Enjoy this while it lasts

Best enjoy the excitement before we return to normal. The US is threatening China with big tariff hikes because Beijing has ‘backtracked on substantial commitments’. This is a novelty to Hong Kong, where the Chinese Communist Party reneges on promises with impunity every week, year after year.

But it is also scarcely believable elsewhere in the world. Global opinion is conditioned to accept that the CCP’s Middle Kingdom cannot be resisted or even doubted, on account of 8,000 years of civilization, ancient powers of long-term strategic thinking, mysterious wise Confucian panda bears, tendency to have hurt feelings, face, guanxi, pulling zillions of people from poverty, and so much more.

The Financial Times is aghast that the US should have the impertinence to oppose Xi Jinping’s ‘Made in China’ policy. The writer seems to take it for granted that the West should bow down to what he himself describes as a ‘national security strategy for China’s emergence as a global power’. Trump, he insists, has boxed himself into a corner.

The conclusion that Trump is shallow and dim enough to be conned into a ‘deal’ before long is no doubt correct. But as of now, surely, it is the US that has (if inadvertently) boxed the CCP into a tight spot.

Willy Lam gets it. He says Xi is “adamant about party-state control over major sectors of the economy … If they give this up, then China in effect ceases to be a socialist country.” If Trump and his advisors (and the rest of the West) had their act together they would spot the CCP’s vulnerability. It can’t let go its Leninist grip on the economy, yet China should not have access to the rest of the world’s relatively level playing field unless it does. Logically, it should face banishment to semi-autarky. But sophisticated global FT/Davos opinion cannot conceive a free world that is not kowtowing to the CCP’s China.

Hong Kong can at least enjoy the (presumed) sight of Xi squirming while it lasts – before the US relents in exchange for some soybean orders.

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