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War for Hong Kong?

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President Trump faces trouble, and he is handling it in a dangerous way. Our economy is reeling as the Fed pours out billions of dollars in a futile effort to avert disaster. We know to our cost that politicians, faced with crisis at home, provoke war "to busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels."

Unfortunately, this is just what Trump is doing. According to a CNN news report on Friday, May 28,

President Donald Trump launched a blistering attack on Beijing Friday, naming misdeeds that range from espionage to the violation of Hong Kong’s freedoms, and announced a slew of retaliatory measures that will plunge US-China relations deeper into crisis.

"They’ve ripped off the United States like no one has ever done before," Trump said of China, as he decried the way Beijing has "raided our factories" and "gutted" American industry, casting Beijing as a central foil he will run against in the remaining months of his re-election campaign.  

Trump called out China for "espionage to steal our industrial secrets, of which there are many," announced steps to protect American investors from Chinese financial practices, accused Beijing of "unlawfully claiming territory in the Pacific Ocean" and threatening freedom of navigation.

The President also blasted Beijing for passing a national security law that fundamentally undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy, announcing that going forward the US will no longer grant Hong Kong special status on trade or in other areas and instead will apply the same restrictions to the territory it has in place with China. Trump outlined that the US will strip Hong Kong of the special policy measures on extradition, trade, travel and customs Washington had previously granted it.

Let’s look at Hong Kong first, as this is the issue most likely to get the American public roused up. "Isn’t it terrible," some people will say, "that the Chinese government has rounded up and imprisoned rioters against its authority in Hong Kong?" In answer to this, you need to bear in mind a key fact. The American government instigated the Hong Kong protests, and egged them on in a direct challenge to the Chinese government. As Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially known for the online magazine New Eastern Outlookpointed out last September,

even US policymakers have all but admitted that the US is funnelling millions of dollars into Hong Kong specifically to support "programs" there. The Hudson Institute in an article titled, "China Tries to Blame US for Hong Kong Protests" would admit:

A Chinese state-run newspaper’s claim that the United States is helping pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong is only partially inaccurate, a top foreign policy expert said Monday.

Michael Pillsbury, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Fox News National Security Analyst KT McFarland the U.S. holds some influence over political matters in the region.

The article would then quote Pillsbury as saying:

We have a large consulate there that’s in charge of taking care of the Hong Kong Policy Act passed by Congress to insure [sic] democracy in Hong Kong, and we have also funded millions of dollars of programs through the National Endowment for Democracy [NED]…so in that sense the Chinese accusation is not totally false.

A visit to the NED’s website reveals an entire section of declared funding for Hong Kong specifically. The wording for program titles and their descriptions is intentionally ambiguous to give those like US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plausible deniability.

However, deeper research reveals NED recipients are literally leading the protests.

Given this provocative US behavior, the Chinese government could not back down. As Pat Buchanan warned back in December:

There is another issue here—the matter of face.

China has just celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Revolution where Mao proclaimed, "China has stood up!" after a century of foreign humiliations and occupations.  

Can Xi Jinping, already the object of a Maoist cult of personality, accept U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of his country or a city that belongs to China? Not likely. Nor is China likely to accede to demands for greater sovereignty, self-determination or independence for Hong Kong.

This would only raise hopes of the city’s eventual escape from its ordained destiny: direct rule by Beijing when the 50-year China-U.K. treaty regarding the transfer of Hong Kong expires in 2047. For Xi to capitulate to the demands of Hong Kong’s demonstrators could cause an outbreak of protests in other Chinese cities and bring on a crisis of the regime.

In thinking about what to do, we need to be guided by the wisdom of Murray Rothbard. He long ago pointed out that we should oppose American intervention into foreign countries. It isn’t our job to act as a world rights-enforcing agency. We should mind our own business. As he put it,

We must say rather that, given the unfortunate existence of the State, we must limit and reduce its power, anywhere and everywhere, and wherever possible. We must try constantly to abolish or at least lower taxes—whether for "defense" or for anything else—and never, never advocate any tax increase. Given the existence of the State, we must try to abolish, and if not abolish to limit and reduce, its internal power—its internal exercise of taxation, counterfeiting, police state aggression, controls, regulations, or whatever. And similarly, we must try to abolish its external power—its power over the citizens of other States. The criminal State must be reduced as much as we can everywhere—whether it be in its internal or external power. In contrast to the usual right-wing partiality for foreign over domestic intervention, we must recognize that foreign intervention tends to be far worse.

What Murray said about intervention in Eastern Europe when it was under communist control applies perfectly to our situation:

Now don’t misunderstand me; I have not abandoned moral principle for cynicism. My heart yearns for ethnic justice, for national self-determination for all peoples….But, to paraphrase Sydney Smith’s famous letter to Lady Grey, please let them work this out for themselves! Let us abandon the criminal immorality and folly of continual coercive meddling by non–Eastern European powers (e.g. Britain, France, and now the U.S.) in the affairs of East Europe. Let us hope that one day Germany and Russia, at peace, will willingly grant justice to the peoples of East Europe, but let us not bring about perpetual wars to try to achieve this artificially.

Trump’s complaints about China’s trade policies again ignore the role of American provocation. Eric Margolis identifies the core fallacy in Trump’s strategy:

Trump’s wars are economic. They deploy the huge economic and financial might of the United States to steamroll other nations that fail to comply with orders from Washington. Washington’s motto is "obey me or else!" Economic wars are not bloodless. Imperial Germany and the Central Powers were starved into surrender in 1918 by a crushing British naval blockade.

Trade sanctions are not making America great, as Trump claims. They are making America detested around the globe as a crude bully. Trump’s efforts to undermine the European Union and intimidate Canada add to this ugly, brutal image.

Trump’s ultimate objective, as China clearly knows, is to whip up a world crisis over trade, then dramatically end it—of course, before next year’s elections. Trump has become a master dictator of US financial markets, rising or lowering them by surprise tweets. No president should ever have such power, but Trump has seized it.

Trade wars rarely produce any benefits for either side. They are the equivalent of sending tens of thousands of soldiers to be mowed down by machine guns on the blood-soaked Somme battlefield in WWI. Glory for the stupid generals; death and misery for the common soldiers.

Trump also mentioned Chinese claims of territory in the Pacific Ocean. He ignored the fact that the South China Sea belongs to them, not to us, yet we send our ships there and insist that we have a right to control what happens there. Also, a great deal of China’s industry and agriculture is privately owned, so an attack on China would be an attack on private property. Both the neocons and the nationalist “right” want war with China. We should aim at peace instead, as Murray Rothbard and Ron Paul have taught us.

It is ironic that Trump accused China of industrial espionage. The US has for decades spied on and monitored governments and industries all over the world, of course including China.

As the writer "b" at the Moon of Alabama website has said,

European countries do not fear China or even Chinese spying. They know that the U.S. is doing similar on a much larger scale. Europeans do not see China as a threat and they do not want to get involved in the escalating U.S.-China spat….Every nation spies. It is one of the oldest trades in this world. That the U.S. is making such a fuss about putative Chinese spying when it itself is the biggest sinner is unbecoming.

The Chinese people are highly productive and intelligent, and their success doesn’t depend on industrial espionage against the United States. Rather than condemn the Chinese, Trump should commend them for their monumental steps toward a free market, with unprecedented economic growth, after suffering the carnage of Maoist communism.

Trump spoke about suing the Chinese for the damage caused by the COVID-19 epidemic. As I wrote in an article last month, "There is good reason to believe that the coronavirus epidemic is part of an American biological warfare campaign against China and Iran. The brilliant physicist Ron Unz, who has time and time again been proved right by events, makes this case in a scintillating analysis."

Even if the US didn’t do this, it would be highly irregular to sue a nation just because a virus began there. Besides, if America wants to go that route, wouldn’t many countries have grounds to sue America for what the American government did to them? What about Iraq, which has suffered from US bombing and blockades in a war now widely admitted to be a mistake? What about people all over the world who have been killed with arms supplied to foreign governments by the US?

Rather than stir up trouble with China, President Trump should promote free trade. How can it help the people of Hong Kong to deny them its free port, with no tariffs on imports or exports? America needs to confront its domestic crisis, brought on by the terrible lockdown and financial irresponsibility. War with China will only make our present crisis immeasurably worse.

This article originally appeared on LewRockwell.com.

Author:

Contact Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and editor of LewRockwell.com.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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