Extradition, trade deals par for China course

| Cheng Huan 20 May 2019

Disputes involving China have been very much in the news.

Legislative business has yet again been brought to a standstill by the frantic antics of die-hard opponents of the proposed extradition regulations.

Perhaps those opponents should consider that in recent years lots of countries have been signing extradition agreements with China, including some thoroughly democratic, rule-of-law nations like France - that bastion of human rights.

Surely, what is safe and good enough for France should be equally acceptable to Hong Kong?

Our democrats also ignore China's much improved judicial landscape.

And they also ignore the unpleasant truth that our law enforcers say Hong Kong has become a refuge for fugitives from justice. Our reputation deserves better.

The absence of an extradition deal with the mainland dates back to a very different world when our colonial masters were having to deal with large numbers of refugees.

Those dark days are over, they are in the past, and they are not coming back.

But I suspect anti-extradition protesters are never going to change their minds as there are dark political forces engineered by democrats at work in the background.

Another very unfortunate struggle concerning China has been brewing in the United States.

For the first time in my memory an anti-China feeling has taken hold in America, largely because of President Donald Trump's outspoken tweets as well as his tariffs on Chinese goods and his campaign to denigrate the telecom company Huawei.

As a result, not just politicians but many US businessmen too now believe that China is a growing threat to America's hegemony.

The so-called trade war is in reality only part of a broad US challenge to China.

As the former boss of Morgan Stanley Asia, Stephen Roach, warned recently: "There are strong reasons to believe that an insecure US - afflicted by macroeconomic imbalances of its own making and fearful of the consequences of its own retreat from global leadership - has embraced a false narrative on China."

For the moment financial markets remain optimistic that Trump and President Xi Jinping will agree a deal and settle the trade war.

Maybe they will, but the anti-China sentiment rolling across the United States is probably here to stay.

The two superpowers are sizing each other up, with America clearly resenting China's emergence as a global economic and military power.

How these two mighty nations settle their differences and divide their global interests will take many decades.

There is also the problem that the ever-mercurial Trump is feeling even more pleased with himself than is usual, which is saying a lot.

Opinion polls show his supporters, who elected him president, remain loyal.

That's partly because the US economy continues to boom in a spectacular fashion.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Party has made itself unelectable by embracing socialism.

Bashing China is popular in the US rural heartland and old industrial cities, and as a result Trump is happy to play tough with China.

He's also a very happy man because his re-election in 2020 for a second presidential term appears certain.

How will it all end?

Will the trade war get out of control and lead to military confrontation?

I very much doubt it.

Will America succeed in containing China's rise?

There's no way that will happen for one overriding reason.

At some point in the future, as well as having a much larger population than America, China's population will be significantly wealthier per person. So expect decades of rivalry and mutual suspicion.

It will probably be a bumpy road.

Cheng Huan is an author and a senior counsel who practices in Hong Kong

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