduced through trade with a foreign market. They are not sanctions. Tariffs should be included in any trade deal where competing labor and resources are inordinately cheap. Sanctions are used to encourage other nations to honor human rights, halt aggression and honor copyrights.
Over the last few decades the United States has turned China into an economic and military powerhouse by granting it “most favored nation” status. China has become the world’s second largest economy, world’s greatest polluter, vastly improved it’s military capabilities and imposed a virtual Orwellian state through electronic surveillance and censorship. China has become interested in expanding it’s influence in Africa, the Middle East, the Philippine Sea, Taiwan and now Hong Kong.
Recently, the president decided to cut all trade with China. He then changed his mind and is taking some heat for it. The problem; trade is currently our best means of influencing China. As I pointed out in my blog dated June 4th, trade allows us to have some influence, no trade does not. Changing course however, appears to reward Beijing for it’s incursions into Hong Kong’s democracy. By declaring he was cutting all trade to China Trump drew a line. This line is abrupt but altering course now may give the appearance of weakness.
The alternative view is that it doesn’t really matter what the US does anyway. Like a kid who hits a power line with his baseball bat at the exact moment a power outage happens; he thinks he caused it. There may be some arrogance on our part to believe anything we say or do with respect to the People’s Republic of China will have an affect.
Beijing feels Hong Kong has gotten out of control and that it’s freedom is at the sufferance of the Communist Party. Attention being directed toward democratic protests in Hong Kong is not something the regime enjoys.
When the pro-democracy Tiananmen Protests happened in 1989, the government sent soldiers who massacred participants.
The Falun Gong had a meditative sit in protest in 1999. In response the Communist government labelled them heretical and cracked down. It is estimated over 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners have lost their lives due to abuse during incarceration.
In 2008 the 3-14 riots in Tibet were forcefully put down by Chinese forces. China has attempted to control Tibetan Buddhism by assigning replacement leaders as it appears their integration into communist doctrine is impossible. The Chinese government claimed the rioters were separatists inspired by the Dalai Lama. He claims the riots were due to widespread discontent.
In July of 2009 an event occurred known as the Urumqi Riots. Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region protesting what they felt was undo Chinese influence rioted. They attacked Han Chinese owned businesses and people. Since then the PRC has locked down the region and built concentration camps for their “re-education.” Stories of abuses filter through to the outside world. Here’s a relevant story from The Diplomat.
In all of these instances world opinion was ignored by the government in Beijing. There was little if any mention of the riots in Tibet during the 2008 Olympics. China has learned they can do as they wish to people in their sphere of influence with little if any repercussion.
It’s probably too late to halt the tide in Hong Kong. Borris Johnson thinks so, he offered refuge to 3 million Hong Kong residents (from CNN). He included in the deal a path to citizenship. The US should offer the same to the remaining 4.5 million Hong Kongers. Ardent supporters of democracy who understand the fear of living in close proximity to Marxist inspired tyranny would be a valuable addition to our society.