Tue, Sep 03, 2019 - Page 8 News List

China: One democracy, six countries

By Joseph Bosco

The geopolitical tectonic plates are moving, and the inevitable dismantlement of the Chinese communist empire has begun.

History teaches that the lifespan of a major communist power is about seven decades, even under the best of circumstances — that is, when the dictatorship is given every strategic advantage through sporadic Western naivete, timidity and other motivations.

That was the experience of the Soviet Union after the victorious World War II Allies handed over half of Europe to Moscow’s tender mercies and expanded and prolonged communism’s rule of half the world for another 40 years.

Now, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), itself having been given a four-decade extension by misguided Western policies before and after the Tiananmen Square massacre, is finally reaching the end of the line — and US President Donald Trump and Hong Kong are the bellwethers of its demise.

As a candidate, president-elect and now as president, Trump has made clear that he is throwing out the old rulebook and approaching both domestic and international issues with a fresh, and very brash, attitude.

That became dramatically evident when he turned to the two challenges that bedeviled his predecessors for decades: the immediate security threat from North Korea and the immediate economic threat from China, along with its own growing aggression.

After setting the stage with North Korea through a maximum-pressure campaign of sanctions, credible threats of force and regime delegitimization, Trump cultivated a personal relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The combination seemed to offer the prospect of a denuclearization breakthrough until Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) intervened and hardened Pyongyang’s posture. Now, Trump must decide whether to return to maximum pressure — and whether to punish Xi for poisoning the well.

With China, the US president has emphasized the charm component while imposing expanding trade tariffs and asserting the US’ deterrent resolve in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

He has not (yet) played the human rights card against the Chinese communist regime, despite abundant opportunities presented by its cultural genocide and physical persecution of Uighurs and the crisis in Hong Kong.

However, the trade dispute alone poses an existential threat to Beijing. Trump’s escalating tactics present Xi with a dilemma. If he continues to play tit-for-tat indefinitely, the costs to the Chinese economy will keep rising at a time when the government is preparing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the PRC.

The costs could become unbearable if the US president decides to reinstate the ZTE and Huawei bans, which he imposed and then retracted as a personal favor to Xi — but for which Xi has not reciprocated on trade, maritime security, human rights or North Korea.

If, on the other hand, Beijing keeps the promises it originally made to reform its economic practices and behave like a normal global trading partner, it would lose the unfair advantages it has enjoyed for decades.

Then Xi would be unable to sustain his regime’s investment in either massive internal repression or aggressive external adventures, and would need to recalibrate his “China Dream” ambitions.

A similar Hobson’s choice confronts Beijing regarding the burgeoning, months-long civil protests in Hong Kong — again precipitated by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) brazen reneging on promises made to the world community.

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