On Friday afternoon, U.S. President Donald Trump gave a press conference in the Rose Garden focused on the issue of China. The event represented a new low point in U.S.-China relations, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic that Trump has long blamed on the Chinese government. Earlier in the week, China's parliament finalized a controversial new national security law aimed to consolidate power in Hong Kong by criminalizing most forms of political protest deemed to be sedition or subversion. Western democratic governments are worried Beijing is prematurely moving to forcibly integrate Hong Kong into the same authoritarian system as the mainland. Also, Congress passed a new bill authorizing sanctions on Chinese officials for their various human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority, setting up another ideological clash as relations between the two countries deteriorate.
In the , Trump announced his administration is revoking Hong Kong's special trade status with the U.S.: "My announcement today will affect the full range of agreements that we have with Hong Kong, from our extradition treaty, to our export controls and technologies. We will take action to revoke Hong Kong's preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China." The move means Hong Kong can now be subject to U.S. tariffs on China as part of the ongoing trade war. Trump added he is ready to require that Chinese firms listed on U.S. stock exchanges comply with American accounting and audit standards. Citing the goal of protecting American investors from the hidden risks of investing in Chinese companies, Trump said he will direct a task force to examine the practices of Chinese firms to ensure they play by the same rules. Finally, as part of Trump's campaign against China on the coronavirus pandemic, Trump revealed the U.S. will formally terminate its relationship with the World Health Organization, which he has repeatedly criticized for cozying up to China and failing to show transparency.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is now stuck in a hard place. On Saturday the Chinese government officially responded to Trump's address, warning the U.S. its "grossly interference" in China's internal affairs and "doomed to fail." China threatened to retaliate over the U.S. decision to cancel trading advantages granted to Hong Kong after its 1997 handover from British to Chinese rule. But Xi must have realized China is making more enemies than he expected. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, European governments grew upset at China for faulty ventilators and healthcare equipment. The countries of Africa are angry at China's discriminatory treatment of African migrants and students. India is disputing with Chinese troops along the border. And America is unfriendlier than ever thanks to Hong Kong, the Uighurs, and China's heightening hostility toward Taiwan and the South China Sea. Unless China wants to renege on the phase-one U.S.-China trade deal and reignite the trade war from a global position of weakness, it should carefully consider how it treats Hong Kong and its citizens going forward.
The author is an independent voter sharing his own opinion.