Names May Never Hurt Me But They Sure Count In The U.S.-China Trade War

The United States has called China a “thuggish regime” after the country labelled a U.S. diplomat who met with Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, a “black hand.” Along with charges that the meeting showed the United States was behind the Hong Kong protests– which recently concluded their 10th weekend of mass demonstrations, official Chinese media have shown pictures of diplomat’s husband and published the names of her children.

“Releasing any of the personal information of an American diplomat is completely unacceptable,” the U.S. State Department said. “That’s not a protest, that’s what a thuggish regime does and it’s unacceptable.”

In July China’s foreign ministry claimed, without offering any evidence, that the escalating demonstrations were “the work of the U.S.”

In recent days the Hong Kong office of China’s ministry has described the protests, which began over an attempt to introduce a new law in Hong Kong allowing for the extradition to China of Hong Kong residents suspected of a crime by China’s central government for trial inChina, as an independence movement.

Three thoughts: First, this name-calling doesn’t make the tough negotiations to end the U.S.-China trade war any easier. Second, the willingness of the Chinese and U.S. governments to use this harsh–for diplomacy if not for the playground–language argues that both governments are writing off serious attempts at negotiation until 2020. And third, the heightened rhetoric from the tightly control Chinese media suggests that hardline elements in China’s 25-man ruling Politburo and the seven-member Standing Committee of the Central Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (usually known, fortunately, as the Politburo Standing Committee) have gained in influence. These hardliners oppose any concessions to the United States in these trade talks that can be interpreted as an attack on China’s national authority or that would hinder its path, in their estimation, to China’s rightful place on the top rung in the global economy.

In other words Hong Kong is in danger of not being about Hong Kong anymore–despite the best efforts of President Donald Trump to avoid any criticism of China’s policy towards Hong Kong.