You know, in a time when we should have been looking for a trade deal, we were searching instead for trade conflict. In a time when we should be ratcheting up trade conflict, as an effect of trying to help the Hong Kong protesters, we’re not doing any of that. And so, this has led President Trump to this bizarre kind of halfway position on Hong Kong. So, in the last 24 hours he’s tweeted out, quote, “As usual, China said they were going to be buying ‘big’ from our great American Farmers. So far they have not done what they said. Maybe this will be different!”
I don’t know what the h*ll that means. And then he added quote, “Many are blaming me, and the United States, for the problems going on in Hong Kong. I can’t imagine why?”
Again, Trump is not responsible for what’s going on in Hong Kong. But this would be a time for him to stand up for freedom, in an area of the world that deserves it. It had negotiated for it and now is not receiving it from what is a geopolitical enemy of the United States. China is stealing our technology, building rival 5G networks that attempt to provide a counterbalance to our 5G networks that we are building right now. We are in a second Cold War with the Chinese.
It will stay cold, we can all hope. But the fact is that the Chinese are an expansionist power, and they have been both militarily and technologically. They’re doing so at the expense of the United States, and if we’re going to take harsh action against China, you need to make the case. Now Trump keeps making this sort of weird case where Xi Jinping is his best friend, and we’re great, going to negotiate a deal together, and at the same time the Chinese keep jacking us, and the Chinese are the worst. They’re cheating us, and they’re stealing our manufacturing jobs.
Explain what it it is you are doing, President Trump, if you want the American people to be with you — and especially again in the midst of a time when there are protesters in the streets in Hong Kong, who may be mowed down by the Chinese government in the very near future — this would be a time for you to stand up.
[You should] say: “This is why we’ve been putting tariffs on China. It’s because of crap like this that we’ve been putting tariffs on China, and as JFK put it, ‘We will bear any burden in the name of liberty.’ And I’m sorry but getting slightly more expensive goods from China in the name of liberty doesn’t seem like all that much of a burden to bear — to help the people of Hong Kong. They are flying the American flag while they are protesting for their freedom.”
This would be the time when Trump should stand up with the protesters…. In fact, members of his own administration are being a lot clearer about this. A senior administration official recently told CNBC quote, “Freedom of expression and assembly are core values we share with the people of Hong Kong. Those freedoms should be protected. The U.S. firmly rejects the notion that we are sponsoring or inciting the demonstrations.”
Again, that is sort of splitting the baby a little bit. But what you have seen from Mitch McConnell, what you’ve seen from Nancy Pelosi, what you’ve seen across the political aisle is a general support for the protesters. You’re not seeing that from the Trump administration. Now people are going to say again, “That’s a practical move by President Trump, what would you expect him to do, go to war with China or arm the protesters.” No one’s talking about that. But again, this is a guy who declared a trade war with China on the basis of them supposedly cheating us. Would it not behoove him to make similar threats with regards to them running roughshod over protesters? That if they should trash their own protesters — if they should kill a bunch of protesters — run them over with tanks or something.
That the United States will take harsh and appropriate non-military action, economic sanctions action, that we certainly will do. Trump is not going to sit still for that. So, wouldn’t you want to issue some sort of threat at this point, some sort of form of support for the Hong Kong protesters?
No, practicality and morality and moral rhetoric do not have to be on opposite sides. Ronald Reagan was able to call the Soviet Union an evil empire, even as he was negotiating with them. So, this weird notion that you have to either kowtow rhetorically to a country or go to war with them is just not proved by anything in American history. Very often the very people we are negotiating with are the people that we are speaking most harshly about — in order to bring them to the table. Trump likes to kind of wheedle people into deals, but his wheedling hasn’t produced a deal with North Korea. I understand that everybody is very up on Trump’s negotiations with North Korea. They’ve produced nothing, literally nothing, except the of the legitimization of the North Korean regime. That’s it.
So, before we get into this as a masterclass in negotiation, how about we see some good results from one of these negotiations? And then you can talk about the masterclass. In fact, the areas where Trump [has] actually accomplished something with negotiating tactics are the areas where he has been the harshest, with regard to Mexico for example. He was able to negotiate a quasi-immigration deal with Mexico, to keep many illegal immigrants in Mexico [and] to have them strengthen their own southern border. He did that by threatening them. President Trump is more effective when he is the braggadocious bully that he typically is. Not when he is doing the wheedling gladhanding routine with dictators in Turkey or China, or anywhere else on the planet.