President Donald Trump has finally weighed in on rising tensions between Beijing and Hong Kong, tweeting Thursday that China’s President Xi Jinping could bring about a “happy and enlightened” resolution.
“If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. I have no doubt!” he wrote.
If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. I have no doubt! https://t.co/eFxMjgsG1K
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 15, 2019
Trump threaded his Thursday tweet with one he’d posted late Wednesday, hinting that if China wants a trade deal with the United States, it will have to deal with the protests “humanely.”
“I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi (Jinping) wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?” the president wrote.
Tying the trade negotiations (which one can only describe as being in shambles) with the China-Hong Kong tensions is unlikely to go over well with China’s President Xi. China has already warned against foreign interference in the situation.
Largely ignoring Trump’s musings on how it should handle the protests (China’s foreign ministry on Thursday said the comments were “noted”), Beijing issued a statement saying it was considering counter-tariffs on U.S. imports if and when Trump goes through with another round of tariffs, as he threatened earlier this month.
Frustrated with lack of progress in the talks, the president said he’d impose 10% tariffs on $300 billion in Chinese imports starting September 1. Then earlier this week, he blinked, apparently realizing that American consumers would, in fact, be paying for those tariffs in higher prices as importers and manufacturers pass the cost of the tariffs along to shoppers.
With the holiday season coming up, Trump announced on Tuesday that he’d delay that round of tariffs until December 15.
It’s been a year since Trump first slapped tariffs on Chinese goods entering the United States over what he said were unfair trading practices, which included forced transfer of technology and currency manipulation. These have been long-standing issues that other administrations have attempted to tackle — ones that ultimately lead to a massive trade deficit with China.
While the trade war has had a negative impact on China’s economy, the optics are worse for the United States. While Xi has remained largely quiet about the status of the negotiations, Trump has repeatedly claimed triumphantly that a deal was at hand.
But Trump is the only one that has proactively ratcheted up tensions, prompting China to slap tariffs on U.S. imports to China and causing trade talks to entirely break down at least twice. So far, those tactics have persuaded China to dig in for the long fight, in a likely attempt to stall until the next White House inhabitant is confirmed.
The trade war between the two nations has also increased the trade deficit and has taken the stock market on a rollercoaster ride, creating serious uncertainty in the global markets — all of which were predicted by experts from the start.
This is at least the second time in recent months that Trump has begged publicly for a meeting with Xi — the first time at the G20 summit at the end of June, and now, again, as China is facing a major crisis with Hong Kong.
Trump’s comments on Thursday come after roughly 10 weeks of protests in Hong Kong. Demonstrators have been clashing with police, demanding officials scrap a currently suspended extradition bill allowing criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial.
Formerly under British rule, Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, with pro-democracy protests flaring up now and again over the years. This most recent run of protests, which started in June, is by far the most intense.
Since the start of the current tensions, around 750 people have been detained. The standoffs have at times become violent, with police shooting off tear gas and rounds of beanbag bullets. Demonstrators took over Hong Kong’s airport for two days, prompting the cancellation of over 1,000 flights.
Protesters surrounded and attacked police stations dozens of times, and more confrontations are anticipated as demonstrators plan additional mass protests this weekend.
There’s concern that China might respond with brutality: Recent images showed hundreds of paramilitary police gathering across the bridge linking Hong Kong to mainland China, carrying out exercises at a sports complex there.