China’s move to strip away another layer of Hong Kong’s autonomy was not a rash impulse. It was a deliberate act, months in the making. It took into account the risks of international umbrage and reached the reasonable assumption that there would not be a significant geopolitical price to pay.
As a provocative move, it is just the latest.
With the world distracted by the pandemic’s devastating toll, China has taken a series of aggressive actions in recent weeks to flex its economic, diplomatic and military muscle across the region.
China’s Coast Guard rammed and sank a fishing boat in disputed waters off Vietnam, and its ships swarmed an offshore oil rig operated by Malaysia. Beijing denounced the second inauguration of Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, and pointedly dropped the word peaceful from its annual call for unification with the island democracy.
Chinese troops squared off again last week with India’s along their contentious border in the Himalayas.
All are longstanding tensions, but the decision to impose new national security laws on Hong Kong, bypassing the semiautonomous territory’s own legislative process, shows what can happen with an unbridled China, no longer restrained by the fear of international rebuke.
“There was this idea before about China being cautious and trying to cultivate its soft power around the world,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University and the author of “China Tomorrow: Democracy or Dictatorship?” “Those times are gone with Xi Jinping.”
Mr Xi, who is seven years in power has pursued a “great rejuvenation” of the Chinese state, has emerged from the pandemic newly emboldened, seizing on nationalistic themes to deflect from the government’s early failures in stopping the coronavirus’s spread.
He still faces enormous economic and diplomatic challenges. New protests erupted in Hong Kong on Sunday, and resistance to greater control by Beijing could threaten the territory’s role as a financial centre.
Officials and state media outlets have lashed out at the United States and other countries, accusing them of supporting “separatists” and “terrorists” in an effort to weaken the power of the Communist Party.
On the defensive over their handling of the virus, President Trump and his aides have sought to blame China for the pandemic’s toll in the United States. The criticism, by all appearances, has done little to moderate Mr Xi’s actions. It may even have emboldened them, as Chinese officials point to the failures in the United States and other countries as evidence of the Communist Party’s better model of governance.
The Trump administration has, in turn, intensified its actions against China, imposing restrictions on trade and technology, praising Ms Tsai’s inauguration and even marking the 25th anniversary of the disappearance of the 11th Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism.
“The United States, in fact, is pouring oil on the fire, barrel by barrel,” Tian Feilong, a professor of law at Beihang University in Beijing, said in a telephone interview. “The central government is therefore actually just safeguarding its own most basic national security interests.”
China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, said on Sunday that the two countries could still work together to promote global peace and stability, but he denounced those in the United States who seek American hegemony.
“It’s time for the United States to give up it’s wishful thinking of changing China,” Mr Wang said, accusing American officials of having a Cold War mentality.
Mr Xi’s move against Hong Kong has nonviolent echoes of President Vladimir V. Putin’s forceful seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, which was a violation of international law and of Russia’s previous diplomatic commitments. The annexation made Mr Putin an international pariah for a while, but Russia still remains firmly in control of Crimea.
While Mr Xi is using legislation rather than military force in a territory already under Chinese rule, it is nonetheless a brash move by an autocratic leader willing to risk international condemnation to resist what he views as foreign encroachment on his country’s security.
“The Communist Party doesn’t care anymore about the reactions, because it’s about survival, the stability of the one-party system, avoiding the fate of the Soviet Union,” Mr Cabestan said. “Hong Kong is being perceived more and more as a base of surveillance, as a factor in the destabilization of the Chinese state.”
The challenges facing Mr Xi come at a time when China’s major rivals, the United States above all, are in disarray, giving Mr Xi more room to manoeuvre.
Britain, which is a signatory to the 1984 treaty that promised Hong Kong — its former colony — basic freedoms until 2047, issued a statement with Australia and Canada saying that they were “deeply concerned.” Senior Trump administration officials also denounced Mr Xi’s gambit, warning that they could reconsider the territory’s special trade privileges or impose other sanctions. President Trump, whose few comments about Hong Kong have been inconsistent, said little.
For those who support Hong Kong’s unique status as Asia’s commercial and cultural crossroads, warnings no longer suffice in the face of determined pressure from Beijing.
Victoria Hui, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame and author of a book on the 2014 Hong Kong protests known as the Umbrella Movement, said the international community had often spoken out against China’s steady accretion of power over the territory but had exacted no real punishment.
That has been the case for the most egregious violations of basic rights in Hong Kong in recent years, including extrajudicial kidnappings, excessive use of force by the police last year and the arrests of leading democratic leaders a week ago.
“The international pushback has been so weak,” Ms. Hui said. “Beijing is daring foreign governments to continue to issue words but take no actions.”
China’s tactics under Mr. Xi today contrast those of his immediate predecessors, who prioritized China’s reforms and opening over confrontation with its neighbours or the broader world. “Hide our strength, bide our time” was Deng Xiaoping’s adage a generation ago.
When Taiwan was moving to hold its first presidential elections in 1996, China conducted intimidating missile tests in the Taiwan Strait. It was forced to back down when President Bill Clinton ordered American aircraft carriers to the waters in a show of military support for the island’s defence.
Mr. Xi has steadily built up China’s air and naval power, making a similar move by the United States today much riskier. Chinese forces routinely menace the island, as its first operational aircraft carrier did last month, forcing Taiwan’s military to scramble jets and ships. The seventh similar incident this year, it signalled China’s determination to block Taiwan from formally establishing its independence.
For Beijing’s leaders, China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong is as emotionally charged.
Under the Basic Law, the mini-constitution that governs the territory, Hong Kong is obliged to adopt rules “to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition and subversion” against the Chinese government. When the city’s legislature tried to do so in 2003, Beijing retreated in the face of huge street protests.
“China was in a very different place globally,” said Rana Mitter, the director of the University of Oxford China Center. “China’s economy was growing in 2003, but it wasn’t the second biggest economy in the world and quite the economic behemoth it is today.”
There is also a more subtle difference that the pandemic has accentuated. Beijing spent years deflecting criticism of its system by saying that China was not yet ready for more democratic freedoms, effectively leaving open the possibility for greater liberalization of the political system, as many inside and outside the country hoped.
China, Mr. Mitter said, is now a “state which no longer apologizes for being authoritarian.”
On Friday, Mr. Xi told delegates at the annual session of the legislature, the National People’s Congress, that the country’s system was the “the broadest, most genuine, and most effective democracy to safeguard the fundamental interests of the people.”
Such confidence has allowed Mr. Xi to brush aside international concerns about China’s behavior at home and abroad: the absence of government transparency and accountability, the countless arrests of those who express dissent, the mass detention of more than one million Uighurs and other Muslims in the western province of Xinjiang.
It has also emboldened China in ways that create the possibility of armed conflict.
On the remote border with India, Chinese forces have twice in the last month clashed with Indian troops, prompting both sides to send in re-enforcements. India has accused China of blocking patrols on its side on the Line of Control, the unofficial border.
China has also stepped up its efforts to dominate the South China Sea despite the territorial claims of countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
In April, it created two new administrative districts to govern the islands it controls in the Paracel and Spratly chains. China’s Navy also said that it had succeeded in growing cabbage and other vegetables in the sand of Woody Island, helping to feed the growing number of troops stationed there.
“Chinese aggression is not always just rhetorical,” Alice G. Wells, an assistant U.S. Secretary of State, said in a telephone briefing in Washington last week.
“So whether it’s in the South China Sea or whether it’s along the border with India,” she said, “we continue to see provocations and disturbing behavior by China that raises questions about how China seeks to use its growing power.”
China’s movement to strip off another layer of Hong Kong’s independence wasn’t a rash impulse. It was a deliberate action, months in the building. It took into consideration the dangers of international umbrage and attained the sensible premise that there might be a substantial geopolitical price to cover.
As a provocative movement, it’s simply the most recent.
Together with the world diverted by the pandemic’s devastating toll, China has taken a series of aggressive activities lately to flex its economic, military and diplomatic muscle throughout the area.
China’s Coast Guard rammed and sank a fishing vessel in contested waters off Vietnam, and its own boats swarmed an offshore oil rig run by Malaysia. Beijing denounced the next inauguration of Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, and pointedly dropped the term calm out of its yearly call for unification using the island democracy.
Chinese troops squared off last week using India’s as well as their controversial boundary in the Himalayas.
All are longstanding tensions, however, the choice to enforce new federal security legislation on Hong Kong, bypassing the semiautonomous land’s own legislative procedure, reveals what can occur with an unbridled China, no longer controlled by the fear of international rebuke.
Mr. Xi, who in seven decades in power has chased a”good rejuvenation” of the Chinese country, has emerged out of the pandemic recently emboldened, yanking nationalistic topics to divert in the government’s early failures in quitting the coronavirus’s disperse.
He faces enormous diplomatic and economic struggles. New protests erupted in Hong Kong on Sunday, and immunity to control by Beijing could undermine the land’s role as a financial centre.
Officials and say media outlets have lashed out in the United States and other countries, accusing them of encouraging”separatists” and”terrorists” in a bid to weaken the ability of the Communist Party.
It can also have emboldened themes Chinese officials point to the failures from the United States and other nations as proof of the Communist Party’s greater version of governance.
“The central authorities are consequently actually just protecting its most fundamental national security interests”
China’s leading diplomat, Wang Yi, said on Sunday the two nations could work together to promote international peace and stability, but he denounced people in the United States that hunt Western hegemony.
“It is time for the United States to give its own thinking of changing China,” Mr Wang said, accusing American officials of giving birth to a Cold War mentality.
Mr Xi’s movement against Hong Kong has nonviolent echoes of President Vladimir V. Putin’s strong seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, that has been a breach of international law and of Russia’s past diplomatic obligations. The annexation made Mr Putin an international pariah for some time, but Russia still remains firmly in command of Crimea.
While Mr Xi is utilizing laws instead of military force at a land already under Chinese rule, it’s nonetheless a brash movement by an autocratic leader ready to risk international condemnation to withstand what he sees as foreign encroachment on his own nation’s security.
“The Communist Party does not care about the responses, since it is about survival, the equilibrium of this one-party system, preventing the fate of the Soviet Union,” Mr. Cabestan explained. “Hong Kong has been perceived increasingly as a foundation of surveillance, as an element in the destabilization of the Chinese country.”
The challenges facing Mr. Xi come in a time when China’s major competitors, the United States most importantly, are in disarray, providing Mr. Xi more space to maneuver.
Britain, that will be a signatory to the 1984 treaty that promised Hong Kong — its former colony — fundamental freedoms until 2047, issued an announcement with Australia and Canada stating that they had been”deeply worried” Senior Trump government officials denounced Mr. Xi’s gambit, warning they could rethink the land’s particular trade privileges or impose different sanctions. President Trump, whose couple remarks about Hong Kong were inconsistent,” said small.
Victoria Hui, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame and author of a publication on the 2014 Hong Kong protests called the Umbrella Movement, said the international community had frequently spoken out against China’s constant accretion of power within the land but had exacted no actual punishment.
That’s been the situation for the most egregious violations of fundamental rights in Hong Kong in the last few decades, such as extrajudicial kidnappings, excessive use of force by the authorities this past year along with the arrests of major democratic leaders per week ago.
“The international pushback was so feeble,” Ms. Hui stated. “Beijing is adventurous foreign authorities to continue to issue words take no action.”
China’s approaches under Mr. Xi now contrast those of the immediate predecessors, who prioritized China’s reforms and opening confrontation with its neighbors or even the wider world. “Hide our power, bide our time” has been Deng Xiaoping’s adage that a generation past.
It had been made to back down when President Bill Clinton ordered American aircraft carriers into the seas in a series of military assistance for the island’s defense.
Mr. Xi has steadily built up China’s naval and air power, which makes a similar move by the United States now much riskier. Chinese forces regularly menace the islandas its very first operational aircraft carrier did last month, forcing Taiwan’s army to subdue jets and boats. The similar episode this season, it suggested China’s decision to block Taiwan from formally establishing its own independence.
After the town’s legislature attempted to achieve this in 2003, Beijing retreated in the face of enormous street protests.
“China was at a really different location internationally,” said Rana Mitter, the manager of the University of Oxford China Center. “China’s market was growing in 2003, but it was not the 2nd most important market in the world and quite the financial behemoth it’s today.”
There’s also a more subtle difference that the pandemic has highlighted. Beijing spent years deflecting criticism of its own system by stating that China wasn’t yet prepared for more democratic liberty, effectively leaving open the chance for increased liberalization of their governmental system, as lots of inside and outside the nation expected.
China, Mr. Mitter stated, is currently a”country which no more apologizes to be authoritarian.”
On Friday, Mr. Xi informed delegates at the yearly session of this legislature, the National People’s Congress, the nation’s system was the”the broadest, most real, and best democracy to protect the basic interests of the public”
This assurance has enabled Mr. Xi to sweep aside international concerns regarding China’s behaviour in the home and overseas: the lack of government transparency and responsibility, the innumerable arrests of people who express dissent, the mass detention of over one million Uighurs and other Muslims from the western province of Xinjiang.
It’s also emboldened China in a way that produce the possibility of armed conflict.
About the distant border with India, Chinese forces have twice in the previous month battled with Indian troops, prompting both sides to ship in re-enforcements.
China has also stepped up its attempts to control the South China Sea regardless of the territorial claims of nations like Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
In Aprilit made two new administrative districts to regulate the islands that it controls at the Paracel and Spratly chains. China’s Navy also stated that it had succeeded in developing cabbage and other veggies at the sand of Woody Island, helping to nourish the rising number of troops stationed there.
“Chinese aggression isn’t always only rhetorical,” Alice G. Wells, a helper U.S. Secretary of State, stated in a phone briefing in Washington a week.
“So whether it is from the South China Sea or whether it is along the boundary with India,” she stated,”we continue to observe provocations and disturbing behavior by China that raises concerns concerning the way China attempts to use its own growing power”