THE PART OF US President Donald Trump that is a gift to China keeps on giving.
The president’s ‘law and order’ response to outbreaks of violence in many cities across the United States following the death of an African-American man under the knee of a white police officer has let Beijing undercut any pretence on Washington’s part of occupying the high ground over the crackdown on protest in Hong Kong.
State media have been quick to play up the civil unrest in the United States and the systemic racism behind it (although skirting China’s problems with racism against blacks and other minorities, and its own iron-fist policing when necessary). They have also been swift to compare the contradictory praise by US officials afforded to protesting Hongkongers with the condemnation of ‘rioters, looters and anarchists’ at home.
Hu Xijin, the ever acerbic editor of the bombastic Global Times, tweeted:
I highly suspect that Hong Kong rioters have infiltrated American states. Attacking police stations, smashing shops, blocking roads, breaking public facilities, these are all routine in their protests. Vicious HK rioters obviously are mastermind of violent protests across the US.
Beyond Hu’s sarcasm, US-China relations continue to fray. Bloomberg reports that Beijing has told state companies, including Cofco and Sinograin, to suspend purchases of US agricultural imports, needed to satisfy the Phase One of the US-China trade deal signed in January, while it assesses the possible impact of the Trump administration’s’ sanctions against China for imposing a national security law on the city.
This could prove somewhat of a cat and mouse game. To switch the analogy, the thunder of a Trump threat has broken, but the lightening of action may take some time to strike.
The time pressure is more intense on the US side. The president has to show tangible results from the stuttering trade deal before November’s US presidential election. Beijing has until the end of 2021 to fulfil its side of the agreement.
That makes it more likely that the US side would tear up the trade deal should it come to that, but China would probably shed few tears if it did, providing the finger of blame is pointed at Washington. However, it is such a modest deal — this Bystander likes the description of it as a ‘bamboo agreement’, ie, hollow on the inside — that it is probably not worth either side killing it.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong police have banned this year’s candlelight remembrance of the events of June 4, 1989, which has been held in Victoria Park every year since 1990. Public health concerns over a large gathering are the reason given, and the organisers plan to hold the vigil online.
Yet it is not difficult to imagine with Beijing tightening its grip on the city that in future Hong Kong will publicly commemorate Tiananmen Square in the same way it is on the mainland, which is to say not at all.