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Pence's Hong Kong threat will not intimidate China

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    18:06, August 21, 2019

On Monday, US Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech that if Beijing wants a deal with the United States it must honor its commitments, including China’s commitment in 1984 to respect the integrity of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's laws through the Sino-British Joint Declaration. He also said that it would be harder for Washington to make a trade deal with Beijing if there was violence in Hong Kong. His speech was another cheap attempt to force China’s hand.

Recently, US officials have stepped up their attacks on China and tried to link the trade talks to the protests in Hong Kong, but Pence’s speech was the clearest and most arrogant attempt to conflate the two issues.

Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs. Put simply, this means that the United States should not poke its nose into Hong Kong affairs. It also means that Pence does not get to dictate to China how it should solve the current problem in Hong Kong.

Under the Trump administration, the United States has been ramping up the pressure on China. The administration launched a trade war against China last year and keeps escalating the trade war by imposing additional tariffs. The administration also has taken aim at Huawei and other Chinese tech giants to maximize American technological power.

The pressure campaign clearly is not working. Despite the pressure, China’s economy continues to grow, and the trade war with China has only pushed China to be more self-reliant and to focus more on technological innovation. In other words, the pressure campaign is making China stronger, not weaker.

Anti-China hardliners in the United States like Pence probably realize at this point that their strategy is a failure, but this has not stopped them from ratcheting up the pressure. However, with limited options available, they are resorting to other means, including linking the current problem in Hong Kong to the trade talks.

There are deep divisions among the American people on how to respond to China’s rise and the fragmentation of political power in the US system is a challenge for long-term and even short-term US foreign policy goals. These divisions and challenges have become even more prominent as the trade war with China drags on and the tariffs take a bigger bite at home. Things will only get worse as we near 2020.

China is a favorite political punching bag during an election season. As the next US presidential election approaches, the word China will constantly come out of US politicians’ mouths and they will exaggerate the threat from China to score political points and to divert attention away from problems at home. Ramping up the anti-China rhetoric will make voters feel good, but will do nothing to fix America’s problems.

The US strategy is making the whole game more chaotic. The Trump administration wants to revive the domestic economy, but it has chosen conflict with China. With no end in sight to the trade war, the United States is trying to hit China from all sides.

Pence’s speech was outrageous. Linking the trade talks with Hong Kong will not bring the two sides closer to a trade deal. The Trump administration is hoping that China will cave into the pressure, but it is naive to think the threat of conflating the two issues will force China to make concessions. The Hong Kong issue is about China’s sovereignty, and China will never bargain with Washington over issues involving its sovereignty.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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