In a big piece of financial news, China has given up setting a target for GDP this year amid the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Reuters, “the [Chinese] economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter, the first contraction in decades, hit by the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which started in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.” Moreover, “the government’s official measures don’t capture the full extent of unemployment caused by the pandemic, which has hit both manufacturing and services hard. With jobs and income growth vital for the unelected Communist Party’s political legitimacy, stabilizing employment has become Xi’s first priority.”
And that brings us to China’s latest move in its war of attrition against autonomy and democracy with Hong Kong. China has proposed new national security laws for Hong Kong that would, in essence, make surveillance of Hong Kong much easier. China’s tightening grip on Hong Kong comes following longstanding tensions between the mainland and city-state. Recent protests and the COVID-19 pandemic have left Hong Kong, one of the world’s financial capitals, badly bruised.
And, of course, here’s how Trump is going to make all this worse. First, Trump will probably continue to agitate trade with China, especially considering Trump’s proposed trade deal with China has been axed. Second, as this New York Times article explains, Trump is probably not going to stand up for Hong Kong the way past presidents have.
Here’s the problem. China is absolutely not an innocent actor, and we should be highly critical of their business policies, politics, and egregious human rights abuses. But China is hurting, and so will we as a result. Trump is setting up a diplomatic disaster by not properly working with Chinese officials and also by not properly criticizing them. Yes, doing both at the same time is possible—it’s called good diplomacy—and yes, both things are necessary. As a result of Trump’s bad decision making, we’re looking at a future in which China has a hard time economically recovering and, as a result, tries power grabs in an attempt to show the world that it still is on track to be the world’s biggest superpower. This will further worsen US-Sino relations. How do we stop this? Well, think about all the competent people Joe Biden would appoint to diplomatic positions.