By Xu Xiangli
At a recent news conference, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he was revoking Hong Kong’s preferential status as a separate customs and travel territory, and would impose sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials “involved in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy”, suspend the entry of Chinese students who have been identified as potential security risks, and instruct his working group on financial markets to study the practices of Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. He also announced the country’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO).
However, some U.S. media outlets have exposed the ulterior motives behind Trump’s “sanctions against China”.
According to U.S. media, in one sign of Trump’s increased fury with the world’s second-largest economy, on Friday morning he tweeted simply: “CHINA!”, while another reported that his rhetoric against China was stronger than the steps he had taken.
The Washington Post remarked that his formal announcement, while long on harsh rhetoric, was short on details.
Derek Scissors, a China scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, told the Los Angeles Times that Trump’s vagueness and absence of any time frame amounted to “nothing” in terms of concrete actions.
The U.S. has indeed taken concrete action – withdrawing from the WHO, which is seen as another move against China.
USA Today said Trump’s WHO announcement was yet another attempt to deflect blame from his own mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak, and one that would end up hurting the U.S.
“For the U.S. to have one of the WORST domestic responses of any developed country in the world and then CEASE contributions to @WHO in the middle of a raging global pandemic is an embarrassment – a sign of weakness, panic, and scapegoating,” the website quoted from a tweet by Brett McGurk, a former special State Department envoy.
According to the American political opinion website Politico, if Trump were to follow through with his threat to eliminate all special treatment for Hong Kong, there would also be severe effects on U.S. companies operating there.
An estimated 85,000 U.S. citizens live in Hong Kong, many of them working for the more than 1,300 U.S. companies that have operations there, the website reported, adding that a 2019 U.S. State Department report indicated that nearly every major U.S. financial firm has a presence in Hong Kong, with hundreds of billions of dollars in assets under management.
Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told CNN that revoking Hong Kong’s special status “would have very little immediate impact,” given that in 2019, the U.S. imported less than $5 billion of goods from Hong Kong.
In comparison, the U.S. imported $452 billion worth of goods from China last year. “Ironically, if Beijing were somehow able to extend its retaliatory tariffs, that would have a bigger impact, as the United States exports over $30 billion a year to Hong Kong,” Bown said.
Trump’s real goal appears to be to deflect public attention from the pervasive domestic crisis in the U.S.
Recently, huge protests across America triggered by the killing of African American George Floyd by a white policeman in Minneapolis have dominated the headlines in the U.S.
However, at his so-called news conference, Trump didn’t take questions, which probably would have focused on the national outrage and urban unrest over the death of Floyd, according to several U.S. media.
A headline from ABC News read, “Trump announces China sanctions over Hong Kong, termination of WHO relationship,” followed by the subheading: “He did not mention the death of George Floyd during the White House event.”
During Trump’s remarks on Friday afternoon, he didn’t mention the death of George Floyd, a black man who was shown being pinned down by a white police officer in Minneapolis in a video and who later died, or the ensuing protests across the country, the article said, adding that at the end of his remarks, Trump walked away as reporters shouted questions about Floyd and Minnesota.
According to CNN, Trump made the announcement when the U.S. hit 100,000 deaths in the coronavirus pandemic and as massive protests roiled Minneapolis, but mentioned neither, focusing instead on casting China as an existential geopolitical threat.
Trump was trying to use China to distract from the pandemic and battered economy, the Washington Post quoted U.S senator Charles E. Schumer as saying.
“President Trump’s Rose Garden event just now was pathetic,” he said. “It perfectly encapsulates his inability to lead when our nation needs it most. The only question is whether President Trump is afraid to lead or just doesn’t know how.”
Trump’s goal was to make China a foe, which was part of his reelection campaign strategy, according to some U.S. media.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Trump’s action aligned with a campaign strategy of presenting himself as tougher on China than his rival presidential candidate Joe Biden. He has deflected criticism of his response to the coronavirus, which has now claimed more than 100,000 American lives, by blaming China.
With the pandemic and various self-inflicted crises complicating his reelection prospects, Trump was intent on using China as a primary foil to galvanize the nationalist fervor of his supporters that propelled his 2016 campaign, the newspaper said.
Trump can try and blame China for all of his economic and financial problems and say, ‘I am the man who sees the problem’, Harry J. Kazianis, a senior director at the conservative think tank the Center for the National Interest, told the newspaper.
“Trump’s goal is to make China his new Hillary Clinton — a foe he can attack day after day to try and make the case of why he should be president,” he said.
–The Daily Mail-People’s Daily news exchange item