George Will argues that “nothing more momentous happened in 2019 than Hong Kong’s heroic insurrection.” I would amend this comment to say “potentially momentous.” We can’t say with confidence what bearing the events in Hong Kong will have on the future.
Events on the periphery of a great power can portend what that power will one day experience. This was true of the Soviet Union. However, it was decades from the uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia to the collapse of the “Evil Empire.” And China has considerably more going for it than the Soviet Union ever did.
Events in Hong Kong already bear on how China is viewed by countries it would like to dominate or heavily influence. Will says, “If — when, probably — on Jan. 11, 2020, Taiwan reelects President Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese will have joined Hong Kongers in disdaining the ‘one country, two systems’ fudge as a formula for the incremental suffocation of freedom.”
The people of Taiwan already knew what was up with China. I bet China’s other neighbors did too. But events in Hong Kong provided stark reinforcement of this knowledge.
Do American capitalists know what’s up with China? Perhaps, but they don’t seem to care. Will writes:
With this year’s revelations about the million, or perhaps millions, swept into the gulag archipelago in northwestern China, it is possible to hope that in 2020 we will hear less from U.S. businessmen who are as obtuse as they are cocksure. Just 51 days before the New York Times published more than 400 pages of documents on China’s concentration camps, presidential aspirant Mike Bloomberg said the CCP’s leaders “listen to the public” and “Xi Jinping is not a dictator.”
Not content to just “listen to” the public, the CCP, using ever more sophisticated technology, surveils almost everything done by almost everyone. Perhaps 2019 foreshadowed the day when today’s Bloombergs will be remembered as Charles Lindbergh and others are remembered because they thought dictators in the 1930s were “the wave of the future.”
Bloomberg, Lindbergh, and the NBA.
In the second half of his column, Will gets around to bashing President Trump:
“We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi,” said the United States’ president, who also said of Xi: “He’s a friend of mine.” Xi should reciprocate friendly feelings because President Trump’s biggest blunder, made three days after his inauguration, was jettisoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, thereby unraveling a 12-nation fabric of commercial cooperation that excluded China.
I agree with Will that jettisoning the TPP was a major blunder, for the reason he states. But Will refuses to acknowledge that Trump is the first U.S. president in decades to stand up to China in a meaningful way, albeit not on human rights.
Trump’s reversal of our policy of countenancing unfair Chinese trade policies, theft of intellectual property, etc., along with a resulting “decoupling” of the American and Chinese economies, may prove to be among the most momentous things that have happened in the past three years.