Hong Kong and the Tariff war.

There they are, week after week, the residents of Hong Kong protesting the mainland’s suppression of their liberties, in violation of the agreement China signed in 1997 with England which would guarantee the territory keeping their rights for another 50 years. Week after week the protesters continue to fight, and week after week the police and armed thugs push them back.

Is the rest of the world taking a firm stand against the mainland’s repression of the protesters?

No.

The US could be summoning international support to tell China not to mistreat the protesters but it is not. And it is not because Mr Trump has not valued our alliances.

Our president may think he has achieved a great victory in getting China – through his imposition of tariffs – to drop from being our number one trading partner to becoming our third largest, behind Canada and Mexico, but that is no victory at all. Instead, what the tariffs have done is increase animosities and hurt the global economy.

As Trump has carried on with applying tariffs on China and threatening them on our allies, our stature in the world has diminished.

As Trump has carried on against immigrants, our moral standing has suffered too.

Meanwhile, with each protest, the people in Hong Kong keep sending out a call to the nations of the world to take a stand with them in the fight for freedom. We used to be able to hear those calls but gone is our moral leadership.

Can we ask China not to repress the protesters in Hong Kong when we are bashing them with tariffs? They would laugh at us.

Can we ask the rest of the world to take a stand with us? The likely answer, ‘aren’t you all about making America great again? That doesn’t include us, does it?’

The courageous people of Hong Kong will fight on because that is their precious land. They are fighting for their freedom. They are also fighting for the freedom of all Chinese, even those in the mainland whose voices are harshly suppressed.

One day China will be free, and they will do so fueled by the memories of the sacrifices of their brothers and sisters in Hong Kong.

What Mr Trump doesn’t get, is that China’s drive for becoming a great nation cannot be stopped.

Yes, they have traded unfairly and stolen technology, but they have it in them to learn from it and create their own. Didn’t they already travel to the other side of the moon without our help?

A different approach to the trade problem was available, and still is, one that includes cooperation with our allies who are also affected. But our myopic president dismissed such option. The complexities of the world dwarf him.

Had he not started a tariff war, we, and the rest of the world, could well have been in a better position to stand together in defense of Hong Kong.

And yet, still we hope, that Hong Kong doesn’t turn into another Tiananmen.

Dear Xi Jinping

I would like to ask that you not repress the protesters in Hong Kong. They are not threatening your reign in China.

The protesters do stand, however, as examples of what China should and could become, a first class society where freedom of speech and assembly are essential to the wellbeing and creativity of the population.

It took fundamental economic reforms for China to rocket into prominence in the last 40 years. And more is to come. But it won’t happen without freedom.

It is tempting for some to say that the enormous progress China has made, is primarily the result of the rule of the Communist Party.

You know that that is not true.

You have certainly provided guidance and structure, but without the fundamental economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping, and the enormous talent and determination of the Chinese people, the country would not be where it is today.

Autocracy, tight governmental control, the system you represent, will eventually become an obstacle to the continued growth of the nation.

The world, Mr Jinping, needs China’s valuable contributions. Your nation should not be held back.

To your north and to your east, by contrast, Russia and North Korea stand as examples of all that goes wrong with autocratic systems. The productivity of their people has been long stymied.

While China has benefitted in part from the regimentation it has lived under and the openness to America and the West, it now needs to move to another phase of development, a new phase that requires freedom of speech and assembly as its essential ingredient.

So let Hong Kong and Taiwan stand as showcases of what is possible.

Have the wisdom and courage to allow different systems to evolve alongside your autocracy.

And learning from their experience and yours, allow for the gradual transformation that is essential for China to continue its rise to affluence and prominence.

Learn from tolerating difference right next to the mainland and use what you learn to prepare the mainland for the challenges that lie ahead.

History will not be kind to men like Putin and Kim Jong Un. They will be remembered as mere tyrants. You, on the other hand, have the option of another outcome.

And it could start right now, with you not repressing and persecuting the courageous and idealistic Hong Kong protesters.

It could start with you showing tolerance, kindness and wisdom, and by doing so signaling to the world that your nation has the power of compassion that other nations should strive to emulate.

History will forever remind us of Tiananmen. We should never repeat it.

It’s up to you, Mr Jinping.

Your choice.

Thanks

The Hong Kong Protests: A View From Afar

It has been impressive, the courage of the protesters, the tenacity and creativity which with they have organized. The spark that set things off, the law that would have allowed for the extradition to the mainland of criminal suspects from Hong Kong, has been pulled back, and yet the protests have continued, making more demands from the Beijing appointed authorities governing Hong Kong.

Today, the protesters occupied the airport forcing the cancellation of flights.

How will it end? is the question in everyone’s mind.

What seems clear is that Xi Jinping will not make any concessions that jeopardize his control over the territory. He would prefer for the protests to die out and for the violence to cease but the dissidents are not giving any signs that that is their intention.

No one, Xi or anyone else, wants to see the repeat of Tiananmen Square 30 years ago this last June 4th.

Does the leadership of the movement have the capacity to redirect the energies of the protesters? If it does this is the time to use it so that the violence is turned down. Could they, for instance, change strategy and aim for concessions allowing political bodies run by the mainland to grant greater representation to the people of Hong Kong?

The protest organizers’ surely realize that continued violence will not advance their cause and instead invite brutal repression.

Should that happen the world may stand in solidarity with the protesters but the victims will remain victims.

Trade with China may pause briefly but eventually will continue, and the dead will not be brought back.

Hong Kong today retains economic value to the mainland – it has the 4th richest stock market, right behind Japan – but eventually that value will be transferred to the mainland. It’s a matter of time.

But there’s something unique about the struggle of the protesters. And it’s their yearning for a voice, their thirst for their freedom.

The rest of China, under the thumb of Xi Jinping and the party, must be looking at Hong Kong and, in the recesses of their minds and hearts, realize that one day they would like to have the freedom to express themselves. In the recesses of their heart and minds, they must be envying the courage of the protesters from Hong Kong, even if they may deride them in public, because deep down, every Chinese person, like every man or woman on this earth, wants to have the choice to be free.

Trump and Xi will continue with the trade war but Hong Kong should not be part of it.

Hong Kong’s protests are about the aspirations of every human being.

Iran and the Shooting Down of a US Drone

Escalation, yes. A country with its back against the wall from the US imposed sanctions, could do a lot worse than shooting down a drone whose position in flight may or may not have been in Iranian airspace. And Trump could easily have retaliated with a strike against their military installations but did not.

Surely the hawks in his inner circle, Pompeo and Bolton, would very much have liked that choice. But the president, looking ahead to his political survival, made the decision that best suited his agenda: winning his reelection.

Trump weighed the pros and cons. An attack on Iranian installations, even if no lives were lost, an unlikely event, would have led to another Iranian response, and a chain reaction easily set in motion.

Does Trump want a protracted war on his hands as he tries to rally support for his reelection?

No.

Additionally, on June 18-19 when the G-20 meeting takes place in Osaka, Japan, all eyes will be on Trump and Xi Jinping regarding a possible resolution to the ongoing trade war between the two countries.

A war in the background likely weakens Trump’s position, so he chose to be sensible and hold his hand.

Apparently cyber attacks were ordered and further economic sanctions imposed as a result of the drone attack, but no lives will be lost.

Iran has been funding terrorist actions in the region and that has been going on for years. Empowering the people who are targeted by those actions will be the best way to counter them.

And so, too, inside Iran itself, for eventually it will be up to Iranians to confront their leaders and demand a regime change.

Current events show us that this is possible and likely more fundamental in its effects than the intervention of a foreign power in a nation’s affairs.

Today, in Turkey, the city of Istanbul got a new mayor who is a member of the opposition to Erdogan’s ruling party and was bitterly resisted by him. It is a great moment for Turkish democracy.

Last weekend, the people of Hong Kong came out in great numbers to oppose a rule that would have allowed the extradition of a resident of the city to the mainland. The rule was clearly a move to undermine Hong Kong’s democratic institutions. And the people responded with an enormous display of courage. What an inspiration for the rest of China and for the world.