“The Enemy of My Enemy…” China, the USA, and Europe in Late 2020.

                             by David Parmer / Tokyo

Introduction:

The often-repeated phrase in its entirety is: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

But in late 2020, when it comes to China-VS-USA and Europe in the middle, it seems that there are no friends to be found for any of the participants. Whatever way you draw the triangle, “friendship” is not one of the components.

In this article we will take a look at the relationship among the three countries and see how the dynamics as they now stand spell only disengagement in the short term and even conflict in the long term despite historical and long-standing mutual interests.

Finally, how is China losing the battle for mind-share, not only worldwide, but particularly in Europe?

 Europe Puts European Interests Over American Interests and Goes Its Own Way

  1. Huawei Situation

Background: Huawei, one of the top 3 mobile phone manufacturers has, since May 2019 been the subject of crippling US sanctions which have significantly impacted its business. More than just a sideshow to the ongoing US-China trade war, the US sanctions have impacted global procurement not only in consumer products but also negatively affected IT networking. The US complaint about Huawei focused on three issues:

  • Cyber security
  • Links to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)
  • State sponsorship of Huawei

After a series of extensions the Huawei ban has come into full effect in 2020. The company has admitted that the sanctions are taking a major bite out of its business, but at the same time has found some temporary work-arounds in its mobile phone business. Huawei uses the Android system, but Google is now prohibited from working with Huawei. Huawei ships Android phones without the Google applications, which makes the phones potentially less attractive. Huawei is trying to court developers to its platform in hopes of increasing its appeal to consumers. Recently the company has come out with the Harmony OS which it will start using with certain devices, but still use Android for phones. Some say it is all a matter of time before Huawei Harmony becomes their default OS for all devices. (2021?)

As for the business-to-business side (B to B) of Huawei, the company operates in 170 countries worldwide. As the rollout of 5G technology takes place worldwide, Huawei is at stage-center in the US-China trade disagreement and sanctions. And the US has/is putting enormous pressure on the Europeans to exclude Huawei from their 5G upgrades. So far, the UK has decided to exclude Huawei.

There has been no stampede among the Europeans to get behind the US and the UK on this issue. However, Sweden, Spain, Austria, and Hungary have not excluded Huawei. France has ruled out a total ban on Huawei and Germany is sitting on the fence. For many countries, excluding Huawei is not only a political issue, but a technical one as well: many countries have legacy Huawei equipment, and switching suppliers to non-Chinese suppliers or local suppliers is a real headache. German’s decision, when it does come, will probably clarify the issue for many Europeans. Which countries will finally line up with the US, UK and Australia on the Huawei ban remains to be seen, but many countries are certainly feeling the heat generated by the US-China rivalry.

  1. The JCPOA or “Iran Deal”

 The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) was an agreement between Iran and six other countries including China, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom as well as Germany and the European Union. The agreement called for Iran to curtail enrichment of uranium and permit on-site inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In exchange for this Iran would have sanctions by the European Union, United Nations and the United States lifted. There was also the matter of some Iranian Ian funds being released.

The agreement went into effect in January 2016 and Iran was found to be in compliance with the agreement as a result of several subsequent on-site inspections. In May 2018 US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA citing hidden Iranian nuclear programs that were not reported in the past.

While the US withdrawal was not a fatal blow to the JCPOA, it did create serious problems. If the Trump administration assumed that the parties to the agreement would simply walk away, they were mistaken. The Europeans and the Chinese and the Russians did not walk away from the deal, but rather tried to keep it alive by all means possible.

The Europeans even came up with a barter scheme whereby Iran could exchange its oil for goods as well as other ways to assist Iran in the face of American sanctions. The Europeans have tried to keep the JCPOA on “life support” and keep the agreement intact, much to the annoyance of the Trump administration and the Netanyahu administration in Israel.

On September 21, 2020 Secretary Pompeo announced that the US was re-imposing sanctions on Iran under the “snapback” provisions of the JCPOA. Earlier in the summer, President Donald Trump had announced this action to the consternation of the remaining JCPOA participants including Iran. Since the US was no longer a member of the agreement, it could not possibly call for “snapback.” But that is what the Trump administration did. And proceeded to re-impose sanctions. However the parties to the agreement, particularly the Europeans soundly rejected the legality of the move and refused to support the re-imposed sanctions. China and Russia went along with the Europeans and Iran.

The lack of solidarity with the US on the JCPOA is another case where the Europeans have acted in their own way and their own interests in dealing with a traditional and long time ally. These days, many aspects of the “special relationship” seem to be water under the bridge in light of the nationalistic, “America First” policies of the Trump administration.

  1. Europe and NATO’s Article 5

In 1945 Nazi fascism has just been defeated and most of Europe was in ashes. No sooner had one threat been removed than another one sprang up. The Soviet Union and America faced off in what was to become known as the Cold War. Russia had imposed its own brand of communism on Eastern Europe and this block of states stood behind what Winston Churchill called an “iron curtain.”

To counter the Soviet takeover of Eastern Europe and the threat of further Soviet expansion, 12 countries banded together in 1949 to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The purpose for their association was collective defense as outlined in Article 5 of the treaty signed in Washington. Simply put an attack on one country or its representatives or interests would be considered an attack on all, and all would have to respond. The Soviets came up with their own version of NATO six years later when they established the Warsaw Pact in 1955. Collective defense as outlined in Article 5 was not invoked until 2001 when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by Saudi terrorists using hijacked airliners.

For more than 70 years the alliance has held firm. What is distressing is a shift in attitudes across Europe. A 2020 Pew Research Center found that 50% said that their country should not honor Article 5 if another member country were attacked by Russia. Only 38% said that their country should abide by their Article 5 commitment. Despite this, the report found that Europeans generally had a positive impression of NATO.

There has been talk of a European Army to replace NATO. Harsh criticism was leveled against NATO by French President Emmanuel Macron who, in 2019, called the organization “brain dead.”

Other leaders like Angela Merkel who stated that there is still value for the Europeans in NATO participation. This comes on the back of constant harping by US President Donald Trump for European allies to increase their defense spending.

After 70 years, Europeans have mixed feelings about the function and existence of NATO and about honoring their Article 5 obligations. How things would change in the face of some unambiguous Russian aggression in the near future remains to be seen.

Europe Sees Its Own Self Interest in Supporting America and its Allies.

 In at least two major ways areas, i.e. participation in in NATO and participation in the Indo-Pacific strategy, Europe has taken the pro-US, pro West strategy that would be expected of it.

Europe and NATO

The evaluation by NATO of its own performance over 70 years differs from the Pew Research Report in that NATO not only sees itself in favorable light, but also sees itself as having achievements of note during its first 70 years.

Seventy years ago, NATO’s founding treaty was signed in Washington D.C. Today, our Alliance is the strongest in history, guaranteeing the freedom of our almost one billion citizens, the security of our territory, and the protection of our values, including democracy, individual liberty, human rights, and the rule of law. We reaffirm the enduring transatlantic bond between Europe and North America, our adherence to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and our bedrock commitment enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty that an attack against one Ally should be considered an attack against us all. We are determined to improve the balance of sharing the costs and responsibilities of our indivisible security. 
(NATO Statement on the occasion of NATO’s 70th Anniversary).

The threat of Russian aggression for many NATO members is as real as it was in 1949. This has brought new members and new associations recently, particularly with the Nordic nations that live under the shadow of the Russian bear. The same goes for the Baltic republics of Latvia Lithuania and Estonia. Among themselves Nordic nations have banded together for military cooperation in logistics and procurement and inter-operability.

As noted in the last line of the NATO statement the countries involved are aware of their cost-sharing obligations even without the constant reminders, bordering on harassment, made by US President Donald Trump.

  1. Europeans and the Indo Pacific

As late there has been a pivot toward the US Indo-Pacific strategy by the Europeans and a distancing themselves from China. Both France and Germany have begun see their interests lying not just in their local area, but half a world away in the vast Indo-Pacific region.

In particular, Germany sets the example and aligns with the US and regional nations including Japan and Korea in calling for an open and free Indo-Pacific.

 Europe Sides With China

Europe has many common interests with China and has acted accordingly. Europeans and Chinese access each other’s markets, and Germany, for example, has had a long and profitable economic relationship with the PRC, particularly in the area of automobile manufacturing. Europe also stands to benefit by both the overland and maritime branches of China’s Belt and Road scheme.

As noted above, France, Germany, the UK, and the EU have stood firm with China and Russia regarding the JCPOA, or Iran nuclear deal. This has been even in the face of strong pressure from the Trump administration which unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018.

On August 14, 2020, the UN Security Council failed to support the US move to extend the arms embargo against Iran. US traditional allies (the E3) Germany, France and the UK abstained. This was a stunning defeat for the US and its policy of maximum pressure against Iran. The Trump administration pursues a policy of “America First” and distains globalization and the value of international organizations.

As noted earlier, President Trump himself harasses the Europeans publicly about their financial obligations to NATO in addition to his expressed distain for diplomacy and international cooperation. So it should be no wonder that when the US wants the E3 to fall in line with its Iran policy at the United Nations that the Europeans sit on their hands. 

In fact, it might be in the best interest of the region and the world if the Iran arms embargo were continued, but a bullying form of leadership (that threatens sanctions even on its own allies) can only result in quiet resentment that shows itself in a lack of support and solidarity when support support and solidarity are called for.

Europe and China have acknowledged interests in both the global economy and in dealing with climate change. These common interests continue despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and its strident America First campaign. These common interests can be leveraged by China to maintain some of its “soft power appeal” seriously damaged by the Hong Kong and human rights issues.

Where Europe Does Not Side With China

Europe going its own way with regard to China is pretty much the top story of mid-to-late 2020. It seems that the romance with China, if there ever was one, is rapidly fading for the Europeans.

Many of the complaints that the Europeans have about China are the same complaints that the Americans have. However, as we have seen, this does not immediately make them allied in a common opposition to China.

Europe’s complaints with China leading to a disillusion with the PRC focus on human rights and China’s adoption of the national security law in Hong Kong and the situation with China’s Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. China has not made its case on the international stage to support its actions in Hong Kong, and has been branded as destroying or not living up to the promises it made regarding One Country Two Systems when Hong Kong returned to Chinese control in 1997.

China’s Massive Failure to Communicate

China has not responded to criticism of its actions to restore and maintain order in Hong Kong. China had a strong case for law and order and its experience with the Cultural Revolution to point to when it decided to crack down on protest in the former colony. China could have made a case for an end to anarchy, property damage, and injury of innocent citizens.

It could have emphasized that it relied on the government of the Hong Kong SAR to handle the crisis and did not send in the People’s Liberation Army. Instead it chose to focus on its opposition to any kind of independence or secession which was seen as the real threat by Beijing.

This lack of defense of its own position lead the PRC to be seen and labeled as an oppressor of Hong Kong democracy, and a destroyer of the 1997 agreement. The fact is that the Hong Kong government acted with patience and restraint in dealing with most radical elements of the Hong Kong protest movement and this was not reported.

The fact that local council elections were held at the time of the protests and that anti-Beijing candidates swept the election, and the election was let stand by the government has not been fully reported as an example of Hong Kong style democracy at work.

 This lack of a positive and affirmative explanation for its actions created a strong narrative worldwide and certainly contributed to the European’s decision to distance themselves from China.

Coupled with this is China’s handling of its Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. China has never really explained clearly what the situation is in Xinjiang and what course of action it is pursuing with this minority

People around the world have seen the horrible consequences of radical Islamic terrorism from the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001 to the cruelty and barbarity of the so- called Islamic State known as DAESH or ISIS.

However, China has not made any case for preventing the formation of such a radical Islamic movement within its borders or explained what exactly it is doing in regard to the Uyghur minority.

By treating both Hong Kong and the Uyghur situation as internal affairs it has let itself be portrayed as an oppressor and human rights violator worldwide. The narrative in the world press is that China IS a violator of human rights, and that China has gone back on the One Country-Two Systems scheme in Hong Kong by enacting the National Security Law. China’s lack of an effective and believable explanation has led these perceptions to be seen as indisputable fact.

This massive failure by the PRC to communicate its side of the story has surely been a contributing factor in European disillusionment with China after a long period of productive engagement.

A Lack of Level Playing Field and the Indo-Pacific

The second major point of contention with China among Europeans is the concept of the “level playing field.” The perception is that European companies have a tougher time competing with Chinese entities because of government support which gives the Chinese side an unfair advantage. Add to this the accusation of forced technology transfer and you have some disgruntled trading partners and investors.

The human rights issue coupled with the lack of level playing field adds to the European’s disillusionment with China.

China’s claims and actions in the South China Sea adds another layer to the mix. As a result the Europeans are beginning to take an interest in the Indo-Pacific region and the US policy in the Indo- Pacific. While the Europeans are not ready to join Australia and the US in an alliance, they are pivoting to the idea that an “open and free Indo-Pacific” is in their self-interest. France began this shift and now Germany, long aligned with China at least economically, has began its own pivot.

Conclusion: Opportunities for China in an Evolving Geopolitical Order

China rising should be welcomed around the world; the Sick Man of Asia has become the Prosperous Man of Asia and is in a position to share its vision of the new world order with competitors and friends alike. Yet China’s actions, whether domestically or internationally are viewed around the world with suspicion.

The Belt and Road initiative which has the potential to bring prosperity to an incredible number of people in many regions around the world is viewed with suspicion at best, and its achievements are ignored.

China has the right to pursue Xi Jinping’s vision of a moderately prosperous society by mid-century, but it also needs to win friends and influence people along the way. Certainly, in the case of Europe, China should have trading partners willing to participate in the New Silk Road and prosper therefrom.

China needs to do a serious “self criticism” and find out what it has done and is doing to alienate so many potential allies and friends around the world. Soft power that does not make friends and create a balance among nations is not any power at all.

The United States, The People’s Republic of China, and Europe should be able to find areas of cooperation and coordination while at the same time remaining competitors and pursuing their own self-interests. Friends? Enemies? Partners? Competitors? Each bloc must decide what is best for its people and best for the greater global community of nations.

Photo: Paul Hudson via flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hong Kong National Security Law Full Text.

The Hong Kong national security law went into effect June 30, 2020. Since its enactment there has been tremendous discussion in the world press about the law, its provisions and its implications.

In an effort to let each reader make up his or her own mind about the law and its exact provisions we present the full text of the law in English as translated by China’s Xinhua News Agency.

Reading the text may change your opinion of the law or make it even stronger. Both are possible. However, the full text gives you the ability to make that decision yourself without the filter of news media, journalists, or politicians.

Reading time: About 12-15 minutes.

Source: Xinhua News Agency

 

(English Translation for Reference)

 The Law of the People’s Republic of China on

Safeguarding National Security in the

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Contents

Chapter I  General Principles

Chapter II  The Duties and the Government Bodies of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for Safeguarding National Security

Part 1  Duties

Part 2  Government Bodies

Chapter III  Offences and Penalties

Part 1  Secession

Part 2  Subversion

Part 3  Terrorist Activities                    

Part 4  Collusion with a Foreign Country or with External Elements to Endanger National Security

Part 5  Other Provisions on Penalty

Part 6  Scope of Application

Chapter IV  Jurisdiction, Applicable Law and Procedure

Chapter V  Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Chapter VI  Supplementary Provisions

 

 

Chapter I

General Principles

 

Article 1  This Law is enacted, in accordance with the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, and the Decision of the National People’s Congress on Establishing and Improving the Legal System and Enforcement Mechanisms for Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, for the purpose of:

  • ensuring the resolute, full and faithful implementation of the policy of One Country, Two Systems under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy;
  • safeguarding national security;
  • preventing, suppressing and imposing punishment for the offences of secession, subversion, organisation and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security in relation to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region;
  • maintaining prosperity and stability of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; and
  • protecting the lawful rights and interests of the residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

 

Article 2  The provisions in Articles 1 and 12 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the legal status of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are the fundamental provisions in the Basic Law. No institution, organisation or individual in the Region shall contravene these provisions in exercising their rights and freedoms.

 

Article 3  The Central People’s Government has an overarching responsibility for national security affairs relating to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

It is the duty of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under the Constitution to safeguard national security and the Region shall perform the duty accordingly.

The executive authorities, legislature and judiciary of the Region shall effectively prevent, suppress and impose punishment for any act or activity endangering national security in accordance with this Law and other relevant laws.

 

Article 4  Human rights shall be respected and protected in safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The rights and freedoms, including the freedoms of speech, of the press, of publication, of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration, which the residents of the Region enjoy under the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong, shall be protected in accordance with the law.

 

Article 5  The principle of the rule of law shall be adhered to in preventing, suppressing, and imposing punishment for offences endangering national security. A person who commits an act which constitutes an offence under the law shall be convicted and punished in accordance with the law. No one shall be convicted and punished for an act which does not constitute an offence under the law.

A person is presumed innocent until convicted by a judicial body. The right to defend himself or herself and other rights in judicial proceedings that a criminal suspect, defendant, and other parties in judicial proceedings are entitled to under the law shall be protected. No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he or she has already been finally convicted or acquitted in judicial proceedings.

 

Article 6  It is the common responsibility of all the people of China, including the people of Hong Kong, to safeguard the sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China.

Any institution, organisation or individual in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall abide by this Law and the laws of the Region in relation to the safeguarding of national security, and shall not engage in any act or activity which endangers national security.

A resident of the Region who stands for election or assumes public office shall confirm in writing or take an oath to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China in accordance with the law.

 

Chapter II

The Duties and the Government Bodies of the

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for

Safeguarding National Security

 

Part 1  Duties

 

Article 7  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall complete, as early as possible, legislation for safeguarding national security as stipulated in the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and shall refine relevant laws.

 

Article 8  In order to safeguard national security effectively, the law enforcement and judicial authorities of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall fully enforce this Law and the laws in force in the Region concerning the prevention of, suppression of, and imposition of punishment for acts and activities endangering national security.

 

Article 9  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall strengthen its work on safeguarding national security and prevention of terrorist activities. The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall take necessary measures to strengthen public communication, guidance, supervision and regulation over matters concerning national security, including those relating to schools, universities, social organisations, the media, and the internet.

 

Article 10  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall promote national security education in schools and universities and through social organisations, the media, the internet and other means to raise the awareness of Hong Kong residents of national security and of the obligation to abide by the law.

 

Article 11  The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be accountable to the Central People’s Government for affairs relating to safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and shall submit an annual report on the performance of duties of the Region in safeguarding national security.

The Chief Executive shall, at the request of the Central People’s Government, submit in a timely manner a report on specific matters relating to safeguarding national security.

 

Part 2  Government Bodies

 

Article 12  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall establish the Committee for Safeguarding National Security. The Committee shall be responsible for affairs relating to and assume primary responsibility for safeguarding national security in the Region. It shall be under the supervision of and accountable to the Central People’s Government.

 

Article 13  The Chief Executive shall be the chairperson of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The other members of the Committee shall be the Chief Secretary for Administration, the Financial Secretary, the Secretary for Justice, the Secretary for Security, the Commissioner of Police, the head of the department for safeguarding national security of the Hong Kong Police Force established under Article 16 of this Law, the Director of Immigration, the Commissioner of Customs and Excise, and the Director of the Chief Executive’s Office.

A secretariat headed by a Secretary-General shall be established under the Committee. The Secretary-General shall be appointed by the Central People’s Government upon nomination by the Chief Executive.

 

Article 14  The duties and functions of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be:

  • analysing and assessing developments in relation to safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, making work plans, and formulating policies for safeguarding national security in the Region;
  • advancing the development of the legal system and enforcement mechanisms of the Region for safeguarding national security; and

(3) coordinating major work and significant operations for safeguarding national security in the Region.

No institution, organisation or individual in the Region shall interfere with the work of the Committee. Information relating to the work of the Committee shall not be subject to disclosure. Decisions made by the Committee shall not be amenable to judicial review.

 

Article 15  The Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall have a National Security Adviser, who shall be designated by the Central People’s Government and provide advice on matters relating to the duties and functions of the Committee. The National Security Adviser shall sit in on meetings of the Committee.

 

Article 16  The Police Force of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall establish a department for safeguarding national security with law enforcement capacity.

The head of the department for safeguarding national security of the Hong Kong Police Force shall be appointed by the Chief Executive. The Chief Executive shall seek in writing the opinion of the Office established under Article 48 of this Law before making the appointment. When assuming office, the head of the department for safeguarding national security of the Hong Kong Police Force shall swear to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, and swear to abide by the law and to observe the obligation of secrecy.

The department for safeguarding national security of the Hong Kong Police Force may recruit qualified professionals and technical personnel from outside the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to provide assistance in the performance of duties for safeguarding national security.

 

Article 17  The duties and functions of the department for safeguarding national security of the Hong Kong Police Force shall be:

  • collecting and analysing intelligence and information concerning national security;
  • planning, coordinating and enforcing measures and operations for safeguarding national security;
  • investigating offences endangering national security;
  • conducting counter-interference investigation and national security review;
  • carrying out tasks of safeguarding national security assigned by the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; and
  • performing other duties and functions necessary for the enforcement of this Law.

 

Article 18  The Department of Justice of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall establish a specialised prosecution division responsible for the prosecution of offences endangering national security and other related legal work. The prosecutors of this division shall be appointed by the Secretary for Justice after obtaining the consent of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The head of the specialised prosecution division of the Department of Justice shall be appointed by the Chief Executive, who shall seek in writing the opinion of the Office established under Article 48 of this Law before making the appointment. When assuming office, the head of the specialised prosecution division shall swear to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, and swear to abide by the law and to observe the obligation of secrecy.

 

Article 19  The Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall, upon approval of the Chief Executive, appropriate from the general revenue a special fund to meet the expenditure for safeguarding national security and approve the establishment of relevant posts, which are not subject to any restrictions in the relevant provisions of the laws in force in the Region. The Financial Secretary shall submit an annual report on the control and management of the fund for this purpose to the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

 

Chapter III

Offences and Penalties

 

Part 1  Secession

 

Article 20  A person who organises, plans, commits or participates in any of the following acts, whether or not by force or threat of force, with a view to committing secession or undermining national unification shall be guilty of an offence:

  • separating the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or any other part of the People’s Republic of China from the People’s Republic of China;
  • altering by unlawful means the legal status of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or of any other part of the People’s Republic of China; or
  • surrendering the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or any other part of the People’s Republic of China to a foreign country.

A person who is a principal offender or a person who commits an offence of a grave nature shall be sentenced to life imprisonment or fixed-term imprisonment of not less than ten years; a person who actively participates in the offence shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than ten years; and other participants shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, short-term detention or restriction.

 

Article 21  A person who incites, assists in, abets or provides pecuniary or other financial assistance or property for the commission by other persons of the offence under Article 20 of this Law shall be guilty of an offence. If the circumstances of the offence committed by a person are of a serious nature, the person shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than ten years; if the circumstances of the offence committed by a person are of a minor nature, the person shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, short-term detention or restriction.

 

Part 2  Subversion

 

Article 22  A person who organises, plans, commits or participates in any of the following acts by force or threat of force or other unlawful means with a view to subverting the State power shall be guilty of an offence:

  • overthrowing or undermining the basic system of the People’s Republic of China established by the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China;
  • overthrowing the body of central power of the People’s Republic of China or the body of power of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region;
  • seriously interfering in, disrupting, or undermining the performance of duties and functions in accordance with the law by the body of central power of the People’s Republic of China or the body of power of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; or
  • attacking or damaging the premises and facilities used by the body of power of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to perform its duties and functions, rendering it incapable of performing its normal duties and functions.

A person who is a principal offender or a person who commits an offence of a grave nature shall be sentenced to life imprisonment or fixed-term imprisonment of not less than ten years; a person who actively participates in the offence shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than ten years; and other participants shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, short-term detention or restriction.

 

Article 23  A person who incites, assists in, abets or provides pecuniary or other financial assistance or property for the commission by other persons of the offence under Article 22 of this Law shall be guilty of an offence. If the circumstances of the offence committed by a person are of a serious nature, the person shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than ten years; if the circumstances of the offence committed by a person are of a minor nature, the person shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, short-term detention or restriction.

 

Part 3  Terrorist Activities

 

Article 24  A person who organises, plans, commits, participates in or threatens to commit any of the following terrorist activities causing or intended to cause grave harm to the society with a view to coercing the Central People’s Government, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or an international organisation or intimidating the public in order to pursue political agenda shall be guilty of an offence:

  • serious violence against a person or persons;
  • explosion, arson, or dissemination of poisonous or radioactive substances, pathogens of infectious diseases or other substances;
  • sabotage of means of transport, transport facilities, electric power or gas facilities, or other combustible or explosible facilities;
  • serious interruption or sabotage of electronic control systems for providing and managing public services such as water, electric power, gas, transport, telecommunications and the internet; or
  • other dangerous activities which seriously jeopardise public health, safety or security.

A person who commits the offence causing serious bodily injury, death or significant loss of public or private property shall be sentenced to life imprisonment or fixed-term imprisonment of not less than ten years; in other circumstances, a person who commits the offence shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than ten years.

 

Article 25  A person who organises or takes charge of a terrorist organisation shall be guilty of an offence and shall be sentenced to life imprisonment or fixed-term imprisonment of not less than ten years, and shall be subject to confiscation of property; a person who actively participates in a terrorist organisation shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than ten years and shall be imposed with a criminal fine; and other participants shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, short-term detention or restriction, and shall be liable to a criminal fine.

For the purpose of this Law, a terrorist organisation means an organisation which commits or intends to commit the offence under Article 24 of this Law or participates or assists in the commission of the offence.

 

Article 26  A person who provides support, assistance or facility such as training, weapons, information, funds, supplies, labour, transport, technologies or venues to a terrorist organisation or a terrorist, or for the commission of a terrorist activity; or manufactures or illegally possesses substances such as explosive, poisonous or radioactive substances and pathogens of infectious diseases or uses other means to prepare for the commission of a terrorist activity, shall be guilty of an offence. If the circumstances of the offence committed by a person are of a serious nature, the person shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than ten years, and shall be imposed with a criminal fine or subject to confiscation of property; in other circumstances, a person shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, short-term detention or restriction, and shall be imposed with a criminal fine.

If the act referred to in the preceding paragraph also constitutes other offences, the person who commits the act shall be convicted and sentenced for the offence that carries a more severe penalty.

 

Article 27  A person who advocates terrorism or incites the commission of a terrorist activity shall be guilty of an offence. If the circumstances of the offence committed by a person are of a serious nature, the person shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than ten years, and shall be imposed with a criminal fine or subject to confiscation of property; in other circumstances, a person shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, short-term detention or restriction, and shall be imposed with a criminal fine.

 

Article 28  The provisions of this Part shall not affect the prosecution of terrorist offences committed in other forms or the imposition of other measures such as freezing of property in accordance with the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

 

Part 4  Collusion with a Foreign Country or with External Elements to Endanger National Security

 

Article 29  A person who steals, spies, obtains with payment, or unlawfully provides State secrets or intelligence concerning national security for a foreign country or an institution, organisation or individual outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of the People’s Republic of China shall be guilty of an offence; a person who requests a foreign country or an institution, organisation or individual outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of the People’s Republic of China, or conspires with a foreign country or an institution, organisation or individual outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of the People’s Republic of China, or directly or indirectly receives instructions, control, funding or other kinds of support from a foreign country or an institution, organisation or individual outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of the People’s Republic of China, to commit any of the following acts shall be guilty of an offence:

  • waging a war against the People’s Republic of China, or using or threatening to use force to seriously undermine the sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China;
  • seriously disrupting the formulation and implementation of laws or policies by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or by the Central People’s Government, which is likely to cause serious consequences;
  • rigging or undermining an election in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which is likely to cause serious consequences;
  • imposing sanctions or blockade, or engaging in other hostile activities against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or the People’s Republic of China; or
  • provoking by unlawful means hatred among Hong Kong residents towards the Central People’s Government or the Government of the Region, which is likely to cause serious consequences.

A person who commits the offence shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than ten years; a person who commits an offence of a grave nature shall be sentenced to life imprisonment or fixed-term imprisonment of not less than ten years.

The institution, organisation and individual outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of the People’s Republic of China referred to in the first paragraph of this Article shall be convicted and punished for the same offence.

 

Article 30  A person who conspires with or directly or indirectly receives instructions, control, funding or other kinds of support from a foreign country or an institution, organisation, or individual outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of the People’s Republic of China to commit the offences under Article 20 or 22 of this Law shall be liable to a more severe penalty in accordance with the provisions therein respectively.

 

Part 5  Other Provisions on Penalty

 

Article 31  An incorporated or unincorporated body such as a company or an organisation which commits an offence under this Law shall be imposed with a criminal fine.

The operation of an incorporated or unincorporated body such as a company or an organisation shall be suspended or its licence or business permit shall be revoked if the body has been punished for committing an offence under this Law.

 

Article 32  Proceeds obtained from the commission of an offence under this Law including financial aid, gains and rewards, and funds and tools used or intended to be used in the commission of the offence shall be seized and confiscated.

 

Article 33  A lighter penalty may be imposed, or the penalty may be reduced or, in the case of a minor offence, exempted, if an offender, criminal suspect, or defendant:

  • in the process of committing an offence, voluntarily discontinues the commission of the offence or voluntarily and effectively forestalls its consequences;
  • voluntarily surrenders himself or herself and gives a truthful account of the offence; or
  • reports on the offence committed by other person, which is verified to be true, or provides material information which assists in solving other criminal case.

Sub-paragraph (2) of the preceding paragraph shall apply to a criminal suspect or defendant who is subjected to mandatory measures and provides a truthful account of other offences committed by him or her under this Law which are unknown to the law enforcement or judicial authorities.

 

Article 34  A person who is not a permanent resident of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may be subject to deportation as the sole or an additional punishment if he or she commits an offence under this Law.

A person who is not a permanent resident of the Region may be subject to deportation if he or she contravenes the provisions of this Law but is not prosecuted for any reason.

 

Article 35  A person who is convicted of an offence endangering national security by a court shall be disqualified from standing as a candidate in the elections of the Legislative Council and district councils of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, holding any public office in the Region, or serving as a member of the Election Committee for electing the Chief Executive. If a person so convicted is a member of the Legislative Council, a government official, a public servant, a member of the Executive Council, a judge or a judicial officer, or a member of the district councils, who has taken an oath or made a declaration to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, he or she shall be removed from his or her office upon conviction, and shall be disqualified from standing for the aforementioned elections or from holding any of the aforementioned posts.

The disqualification and removal from offices referred to in the preceding paragraph shall be announced by the authorities responsible for organising and managing the relevant elections or for the appointment and removal of holders of public office.

 

Part 6  Scope of Application

 

Article 36  This Law shall apply to offences under this Law which are committed in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by any person. An offence shall be deemed to have been committed in the Region if an act constituting the offence or the consequence of the offence occurs in the Region.

This Law shall also apply to offences under this Law committed on board a vessel or aircraft registered in the Region.

 

Article 37  This Law shall apply to a person who is a permanent resident of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or an incorporated or unincorporated body such as a company or an organisation which is set up in the Region if the person or the body commits an offence under this Law outside the Region.

 

Article 38  This Law shall apply to offences under this Law committed against the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from outside the Region by a person who is not a permanent resident of the Region.

 

Article 39  This Law shall apply to acts committed after its entry into force for the purpose of conviction and imposition of punishment.

 

Chapter IV

Jurisdiction, Applicable Law and Procedure

 

Article 40  The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall have jurisdiction over cases concerning offences under this Law, except under the circumstances specified in Article 55 of this Law.

 

Article 41  This Law and the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall apply to procedural matters, including those related to criminal investigation, prosecution, trial, and execution of penalty, in respect of cases concerning offence endangering national security over which the Region exercises jurisdiction.

No prosecution shall be instituted in respect of an offence endangering national security without the written consent of the Secretary for Justice. This provision shall not prejudice the arrest and detention of a person who is suspected of having committed the offence or the application for bail by the person in accordance with the law.

Cases concerning offence endangering national security within the jurisdiction of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be tried on indictment.

The trial shall be conducted in an open court. When circumstances arise such as the trial involving State secrets or public order, all or part of the trial shall be closed to the media and the public but the judgment shall be delivered in an open court.

 

Article 42  When applying the laws in force in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region concerning matters such as the detention and time limit for trial, the law enforcement and judicial authorities of the Region shall ensure that cases concerning offence endangering national security are handled in a fair and timely manner so as to effectively prevent, suppress and impose punishment for such offence.

No bail shall be granted to a criminal suspect or defendant unless the judge has sufficient grounds for believing that the criminal suspect or defendant will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.

 

Article 43  When handling cases concerning offence endangering national security, the department for safeguarding national security of the Police Force of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may take measures that law enforcement authorities, including the Hong Kong Police Force, are allowed to apply under the laws in force in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in investigating serious crimes, and may also take the following measures:

  • search of premises, vehicles, vessels, aircraft and other relevant places and electronic devices that may contain evidence of an offence;
  • ordering any person suspected of having committed an offence endangering national security to surrender travel documents, or prohibiting the person concerned from leaving the Region;
  • freezing of, applying for restraint order, charging order and confiscation order in respect of, and forfeiture of property used or intended to be used for the commission of the offence, proceeds of crime, or other property relating to the commission of the offence;
  • requiring a person who published information or the relevant service provider to delete the information or provide assistance;
  • requiring a political organisation of a foreign country or outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of the People’s Republic of China, or an agent of authorities or a political organisation of a foreign country or outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of the People’s Republic of China, to provide information;
  • upon approval of the Chief Executive, carrying out interception of communications and conducting covert surveillance on a person who is suspected, on reasonable grounds, of having involved in the commission of an offence endangering national security; and
  • requiring a person, who is suspected, on reasonable grounds, of having in possession information or material relevant to investigation, to answer questions and furnish such information or produce such material.

The Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be responsible for supervising the implementation of the measures stipulated in the first paragraph of this Article by law enforcement authorities including the department for safeguarding national security of the Hong Kong Police Force.

The Chief Executive shall be authorised, in conjunction with the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, to make relevant implementation rules for the purpose of applying the measures under the first paragraph of this Article.

 

Article 44  The Chief Executive shall designate a number of judges from the magistrates, the judges of the District Court, the judges of the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal of the High Court, and the judges of the Court of Final Appeal, and may also designate a number of judges from deputy judges or recorders, to handle cases concerning offence endangering national security. Before making such designation, the Chief Executive may consult the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal. The term of office of the aforementioned designated judges shall be one year.

A person shall not be designated as a judge to adjudicate a case concerning offence endangering national security if he or she has made any statement or behaved in any manner endangering national security. A designated judge shall be removed from the designation list if he or she makes any statement or behaves in any manner endangering national security during the term of office.

The proceedings in relation to the prosecution for offences endangering national security in the magistrates’ courts, the District Court, the High Court and the Court of Final Appeal shall be handled by the designated judges in the respective courts.

 

Article 45  Unless otherwise provided by this Law, magistrates’ courts, the District Court, the High Court and the Court of Final Appeal shall handle proceedings in relation to the prosecution for offences endangering national security in accordance with the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

 

Article 46  In criminal proceedings in the Court of First Instance of the High Court concerning offences endangering national security, the Secretary for Justice may issue a certificate directing that the case shall be tried without a jury on the grounds of, among others, the protection of State secrets, involvement of foreign factors in the case, and the protection of personal safety of jurors and their family members. Where the Secretary for Justice has issued the certificate, the case shall be tried in the Court of First Instance without a jury by a panel of three judges.

Where the Secretary for Justice has issued the certificate, the reference to “a jury” or “a verdict of the jury” in any provision of the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region applicable to the related proceedings shall be construed as referring to the judges or the functions of the judge as a judge of fact.

 

Article 47  The courts of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall obtain a certificate from the Chief Executive to certify whether an act involves national security or whether the relevant evidence involves State secrets when such questions arise in the adjudication of a case. The certificate shall be binding on the courts.

 

Chapter V

Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

 

Article 48  The Central People’s Government shall establish in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region an office for safeguarding national security. The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall perform its mandate for safeguarding national security and exercise relevant powers in accordance with the law.

The staff of the Office shall be jointly dispatched by relevant national security authorities under the Central People’s Government.

 

Article 49  The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall perform the following mandate:

  • analysing and assessing developments in relation to safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and providing opinions and making proposals on major strategies and important policies for safeguarding national security;
  • overseeing, guiding, coordinating with, and providing support to the Region in the performance of its duties for safeguarding national security;
  • collecting and analysing intelligence and information concerning national security; and
  • handling cases concerning offence endangering national security in accordance with the law.

 

Article 50  The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall perform its mandate in strict compliance with the law and be subject to supervision in accordance with the law. It shall not infringe upon the lawful rights and interests of any individual or organisation.

The staff of the Office shall abide by the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region as well as national laws.

The staff of the Office shall be subject to the supervision of the national supervisory authorities in accordance with the law.

 

Article 51  The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be funded by the Central People’s Government.

 

Article 52  The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall strengthen working relations and cooperation with the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the Hong Kong Garrison of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

 

Article 53  The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall establish a mechanism of coordination with the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to oversee and provide guidance on the work of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for safeguarding national security.

The working departments of the Office shall establish mechanisms for collaboration with the relevant authorities of the Region responsible for safeguarding national security to enhance information sharing and operations coordination.

 

Article 54  The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall, together with the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, take necessary measures to strengthen the management of and services for organs of foreign countries and international organisations in the Region, as well as non-governmental organisations and news agencies of foreign countries and from outside the mainland, Hong Kong, and Macao of the People’s Republic of China in the Region.

 

Article 55  The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall, upon approval by the Central People’s Government of a request made by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or by the Office itself, exercise jurisdiction over a case concerning offence endangering national security under this Law, if:

  • the case is complex due to the involvement of a foreign country or external elements, thus making it difficult for the Region to exercise jurisdiction over the case;

(2) a serious situation occurs where the Government of the Region is unable to effectively enforce this Law; or

(3) a major and imminent threat to national security has occurred.

 

Article 56  In exercising jurisdiction over a case concerning offence endangering national security pursuant to Article 55 of this Law, the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall initiate investigation into the case, the Supreme People’s Procuratorate shall designate a prosecuting body to prosecute it, and the Supreme People’s Court shall designate a court to adjudicate it.

 

Article 57  The Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China and other related national laws shall apply to procedural matters, including those related to criminal investigation, examination and prosecution, trial, and execution of penalty, in respect of cases over which jurisdiction is exercised pursuant to Article 55 of this Law.

When exercising jurisdiction over cases pursuant to Article 55 of this Law, the law enforcement and judicial authorities referred to in Article 56 of this Law shall exercise powers in accordance with the law. The legal documents issued by these authorities on their decisions to take mandatory and investigation measures and on their judicial decisions shall have legal force in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The institutions, organisations and individuals concerned must comply with measures taken by the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in accordance with the law.

 

Article 58  In a case over which jurisdiction is exercised pursuant to Article 55 of this Law, a criminal suspect shall have the right to retain a lawyer to represent him or her from the day he or she first receives inquiry made by the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or from the day a mandatory measure is taken against him or her. A defence lawyer may provide legal assistance to a criminal suspect or defendant in accordance with the law.

A criminal suspect or defendant who is arrested in accordance with the law shall be entitled to a fair trial before a judicial body without undue delay.

 

Article 59  In a case over which jurisdiction is exercised pursuant to Article 55 of this Law, any person who has information pertaining to an offence endangering national security under this Law is obliged to testify truthfully.

 

Article 60  The acts performed in the course of duty by the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and its staff in accordance with this Law shall not be subject to the jurisdiction of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

In the course of performing duty, a holder of an identification document or a document of certification issued by the Office and the articles including vehicles used by the holder shall not be subject to inspection, search or detention by law enforcement officers of the Region.

The Office and its staff shall enjoy other rights and immunities provided by laws of the Region.

 

Article 61  The relevant departments of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall provide necessary facilitation and support to the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in performing its mandate in accordance with this Law, and shall stop any act obstructing the performance of such mandate and hold those who commit such act liable in accordance with the law.

 

Chapter VI

Supplementary Provisions

 

Article 62  This Law shall prevail where provisions of the local laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region are inconsistent with this Law. 

 

Article 63  The law enforcement and judicial authorities and their staff who handle cases concerning offence endangering national security under this Law, or the law enforcement and judicial authorities of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and their staff who handle other cases concerning offence endangering national security, shall keep confidential State secrets, trade secrets or personal information which they come to know in the process of handling such cases.

A lawyer who serves as defence counsel or legal representative shall keep confidential State secrets, trade secrets or personal information which he or she comes to know in the practice of law. 

The relevant institutions, organisations and individuals who assist with the handling of a case shall keep confidential any information pertaining to the case.

 

Article 64  In the application of this Law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the terms “fixed-term imprisonment”, “life imprisonment”, “confiscation of property” and “criminal fine” in this Law respectively mean “imprisonment”, “imprisonment for life”, “confiscation of proceeds of crime” and “fine”; “short-term detention” shall be construed, with reference to the relevant laws of the Region, as “imprisonment”, “detention in a detention centre” or “detention in a training centre”; “restriction” shall be construed, with reference to the relevant laws of the Region, as “community service” or “detention in a reformatory school”; and “revoke licence or business permit” means “revoke registration or exemption from registration, or revoke licence” as provided for in the relevant laws of the Region.

 

Article 65  The power of interpretation of this Law shall be vested in the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

 

Article 66  This Law shall come into force on the date of its promulgation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: Marco Verch via flickr

 

How Will A Democratic Win in November 2020 Affect US-China Relations?

                        by David Parmer / Tokyo

US-China relations aren’t at their lowest ever–before President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, the US and the PRC were not even talking to each other. No, things are not that bad, but in many ways they are still pretty bad.

The current US-China tensions are fueled by an ongoing trade war between the two superpowers mostly based on the Trump administration’s underlying assertion that the US has been taken advantage of by China over the decades and that it is now time to the US to stop being victimized by China. The second point of contention is that China is a rising superpower and now the world’s number two economy and that the US must compete with China.

This translates into seeing China as America’s most dangerous potential adversary and building alliances to handle this perceived threat. And of course, there is the question of Taiwan. The US continues to sell weapons and to upgrade weapons systems for Taiwan. China objects to this, but the US ignores those objections.

 What’s more, in 2018 the Trump administration did a $225 million upgrade of its Taiwan mission facilities. On top of this, in 2018 the US Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act which encouraged high-level officials from both the US and Taiwan to make reciprocal visits. As noted earlier, this could be construed by the PRC as the US walking back recognition of the PRC and the One-China Policy and upgrading of the status of Taiwan.

 So US-China relations are not at their worst, but they are certainly not very good. Now there is a good chance that in the 2020 election Donald Trump will not get a second term and that former Vice-President Joe Biden will be elected to replace Donald Trump as president. All indications are that it will be a contentious, dirty, hard fought election with allegations of foreign interference, vote tampering and vote suppression. Past performance indicates that Donald Trump will not be a graceful loser.

So with a Democratic president in the White House in the form of former Vice President Joe Biden, what could we expect with regard to US-China relations?

Indo-Pacific Strategy–Don’t look for much, if any, change here. This area is seen as of significant importance to America’s global power and reach, and is seen as a potent force to counter Chinese influence in the region.

South China Sea–Same again; not much, if any, change. America’s presence in this area will not diminish. It is seen as much too important to the overall US strategy to give any leeway on this issue.

Taiwan–The long-standing US commitment to Taiwan, especially from the US congress is not likely to change. What might change, however, is the US government’s emphasis on Taiwan. The support will be there, but actions by a Biden administration would be less confrontational than those of the Trump administration. US support goes all the way back to its support of Chiang Kai Shek and the Republic of China after WWII. So a less provocative stance by the US might be on the cards, but fundamentally no real change in policy except the avoidance of overtly-provocative actions that the PRC could not ignore like port calls by US warships for example.

Hong Kong–Not much change here either. Democrats are basically liberals, and what they consider human rights will be a priority for them. If US prestige is restored after the Trump debacle presidency, then “human rights” as preached by the US might again have some meaning around the world. Moral support for Hong Kong democracy will continue.

Xinjiang–In the same manner as with Hong Kong, American Democrats will continue to push for human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet.

Trade–This is a real problem for the US, and the Biden administration will have to do some serious “fence mending” with China (and many others). Tough negotiations are part of the game, but politically-motivated trade policies only hurt the perpetrator. One great concern is whether Chinese buyers will trust American suppliers again after relations have been fractured during the Trump Administration’s trade war with China. American products might be attractive in terms of quality and price, but buyers will have to consider whether the flow of commodities will be turned on and turned off like a faucet at a political whim in the future.

Overall: If there is a Biden administration in power, China can expect a return to normalcy in the US, i.e. a government run by professionals and not by ideology. There will be an end to the demonization of China and an end to the racist attitudes towards China, the PRC, and the Chinese people.

We can assume that the Democrats will fill the vacant jobs in the US government at all levels from ambassadors to department heads and again attract dedicated professionals to government service. Finally, a Biden administration might restore some order to the chaos caused by Donald Trump personally and by his ideologue cronies.

Will things return to normal? Will Joe Biden become the next president? It would be good for US-China relations, and probably good for the world. However, if we learn anything from China’s epic novel by Lo Kuan-chung, The Romance of The Three Kingdoms, it is just this: the good guys do not always win.

Photo:Marco Verch via flickr

Impact of the 2019 Hong Kong Protests on China’s Status Abroad.

                           by Philippe Valdois FRSA

 Introduction

The impact of the 2019 Hong Kong protests on China’s status abroad in general and Hong Kong’s status in particular, with two quarters of negative economic growth rate at the peak of the protests in 2019, cannot be ignored, and with the results of the November local elections showing the discontent of the general population and not only of the street protestors who obtained only concessions for one of their five demands, the situation seems unsustainable. In addition, police forces are being diverted from crime prevention and safety might suffer with the number of foreign visitors dropping. We can, therefore, expect major changes in 2020.  

Although anticipating the possible effects of an armed repression by the People Liberation Army on the Communist Party and its leaders’ image not only abroad but domestically and the fall-out of eventual sanctions implemented by the international community are two key questions, the catch-22 situation Beijing is facing and its dilemma in having to choose an optimal response to the continuing protests are already being abundantly discussed elsewhere. Therefore, although I will later examine the necessity and faisability of a compromise between the two camps, I decided to rephrase the theme of this essay by looking at China’s status from a different perspective. There are indications that the Hong Kong protests are not only a local phenomenon but are also both the symptom and the catalyst of a growing dissatisfaction within a new generation of Chinese abroad, including in South-East Asia and Taiwan. My second observation will be related to the actual status and image of China abroad as a product of a post-Tiananmen shift in government policies. Finally, I do not consider, for various reasons I will expose, that Beijing is facing a “color revolution” in Hong Kong, contrary to a commentary published by the official press agency of the PRC, Xinhua, according to the South China Morning Post. Talking about a revolution is dangerous, history showing us that it implies counter-revolution and could lead to violent repression.

If the protests themselves absolutely need to be addressed, if only to stop the violence affecting tourism and trade, they will however have no long-term major effects on China’s status as long as the true purpose of foreign sanctions against Beijing is exposed and some compromises are made between various actors. The key issue will be to maintain trustworthiness regarding the sustainability of the “one country, two systems” principle, and prevent an escalade involving the new generation of citizens and future leaders, in Taiwan or elsewhere, until 2047. As mentioned previously, and based on those observations, I will finally introduce what I consider the best strategy to deal with the situation and minimize the impact of the protests on China’s status abroad.

Discontent in Hong Kong and abroad and the advent of a new generation

The revendications of Hong Kong residents are as much economical as political and are mostly based on concrete grievances, but overseas Chinese follow attentively the developments in Hong Kong and their relation with Beijing can be ambivalent, but much less so for the older generation, who feels a stronger sense of loyalty towards China than the younger, more critical generation. In fact, as seen in New York, London and other cities around the world, there is a growing trend among young Chinese abroad to demonstrate at the same time in support of Hong Kong and Taiwanese autonomy and to criticize Beijing repressive policies, including the crackdown on ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans.

I recently had a discussion with a young professional living in South-East Asia. I learned from him about how people from his generation felt about the call for a sense of loyalty to China that their parents and grand-parents responded to more positively. Young Chinese abroad feel they are not getting much in return for their efforts and do not expect much from the regime in the future. Such worries are of course prevalent in Taiwan where the perspective of not seeing the two systems, one country perdure would mean, like for HK residents, losing their autonomy and freedom of expression. There is also in their minds a strong disconnect between what China represents for them in terms of cultural heritage and the regime’s growing assertion that it represents not only the interests of China but is in a way a symbol of China itself, establishing therefore a cult of personality encompassing the Party and its highest rank members and developing a form of ultranationalism that does not resonate in urban, cosmopolitan youth. A February 2019 article written by Chinese President Xi Jinping was untitled “Strengthening the Party’s leadership over the overall rule of law” and reaffirmed the position that “the Party was above everything else” already expressed in the Constitution, as Charlotte Gao explained in The Diplomat. It is difficult therefore for young people not to see that self-preservation at all costs for the Party and its leaders is what matters most for them.

The situation is different on mainland China where access to foreign media and knowledge about the situation in Hong Kong are limited. Most young people there are “incredulous that Hong Kongers are taking to the streets in protest” as Ben Hillman in East Asia Forum explained.

China government’s image now and before

Are the Image and status of China and the Chinese Communist Party abroad changing or susceptible to change because of the protests ? This is a key question. As compared to other problems facing Beijing, Hong Kong protests are but one area of concern among others. China’s image abroad in terms of human rights has not changed since the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and the hardening of the government’s policies. I have already described President Xi Jinping’s February 19, 2019, article. It supported the idea that little had changed since a decade before, when Maria Elena Viggiano described the strengthening of authoritarianism in China after Tiananmen as “resilient authoritarianism”. Not only do those events stay vivid in the memories of both Hong Kong residents and foreigners around the world but they are compounded with the worries associated with the use of Artificial Intelligence and high-tech surveillance tools to monitor Chinese citizens. Orwell’s 1984 is on the mind of many. Another key issue is the use of extensive “reeducation camps” for members of the Uyghur minority. The fact that the same narrative and the same harsh terms such a “criminals and terrorists in cahoots with foreign devils and determined to weaken the motherland by agitating for independence” according to Ben Hillman in East Asia Forum, are being used to describe Hong Kong protestors and dissident Uyghurs with little nuances is worrying and takes us back to wartime and the worst years of the Cultural Revolution. Without saying that Hong Kong protests are inconsequential, I would consider that all those initiatives are already defining China in the eyes of many foreign observers, have been continuing and will continue to do so, regardless of what happens in 2020 in Hong Kong.

Again, looking back again at Tiananmen, we see other similarities with the situation in Hong Kong and a continuity in the way the Party leaders react to protests. In declassified documents from the US National Security Archive, reference is made to item 28 related to the aftermath of the Chinese military crackdown in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. Mentioning Hong Kong, it says that “Locals are worried that Beijing could in the future limit civil rights in Hong Kong by declaring martial law or a state of emergency.” Part of the secret document also give us some hints about the reasons why Beijing has always tried since then to keep a tight leash on Hong Kong.

Two factors have also modified the Chinese government’s attitude towards Hong Kong in recent years. Kerry Brown in East Asia Forum mentions a “much tougher nationalism that has become the dominant tone of the Xi leadership,” and the fact that “China’s decades of rapid growth mean that it is far larger and stronger as an economy and a geopolitical force than anyone ever expected when the handover from British to Chinese sovereignty occurred in 1997.”

If the dynamic has changed between Beijing and Hong Kong, the US administration’s position regarding human rights and the world in general have certainly changed since Tiananmen. If the 30thanniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown gave the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the opportunity to blast on June 4th, 2019 the Chinese government and if on October 15th, 2019 the US Congress passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in support of the protesters, the State Department also recalled in December its ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote who had harshly criticized the Zambian government’s record on corruption and gay rights. It is therefore doubtful than an administration who shows a lack of support for its career diplomats in this occasion and others would do more than pay lip service to human rights. Why then criticize openly and sanction Beijing in relation with the Hong Kong protests? It is evident that in the context of the Sino-American trade war, demonizing its adversary is a way for Washington to mobilize other countries against Beijing more than anything and make them participate in its strategy of decoupling .

No “revolution” in Hong Kong

A paper from Erica Chenoweth, from Harvard University, Trends in Nonviolent Resistance and State Response: Is Violence Towards Civilian-based Movements on the Rise? quoted by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub in The Interpreter newsletter from the New York times, shows that up to the late 1990 the success rates of protests in the world climbed to 70% but then plummeted to 30% in the mid-2000s. While the number of protests, in particular non-violent is increasing, it seems their effectiveness decreases. Max Fisher and Amanda Taub mention as one factor of inefficiency the fact that “Social media makes protests likelier to start, likelier to balloon in size and likelier to fail.” The problem has to do with lack of commitment and the easiness of mobilizing large numbers without the participants having being involved in long term efforts to organize, strategize, etc. We have here almost the equivalent of a flash mob. In a previous essay, I mentioned the SEALDs movement in Japan. For them and their followers it was an initiation into political activism and will have a long-term effect in that sense. But the law it was opposed to still passed.

More importantly, Max Fisher and Amanda Taub remind us that “governments have learned to co-opt social media, using it to disseminate propaganda, rally its sympathizers or simply spread confusion.” Big budgets, technical facilities and know-how trump any effort by protestors. Internet censorship and monitoring in China is by far more developed than in any other country. And so is repression, with the jailing of journalists and cyber-dissidents. It should be noted that the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission managing internet-related issues is under the leadership of Xi Jinping.

Another factor is the growing polarization the world is experiencing. Revolutions work when all actors of society are involved, but as Max Fisher and Amanda Taub put it: “In Hong Kong, for instance, the movement really is primarily about protecting democracy and the rule of law from Beijing’s encroaching, authoritarian influence. But that movement is driven primarily by middle-class students and professionals who have had their place in society disrupted by changes in the structure of Hong Kong’s economy (for example, a drastic rise in rent prices for people too wealthy to qualify for subsidies) and by rapid immigration from mainland China.”

Which brings me to a common-sense solution that would be for the Hong Kong Executive to try addressing more energetically those specific concerns. On the other hand, in the case of China, as I have shown previously, young Chinese abroad create their own sense of group identity transcending borders. This strong sentiment cannot be ignored. A Taiwanese Chinese, a Hong Kong Chinese or a Singapore Chinese share growing common concerns about their future and the privileges, access to information and freedom of expression they all consider as natural. By law Beijing cannot censor the internet in Hong Kong but monitoring is still an option for the central government. This and arbitrary incarcerations are seen as attempts to encroach upon fundamental liberties, especially if applied systematically.

In addition, according to Erica Chenoweth, “Authoritarian leaders have begun to develop and systematize sophisticated techniques to undermine and thwart nonviolent activists” as “many Russian, Chinese, and Iranian officials increasingly see nonviolent popular uprisings as ‘soft coups’ meant to expand Western influence and interests,” resulting in “joint efforts to develop, systematize, and report on techniques and best practices for containing such threats among Russian, Chinese, Iranian, Venezuelan, Belarussian, Syrian, and other national authorities.”

Conclusion

In view of the protestors’ specific demands, of the quasi impossibility for the protests to propagate into mainland China, of the already damaged status of China on the international scene, of the fact that the Western world and the US in particular will be keen on seizing the opportunity to chastise and berate Beijing in a context of trade war and decoupling, of the extreme risks any violent repression would bring to China in terms of sanctions and ostracization, thus also jeopardizing a possible reunion with Taiwan, I think that Beijing should give some leeway to the Hong Kong Executive to let it implement some political and economic reforms, while foreign countries should abandon their dualist views and support instead the Hong Kong government. The extent of the impact of the Hong Kong protests on the image of China will depend on the response given to an angry young generation. Hong Kong protests are the expression of a passing feeling of frustration and should not be considered as an attempt to destroy the system. Protesters are talking about autonomy and not insurgency. As it is, China’s status abroad could benefit from a gentler approach.

Photo: Johnathan van Smit via flickr

The Future of Hong Kong and One Country, Two Systems.

                                    by David Parmer / Tokyo

Introduction:

For the past half-year the daily and nightly news has featured the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong.

Scenes of peaceful mass protest are followed by those of police response and film of radical elements among the protesters causing extensive and gratuitous property damage to the businesses and infrastructure of Hong Kong in the name of democracy.

Since this situation is ongoing there is no answer as to how it was resolved, for it has not yet been settled to anyone’s satisfaction. Having said that, we will first give a brief background of the situation. Then we will examine how the situation as it is now framed is at an impasse, and examine possible ways forward beyond the dynamic stalemate which characterizes this situation. Finally, we will look at one very important aspect that is on the periphery, but very much connected to the current situation, and that is the question of Taiwan and the possibility of it someday adopting a version of the One Country, Two Systems (OCTS) re-forged in the fire of the 2019 protests.

The Protests

Protest is a fact of life in Hong Kong going all the way back to 1956. The current protests, growing out of the proposal and withdrawal of the Fugitive Offenders Law (extradition law) are calling for “democracy” neglecting the fact that there have been more than 17 major protests over the years, and almost countless minor protests.

Were there no “democracy” in Hong Kong, protests like the 2014 Umbrella Movement and the current ongoing and extensive protests against the Fugitive Offenders Law would not be possible. Put simply: protest is almost a way of life in Hong Kong as exhibited by its frequent and vibrant occurrence, and it is often supported by tens of thousands of Hong Kongers. This is clear evidence of the existence of democracy in Hong Kong.

As far back as 2010 there have been calls for universal suffrage, or the direct election of officials.

While universal suffrage may be an ongoing issue for some, and a key part of the present protests, its absence alone can not be considered a lack of democratic avenues for political expression as the right to protest itself and the holding of fair and democratic elections are intact and in full use. (This can be seen by the pan-Democrat camp winning a massive victory over pro-Beijing candidates in local 2019 elections where there were no allegations of fraud or vote rigging or any other irregularities.)

Causes

Causes for the current protests can be directly related to the proposed extradition bill of 2019 put forward by the Hong Kong government and its brief life and eventual withdrawal.

Underlying this is the common perception that Hong Kong’s freedoms are being slowly eroded and Beijing’s influence is growing and growing. This influence is seen as a malign factor and not a benign one by many people. Another factor said to be fueling the unrest is the sense of hopelessness among young people regarding buying a home or apartment or getting public housing in a reasonable length of time. (It is reported that the wait for public housing is in excess of 5 years.)

It is not only the perceived erosion of freedom and growing influence by Beijing that is at stake, but also a fundamental and pervasive distrust of the PRC itself among a large segment of Hong Kong’s population. The rendition of 5 booksellers to the Mainland in 2015 and the continuation of the incident into 2016 did nothing to increase trust of the Beijing government among Hong Kongers.

What’s more, friction between Mainlanders and the people of Hong Kong is ongoing. This can most easily be seen in the issue of “parallel traders” where individuals buy goods in Hong Kong and sell them in the Mainland for a profit. Hong Kongers claim that this causes shortages of goods as well as social disruption.

Surveys show that a very high percentage of people in Taiwan do not see themselves as part of China but rather see themselves belonging to a country called “Taiwan.”

This same attitude appears to be pervasive among many people in Hong Kong. They seem to see themselves as citizens of a small, but independent country like Vatican City, Monaco or Lichtenstein.

While a unique product of history and circumstance, Hong Kong is not an independent country, rather it is a territory of China that was seized by the British in the 1840s and administered by the British for just over 150 years. The fact is that Hong Kong is part of China and always has been.

Now, both parties are faced with the re-integration of Hong Kong into greater China in such a way that acknowledges the unique history and culture of Hong Kong and at the same time leverages the rule of law and level playing field set up by the British resulting in vast economic advantage to both Hong Kong and to the Mainland. An attempt to build on and preserve these opportunities was the creation of the One Country, Two Systems (OCTS) scheme.

And just as a space vehicle is subject to extreme forces in the early stages of its journey, or an undersea vessel must withstand massive crushing forces when operating at depth, so too must the OCTS find a way to function during periods of extreme stress and pressure such as those that are now taking place.

Protests–Five Demands and Stalemate

As of December 2019 protests continue but are somewhat scaled down. More protests are scheduled for early 2020.

The situation now can best be described as a stalemate, with neither side making any concessions.

Five demands (and not one less!) have emerged from the protesters camp:

  • Withdrawal of the extradition bill
  • Investigation into alleged police brutality
  • Change of language to exclude the word “riot”
  • The implementation of universal suffrage
  • Amnesty for arrested protesters

A somewhat belated withdrawal of the extradition bill did nothing to mollify protesters. As for the other four demands, no government action has been taken to accomodate them.

As for police brutality, all incidents should be investigated if the public is to maintain trust with the police. There should be a clear distinction made between the use of force and the use of excessive force.

Toning down or modifying the language used to describe protesters should be done, and a clear distinction should be made between peaceful protest and the employment of violence that raises the level from protest to riot. 

Buried in the five demands is the return of the call for universal suffrage, which, on face value, is not likely to get the support of the Hong Kong government, nor the government in Beijing.

In the wake of violence and property damage to public and private venues as well as infrastructure, it is highly unlikely that amnesty will be granted to protesters.

The five demands are made of the Hong Kong government, and by extension, it upstream master, Beijing. The question is first; whom would the government negotiate with in a “leaderless” coalition even if it wanted to? There are supposedly two groups of protesters, violents and moderates. Except for a few familiar faces (e.g. Joshua Wong) there is no one to negotiate with. Or is there?

In the last round of Hong Kong Council elections, protesters, or “pan-Democrats” won seats in 17/18 districts, soundly defeating pro-Beijing candidates. Many saw this as a mandate on the protest movement. While it could be interpreted this way, it could also be a symptom of “protest fatigue.”

A similar phenomenon could be seen recently in British politics where the Labour party was handed a sound defeat and the Conservatives won by a large margin. It could be considered a second vote for LEAVE (the Euro) or it might simply be “Brexit fatigue” where the British people wanted to get on with their lives and have Brexit settled.

Perhaps many people in Hong Kong did the same kind of thing and expressed their opposition to government policies at the ballot box instead of on the street. Maybe many people felt that by voting they had “done their duty” or shown their feelings and now could get back to normal life after a half a year of massive social and economic disruption.

A coalition of “new pan-Democrats” would be someone for the government to negotiate with if negotiation were considered an option by the Lam government and by Beijing.

Moreover, a coalition of new pan-Democrats could first invite, and then distance itself from the violent wing of the protest movement. The next election of a Chief Executive will be held in 2022 and the next Election Committee election will be held in 2021. Negotiations to implement a major change to elections, i.e. bring about universal suffrage could be started immediately.

The government could “ignore” protester demands for an independent inquiry, but conduct an independent inquiry of its own in a way to save face and not “give in” to protester demands. If there were any further “face saving” to be done, the government could say that it was the results at the ballot box during the Council elections and not the protests that brought about change in the OCTS scheme.

 Amending the Basic Law promulgated July 1, 1997 would show Hong Kong and the world that OCTS was in fact a living concept, flexible, and able to respond to new realities not imagined in the Deng Xiaoping era of the 1980s.

The End of All of Hong Kong’s Problems?

Getting at the root of public frustration which resulted in the demonstrations of 2019 would not solve all of Hong Kong’s problems. The question of affordable housing would still be on the table. As a point of irony, it is the capitalistic system in Hong Kong which sets the land prices and prices of home ownership which are such a burden to young people and not the socialist system of the Mainland. Still, some solution to this problem must be aimed at, if nothing else than to give some hope to the young people of Hong Kong.

In a sense, Hong Kong’s “magical time” has passed. With the increase in special economic zones and the rise of second-tier cities the face of China is changing, and Hong Kong does not have the shine it once had. Having said that, Hong Kong is still a key waypoint for the inflow and outflow of capital to China. Stabilization of Hong Kong’s social system could do much to reassure markets and investors and possibly attract new capital to Hong Kong.

A Good Outcome Regarding Taiwan?

Dealing flexibly and creatively with the challenges of 2019 as suggested above (i.e. negotiation, amendment of the Basic Law ) would do much for the PRC’s image and soft power.

In this half year, despite what some might consider considerable provocation (destruction of public property, targeting of Mainland business and individuals, disruption of infrastructure and damage to the economy) Beijing has resisted the use of maximum force, i.e. use of People’s Armed Police or the People’s Liberation Army to deal with the social disruption caused by the ongoing demonstrations.

Strategically it would have been counterproductive to do so as demonstrations are an example of “asymmetric warfare” and are not responsive to massive force. (Although they can certainly be impacted by it.) More importantly, much “soft power” face was gained by not using maximum force and relying on the Hong Kong government to deal with the situation. This could also be interpreted as Beijing’s good faith, patience, and belief in the OCTS scheme.

Why is this important? The answer is simple: Taiwan.

The OCTS scheme was originally designed for Taiwan but implemented in Hong Kong (and Macau). As it now stands, many in Taiwan reject any suggestion that One Country, Two Systems would work there. China considers Taiwan its territory and is determined that it should become part of greater China. There are only two ways that this can happen, either a military intervention or a gradual economic and social integration based on the OCTS scheme. In the mind of the PRC, the situation in Hong Kong and Taiwan are two historical anomalies that must be rectified in the name of China’s sovereignty. A vibrant and dynamic Hong Kong operating under a flexible and democratic OCTS would be a powerful sales point for Beijing when dealing with Taiwan.

A Thorny Problem for Beijing

China has one huge problem that it must settle when dealing with both Hong Kong and Taiwan. And it is a question of the perception of value.

In ancient times Chinese culture was of such power and magnetism that could exert tremendous cultural influence to the peoples surrounding it. Even when China was conquered barbarians and invaders succumbed to the power of Chinese culture in the form or arts, science, philosophy, language, literature, dress etc. China was the dominant culture, and its magnetism decided the outcome.

In the case of Hong Kong and Taiwan due to the historical anomalies mentioned above, both Hong Kong and Taiwan have a culture that is at its root Chinese (language, art, history, cuisine etc.) but each has a culture that is on a timeline that is divergent from the Mainland. In the distant past, the magnetism of mainstream culture would have been the stronger of the cultures and prevailed. These days, this is not so. People in Hong Kong and Taiwan are not swayed by the Mainland culture, rather it seems they feel that their own culture is superior.This is important because they feel that the Mainland has not much to offer them that they don’t already have. Some in China suggest “patriotic education” as a way to correct this, but what is really being discussed is more like indoctrination than education.

China has made unbelievable progress since 1949, rising out of poverty, imperialism, and war to become the second leading economy in the world and a space-faring nation. China needs to frame its progress and its dreams in such a way that it becomes a beacon for those in Hong Kong and Taiwan to aspire to be connected with. China needs to shine so brightly that its culture again calls peoples and nations to participate in its greatness. When this happens, “patriotic education” will not be necessary.

Conclusion

The Hong Kong protests of 2019 can be seen as a period of painful social disruption costing millions in damage and lost income. It can be seen as an indication that One Country, Two Systems doesn’t work and never will. Or it can be seen as a great opportunity to modify One Country Two Systems for the 21st Century to make it more responsive and serve the needs of both the country and the systems until 2047 and beyond. There is only one choice, and this is to deal with this situation using creativity and imagination resulting in positive outcomes for all parties concerned.

Photo: Studio Incendo via flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Year Begins With A Bang.

Well, 2020 started off with bang. We are not quiet getting back to things as usual but starting things from a very dangerous place. World tensions were ramped right up to a 9.0 over the US airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Tensions have been high since Donald Trump became president, and now they have gone to an all-time high.

As written in an earlier RG21 post, Iran is no match for the US one on one. Iran, however, does have the ability to conduct asymmetric warfare against the US through it naval and Special Forces and its proxies throughout the region.

Even before this, there were signs that things are changing in the region. December 2019 saw the first combined Iranian, Chinese, Russian naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman. If there was ever a sign of the waning and waxing of world powers, this could be it. America’s decline in world power and prestige could be traced to these exercises.

2020 also no relief for China in its ongoing problem in Hong Kong. All indications are that this problem will continue throughout the year although council elections in 2019 might have given the democratic opposition the face it needed to be seen as legitimate and to be taken seriously. China’s best bet is to let Hong Kong air its grievances through the ballot box and to responsibly govern under the One Country, Two Systems scheme.

The British people have sent a clear message about Brexit: it is their will that it happen. Before there was doubt, but the election was a “second referendum” and Boris Johnson is empowered to perform Brexit and bring Britain out of the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron has his own set of problems and demonstrations on a Hong Kong scale minus the violence. It is just possible that Macron will hold on for a long time and join the ranks of France’s most respected presidents.

And the United States is scheduled to have a presidential election in November that will decide whether Donald Trump and the Republicans get another four years, or whether the Democrats can cobble together a coalition of voters strong enough to gain the White House and the senate. The events of the first week of January indicate that 2020 will be truly memorable–that is, if things continue at the current pace.

What is your opinion and what are your predictions for 2020? Please share your ideas with us.

Photo: Ancient Persian Guardsman via flickr.

Big Story 2019 #1 – Evolution of “One-Country, Two Systems.”

This year has seen severe testing of the One Country Two Systems (OCTS) principle in Hong Kong. While there have been demonstrations in the past (e.g. Umbrella Movement, 2014) there has been nothing on the scale of the protests in 2019 sparked by the government’s proposed extradition bill. And while the bill was later withdrawn, widespread and sustained protests have been ongoing for the second half of 2019.

Protests have been both peaceful and violent with clashes between demonstrators and Hong Kong police. Social unrest and widespread property damage have marked the protests, and some elements have targeted Beijing-affiliated businesses.

The real question raised by these protests is whether OCTS can survive and adapt. The former Portuguese territory of Macau is under OCTS and continues to function without major problems. For strategic reasons it would be to the benefit of Beijing for OCTS to work, as this would be the most painless way that Taiwan could be integrated back into greater China.

For a resolution of the Hong Kong question it seems that Hong Kong people must acknowledge that the former British territory is in fact part of China. For Beijing and its 70-year-old one party system, it might be time to re-think how the system can adapt to this new challenge. Historically China has always found a way to Sinicize peoples and systems and to make appropriate adjustments to new realities. Can Beijing do this with OCTS?

RG-21 will soon be publishing several reports on this topic. In the meantime, please feel free to give us your opinion on this very important matter.

Photo: Etan Liam via flickr

China at 70 – Where From Here?

October 1, 2019 marked exactly 70 years since the late Mao Zedong stood atop the gate at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and declared that the Chinese people had stood up, and henceforth China would be the People’s Republic of China.

The 70 year period was not without its challenges including armed clashed with three other world powers, the US, India and Russia and the growing, flowering, decline and growing again of one of the world’s biggest economies. Add to this the tumult brought about by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which was aimed at revitalizing the revolution and keeping ideology pure, but which resulted in the death of countless citizens and the doling out of large doses of misery to millions of others.

With Reform and Opening up in the early 1980s the pent up energy of the Chinese people was released and the world saw a real miracle as so many in the new China were lifted out of poverty as the economy showed almost unstoppable growth. China rose to be the #2 economy in the world defying all odds.

While economic growth has slowed, China is now set on a course to become a “moderately prosperous society” by the middle of this century. This vision, combined with the establishment of the Belt and Road initiative to revitalize the Silk Road are both visions of China’s future set forth by its president, Xi Jinping.

China is not without its problems going forward however. The ongoing trade war with the United States is one major headache. The Uighur minority in Xinjiang is another matter that must be addressed with wisdom and fairness. And now Hong Kong seems a problem with no easy solution that must be addressed in a creative way to ensure democracy and guarantee the rule of law. China’s claim to the South China Sea and its relations with Taiwan are also thorny issues going forward.

So what will the future be for China? A “moderately prosperous” society for the majority of its people as President Xi Jinping suggests, Or a rethinking of the China Dream in light of 21st century realities?

Please log in and give us your thoughts on this.

 

Hong Kong, Summer 2019 – A Thorny Problem for Beijing.

Hong Kong in the summer of 2019 really is a thorny problem for Beijing. All things considered, it looks like there is no “win” for Beijing, only a “not lose.”

                              A “Perfect Storm”

A perfect storm of conditions is coming together to make an almost impossible situation in which the Chinese government cannot get a positive outcome. The Hong Kong government has been tasked with dealing with the massive demonstrations opposing the now-defunct extradition bill. The kidnapping of anti-Beijing booksellers in the not-so-distant past gave demonstrators just the ammunition they needed for their protest, as it proved to them that the true purpose of the bill was not to extradite criminals to face justice, but to smother dissent in Hong Kong.

This has been a near impossible situation to deal with for the government of the SAR considering that university students are on holiday and out in full force, and that the world is watching via international media. While there were accusations of excessive force, the demonstrators did enter and vandalize the Legislative Council Building despite police presence.

As of mid-July 2019, protests continue. The second round of protests have been against mainland traders who buy up huge amounts of goods in Hong Kong for resale on the mainland which drives up inflation in Hong Kong. Police and protesters scuffled at a shopping mall and injuries were reported.

Demands from the protesters, in addition to the permanent scrapping of the extradition bill, now include an investigation into police brutality and the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

                                   The Use of Minimal Force

At present, it appears that Bejing’s decision is to continue to let the Hong Kong government handle the situation. The use of excessive force by the SAR or the Beijing government would damage the “soft power” that the PRC has been developing for decades culminating in the “Belt and Road” initiative.

The specter of the CCP’s handling of the 1989 Tian An Men Square incident also hangs over the Chinese government. Moreover, those “on the fence” in Taiwan regarding re-unification might be pushed to the pro-independence side if they were to see the PRC clamp down.

And the “no win” situation is just not for the government of the PRC.The protesters who are acting in such a way to preserve the freedom of Hong Kong under the One Country-Two Systems arrangement might just be putting an end to it. 

                               Beijing’s Red Line

China’s long-term strategy is not yet clear. In the short term, the strategy is not to use excessive force. However there is a point where protest becomes anarchy. If anarchy were to ensue, then the PLA would be called in to maintain order. Once order had been restored, those “freedoms” that the protesters were fighting so hard to preserve might be lost forever.

No one knows where the red line is with the powers in Beijing and we are not privy to the thinking of the CCP. But be sure, there is a red line. When the passions of the protesters are aroused, it is unlikely that long-term thinking will prevail, and it is highly likely that anarchy will ensue. When anarchy does ensue, the CCP and PLA will act, and act decisively.

The above outcomes are not good for Hong Kong, and ultimately not good for China. But history has a way of being history, and in Hong Kong and other places around the world we can see history unfold from the comfort of our own homes on big-screen TVs.

What do you think about this matter? Please let us know.

photo: Etan Liam via flickr

 

Asian Waters—The Astounding Pearl River Delta

Shunde, Foshan, Guangdong PRC (Photo: topwalls)

                              by David Parmer

Southern China’s Pearl River is 2400 kilometers long, making it the country’s third longest waterway. A glance at the map shows not one river, but rather a river system that becomes the Pearl River. The Liuxi,  Xi (West) Bei (North) and Dong ( East) Rivers join at Guangzhou and flow into the Pearl River Delta (PRD) and the South China Sea.

Just 30 years ago the PRD would have been impressive, and yes historic as China’s gateway to the West. But now,…now the PRD is the Pearl River Delta Economic Zone, and what was once green farmland with blue skies is now an urban megacity. Since 1980 there has been an astounding and amazing transformation that is far from over. Guangdong province has a population estimated at 83,000,000 and an area of 177,600 square kilometers; the area of the Pearl River Delta is estimated to be 55,000 square kilometers.

The Pearl River Delta is composed of 9 cities +2. They are:

  • Shenzhen
  • Dongguan
  • Huizhou
  • Zhuhai
  • Zongshan
  • Jiangmen
  • Guangzhou
  • Foshan
  • Zaoqing
  • Macau +Hong Kong

600px-Pearl_River_Delta_Area

Pearl River Delta (via wikimedia)

The area has been called the “world’s workshop” for good reason. Simply put, if you use some manufactured product today, whatever it  is, there is a good chance it has been produced in the PRD area. Clothing, electronics, watches, clocks garments, textiles and 60% of the world’s toys – all come from the PRD. And the industries mentioned above form industrial clusters where similar products are made with great efficiency. Couple all this with complete land, water and air transportation and excellent ports and you have today’s PRD.

China’s central government has big plans for this area. Big plans. By 2030 the area will be one big city of 40 million, any part of which can be reached by high speed train in one hour. ( Of note, the government is also planning a mega city in the North, combining Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei. This area will contain the dynamic Bohai Sea economic zone as well). Mass urbanization is clearly the future of China. The land-tilling peasant of past centuries will be but a memory. Within the megacities citizens will be free to move and not be restricted to the city, town or village where they are registered.

Pearl River Night

Pearl River at Guangzhou ( R.Morbach via flickr) 

The Pearl River moves from west to east, gathers and flows into the South China Sea and forms its own amazing delta, and is witness to the ongoing creation of the greatest urban area ever created in China, or on the Earth for that matter.