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Beijing won’t make trade concessions if US plays Hong Kong card, Chinese state media says

20/8 2019 16:30

People’s Daily commentary follows Donald Trump’s suggestion that trade talks could be hampered if Beijing used violent means to suppress protests

The United States should not link trade negotiations with China to the Hong Kong protests, Chinese state media has said, denouncing such a move as a miscalculation.

Chinese diplomatic observers also said Beijing considered the worsening situation in Hong Kong a sovereignty issue and would be highly unlikely to cave to Washington’s pressure.

Their remarks came as US Vice-President Mike Pence on Monday reiterated President Donald Trump’s demand to tie the largely stalled trade talks with Hong Kong’s deepening crisis, a day after hundreds of thousands of people marched peacefully in defiance of repeated intimidation from Beijing.

A short commentary published by Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily late on Monday said that events in Hong Kong were the internal affairs of China, and linking them with trade negotiations was a “dirty” aim.

“Making a fuss about Hong Kong will not be helpful to economic and trade negotiations between China and the US,” the commentary said. “They would be naive in thinking China would make concessions if they played the Hong Kong card.”

The top priority for Hong Kong was to stop violence and restore order, it said, adding that US politicians should not send the wrong message to people creating chaos in the city.

“In the face of political intimidation, we not only dare to say no, but also take countermeasures,” it said.

Global Times, a tabloid controlled by the flagship state-run newspaper People’s Daily, also warned in an editorial on Monday that American political and public opinion elites should not harbour the illusion they could influence China’s decisions on Hong Kong.

“Because of the trade war, the US has lost the ability to impose additional pressure on China,” it said.

“The US should stop its meaningless threat of linking the China-US trade talks with the Hong Kong problem. Beijing did not expect to quickly reach a trade deal with Washington. More Chinese people are prepared that China and the US may not reach a deal for a long time.”

In an address at the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, Pence said the Trump administration would continue to urge Beijing to resolve differences with the protesters peacefully and warned that it would be harder for Washington to make a trade deal with Beijing if there was violence in the former British territory.

Chinese analysts noted Trump appeared to have hardened his stance on Hong Kong in the past week or so, under growing pressure from US lawmakers and extensive media coverage of the increasingly violent protests. 

Trump initially focused on making a deal with China ahead of his 2020 re-election bid and adopted a hands-off approach by characterising the protests as “riots” which were a matter for China to handle. Over the past few days, he suggested Chinese President Xi Jinping should resolve the situation by meeting with protest leaders and warned that any violence in the handling of the Hong Kong crisis would exacerbate difficulties for attempts to bring an early end to the trade war. 

“Trump’s about-face on Hong Kong, from being neutral to piling pressure on Beijing, is largely due to domestic political pressure ahead of the presidential elections,” said Shi Yinhong, an international relations expert at Renmin University and an adviser to the State Council – China’s cabinet.

“But the Hong Kong issue concerns China’s sovereignty and the government’s ability to maintain stability, which in Beijing’s view is of superior priority. China cannot afford to make much compromise and will do everything to fend off interventions from abroad, in spite of all the risks and ramifications,” he said.