Bipartisan U. S. Congress Makes It Easy for Trump to Do the Right Thing

Nov. 29, 2019
Bob Adelmann

In a remarkable display of bipartisanship, Congress passed two bills last week supporting the freedom movement in Hong Kong. When Trump signed them into law, it was a warning to communist Chinese hawks on the mainland not to misjudge the U.S. President's intentions.

The two bills - one requiring an annual assessment that Hong Kong has remained "sufficiently autonomous" from Chinese interference to continue to merit the peculiar understanding that governs U.S. foreign policy with the island nation - passed both houses nearly unanimously. The other bill restricts "non-lethal" military equipment and supplies from being sold to Hong Kong police, while providing for sanctions on individuals violating Hong Kong protestors' human rights.

When he was considering whether or not to sign them, President Trump admitted it was complicated. On Fox News, he said, "Look, we have to stand with Hong Kong. But I'm also standing with President Xi. He's a friend of mine. He's an incredible guy."

Xi is also facing a complicated situation at home, as explained in a book that is now influencing American foreign policy with China. That book, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower, written by former "panda hugger" Michael Pillsbury, spells out the power struggle taking place in Beijing between the hawks and the moderates. [See link in Sources below for MIA article on Pillsbury's book].

The hawks continue to push hard to replace the United States as the world's hegemon no later than 2049 (the 100th anniversary of the communists' takeover of China at the end of the Second World War). The softliners, or moderates, as Pillsbury - now sporting the moniker of "panda thugger" - calls them, want to come to terms with Trump soon to keep the Chinese economy from cratering under the weight of sanctions ratcheting upwards under the Trump administration.

That's the background that makes sense of Trump's statement following his signing of the two bills: "I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong. They are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong [both hawks and moderates] will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all." His statement serves as a signal to both Chinese communist hawks and moderates that he will do the right thing even if it puts at risk his trade deal.

The new law amends the U.S. Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 that has guided U.S. foreign and economic policy with that nation. When China took over Hong Kong from Britain in 1997, it set up a unique "one country, two systems" arrangement giving the island country assurances that China would respect its rules and policies without interference.


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Hong Kong generates more than a third of a trillion dollars' worth of commerce for China annually, with much trade denominated in dollars. The U.S. "free trade" agreement with Hong Kong has allowed more than 725 U.S. companies to set up regional offices there in order to expedite and manage that enormous flow of commerce with mainland China.

China is to blame for the rise in tensions between itself and Hong Kong. Unhappy, as totalitarians usually are over any limitation of their power, the Chinese communists have been slowly infringing on the island's sovereignty. The island's president is a lackey of the red Chinese, and offered no resistance when Beijing officials wanted to install an extradition treaty to bring troublemakers from Hong Kong to the mainland for trial, conviction, torture, and execution.

The protests began in June and accelerated from there. Early on, the president told his officials to "go easy" on China over the matter for fear that, as the Wall Street Journal reported at the time, the trade "talks with China might be jeopardized by any outward show of support for the protest[ors]."

As the protests continued, Congress passed the two bills nearly unanimously. Knowing that the bills would automatically become law if he didn't veto them by December 3, and knowing that if he vetoed them Congress had the votes to override them, Trump signed the two bills into law on Wednesday. He said, "I stand with Hong Kong. I stand with Freedom. I stand with all the things we want to do. But we're also in the process of making the largest trade deal in history."

Naturally, the hardliners in Beijing were unhappy. Hong Kong's pro-Chinese officials said the law is "unnecessary and unwarranted," and would harm relations between the U.S. and the island nation. China's Foreign Ministry secretary summoned the American ambassador Terry Branstad to Beijing, demanding that Trump "stop interfering in China's internal affairs."

Pro-freedom candidates overwhelmingly won local elections in Hong Kong over the weekend, shocking Beijing and the Hong Kong lackeys running the island while lending comfort to the president that he did the right thing. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a sponsor of the bills, was pleased: "The U.S. now has new and meaningful tools to deter further influence and interference from Beijing into Hong Kong's internal affairs. Following last weekend's historic elections in Hong Kong that included record turnout, this new law could not be more timely in showing strong U.S support for Hong Kongers' long-cherished freedoms."

The new laws also give support for the moderates in China who want to strike a deal before those protests encourage dissidents on the mainland to ramp up their own unhappiness over government infringement of precious rights. Last year, it is estimated that there were more than 200,000 such protests against the central government. Moderates supporting a "live and let live" approach in Hong Kong may be taking comfort from Trump's hardline policies in spite of risks of him not being able to do a trade deal before the end of the year.

The new laws also send a message to the Chinese hawks: don't push Mr. Trump. With congress behind him he won't back off in supporting Hong Kong.

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An Ivy League graduate and former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at bobadelmann@msn.com.

Sources:

McAlvany Intelligence Advisor: Sun Tzu Was Right: the Way to Defeat an Enemy Is to Keep Him Ignorant that There's a War (November 20, 2019)

New York Times: Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Legislation That Has Angered China

CNN: Trump signs Hong Kong human rights act

CNBC: Trump signs bills backing Hong Kong protesters into law, in spite of Beijing's objections

Fox News: Trump signs bill supporting Hong Kong protesters despite strong opposition from China

Washington Post: Why Hong Kong's 'Special Status' Is Touchy Territory

MarketWatchTrump defies China, signs bills supporting Hong Kong protesters

Wall Street Journal: Trump Signs Bill Supporting Hong Kong Protesters

Wall Street Journal: Trump Calls Hong Kong Protests 'Complicating Factor' in Trade Talks

Wall Street Journal: White House Told Officials to Go Easy on China Over Hong Kong

SCMP.com: Chemistry between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump can smooth the way for China-US ties, Michael Pillsbury says

Hong Kong GDP $365 B annually

Economic and Trade Information on Hong Kong (November 2019)

Protest and dissent in China

History of Hong Kong

History of the protests

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