See More on Facebook

Diplomacy, Economics

Hong Kong adds another dimension to US-China trade war

Hong Kong’s has become another consideration for Xi and Trump in their ongoing trade dispute.


Written by

Updated: August 16, 2019

The United States and China have been embroiled in a trade war for almost two years with reciprocal tariffs and fiery rhetoric coming from both sides.

Both economies have suffered and the world’s two largest economies both face the looming threat of recession.

China, in addition to a tenuous economic situation is also facing more woes in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory that is self-governed.

Protesters have taken to the streets in the island-territory after a proposed extradition law was publicly opposed.

The protests have evolved beyond the initial grievances to long-held anxieties over the economy, living space and, ultimately, rule by Beijing.

As the pro-democracy protests gather steam and threaten to become more widespread and violent, the United States has involved itself and added a new dimension in the ongoing US-China trade war.

Precipitating Circumstance

Thomas Write, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, argues that Hong Kong represents US President Donald Trump’s first real foreign policy crisis.

In an article in the Atlantic, Write argues that if Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping do not correctly handle the situation in Hong Kong, any rapprochement in the trade war would likely be lost and an economic crisis will creep closer and closer to reality.

Trump has, in the past, suggested he has a close relationship with Xi. A meeting between the two presidents at the G20 summit in June gave merit to the claims as both leaders said after the meeting that a settlement was within reach.

Negotiations by trade representatives from both countries have subsequently failed to produce a result and Donald Trump has escalated things further by implementing more tariffs on Chinese goods. Beijing responded by momentarily devaluing its currency sparking mass selloffs and historic market dips.

US Interference

With both sides engaged in a game of economic brinkmanship, Hong Kong has added another complex layer to an already complex situation.

Trump has offered his opinion on Hong Kong before, tweeting in July that the demonstrators in Hong Kong were “looking for democracy” but “some governments don’t want democracy.”

China responded at the time that it “deplored and strongly opposed [Trump’s] gross interference in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.”

Trump’s Cabinet and closest allies in Congress have also expressed hawkish views on China and any potential action it may take in Hong Kong.

National Security Advisor John Bolton has warned China against repeating a crackdown like those it carried out during the Tiananmen Square massacre.

“The Chinese have to look very carefully at the steps they take because people in America remember Tiananmen Square, they remember the picture of the man standing in front of the line of tanks,’ Bolton said.

“It would be a big mistake to create a new memory like that in Hong Kong.”

Trump, seemingly heeding advice from Bolton and others like US Senator Lindsey Graham, tweeted yesterday that if China wanted to make a trade deal it would first have to “…work humanely with Hong Kong.”

It is the first time that the US President has linked the trade war to Hong Kong and was a marked shift from previous statements he had made in early August when he said whatever happened in Hong Kong was “between Hong Kong [and] China because Hong Kong is a part of China. They’ll have to deal with that themselves.”

No easy options for China

China has accused the US of interfering in its internal affairs. The Chinese embassy in the United States officially protested when members of the US consulate in Hong Kong met with protesters.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region said that the US, specifically some US Congressmen, were “the black hands behind the violent extremists.”

“The anti-China forces that intend to destabilize Hong Kong should never underestimate our firm will and capability to safeguard the national sovereignty and security and to maintain Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” the spokesperson added.

China said it also had the legal rights to crackdown on the protesters should there be a clear link between ongoing protests and ‘terrorism.’

Analysts agree though that unless something drastic occurs, Beijing would likely want to avoid sending the People’s Liberation Army into Hong Kong. (This hasn’t stopped China from mobilizing its forces to the border in a show of force)

Any PLA action in Hong Kong would destroy the one country, two system mode of government China has long touted, a crackdown would seriously destabilize the regional and global economy and push Taiwan further towards independence. It also seems that now, after Trump’s tweet, it would also exacerbate the trade war.

As Thomas Write stated:

“A violent crackdown would almost surely lead to the imposition of sanctions by the U.S. Congress, if necessary with a supermajority to overcome a presidential veto. The decoupling would not be confined to Hong Kong. The tariffs and restrictions imposed to generate leverage in trade negotiations would become permanent.

It seems that unless Xi and Trump can carefully maneuver around the banana peel that Hong Kong has become, the city could be the catalyst to an even more destructive US-China relationship.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: ANN’s current Chairman is Mr Warren Fernandez, who is also Editor-in-Chief of The Straits Times, Singapore. He is the current President of the World Editors Forum.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy, Economics

Internet healthcare serving homebound patients in China

Online consultations, pharmaceutical deliveries play vital role during outbreak. One recent rainy day, Wu Hong was waiting at the gate of her residential community in Wuhan, Hubei province. When a deliveryman with a bag of medicine came into sight, she was greatly relieved. Wu’s mother-in-law is a breast-cancer patient and needs to take medicine regularly. Wu’s father suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and inhalers have been in short supply. As the novel coronavirus epidemic grew more serious, Wu wasn’t permitted to take her family to the hospital for drug refills. She was left in a state of restless anxiety. On Feb 26, Wu and her husband saw a news segment on TV saying that the Wuhan government had enabled online reimbursement se


By China Daily
March 13, 2020

Diplomacy, Economics

India’s Congress suffers setback after key leader defects to BJP

Move by Scindia and 22 legislators could trigger fall of Congress-led govt in central Madhya Pradesh state. The Congress has suffered a political setback following the resignation of Mr Jyotiraditya Scindia and 22 legislators in Madhya Pradesh state, deepening an existential crisis for a party that is struggling for political relevance in modern Indian politics. Mr Scindia, 49, an articulate leader, yesterday joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with legislators loyal to him expected to follow suit. The move could lead to the collapse of the Congress-led Madhya Pradesh government. That would give the BJP a chance to form the government in the Hindi heartland state, which is seen as key objective for


By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020

Diplomacy, Economics

Chinese Red Cross teams aid Iran’s COVID-19 fight

Humanitarian group to help Iranians with containment measures that worked in China. Voices on the other end of the line cut in and out due to a poor phone connection as officials at the Red Cross Society of China’s headquarters in Beijing attempted to talk to staff members on the ground in Iran on Tuesday morning. As the signal stabilised, the latest developments in controlling the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic in Teheran streamed into a conference room packed with Red Cross managers. Zhou Xiaohang, head of a five-member team-four medics and a Farsi interpreter sent to assist with COVID-19 control in Iran-said Iranians are increasingly taking precautions such as wearing face masks and washing their hands more often.


By China Daily
March 11, 2020

Diplomacy, Economics

Shortage of Masks, Handwash due to panic- buying: Leave some for everyone

Despite repeated calls by global and local health experts and warnings from government, panic-buying grips the country. Global health experts have warned against hoarding masks, handwash and sanitisers during the coronavirus outbreak as it could worsen the situation by depriving those who might need them. Despite this, panic-buying of these products in Dhaka has been triggered by news of the first confirmed coronavirus cases in the country. Across the capital, several pharmacies and superstores have been facing a shortage of masks, antiseptic liquids and sanitisers since Sunday afternoon. The demand for tissue papers has also almost doubled overnight, some retailers claimed. Many of the retail stores, super shops and pharmacies in Karwan Bazar, M


By Daily Star
March 10, 2020

Diplomacy, Economics

MH17 trial in Malaysia begins today

It was reported that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile while flying over the conflict-hit eastern Ukraine. The trial will begin today. All eyes will be on the District Court of The Hague at the Schiphol Judicial Complex (JCS) in Badhoevedorp as the criminal proceeding against four men accused of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 begins. It was reported that MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile while flying over the conflict-hit eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board, comprising 43 Malaysians, 193 Dutch nationals and 27 Australians, were killed. Members of the Malaysian media here to cover the start of the trial were given a briefing by press secretary for the judge, Yolande Wijnnobel, on what to expect at the start of the much-awai


By The Star
March 9, 2020

Diplomacy, Economics

OPINION: ‘Righteous’ women

So who is this ‘righteous’ woman that would never dare join Aurat Marchers? ‘TIS the season to be righteous, or so many prominent Pakistanis on TV and social media along with the religious right would have us believe. Pakistan suffers from hypocritical moral policing at the best of times — in homes, colleges and universities, places of religious worship, and the workplace — but the trigger for the current frenzy is the impending Aurat Marches in many cities of the country. Given that these marches only began three years ago, one can only marvel at how rapidly they have gotten under the proverbial skin of their highly agitated opponents. Enough has been said and written about the wider context of the marches and why they threaten the


By ANN Members
March 6, 2020