I think it’s safe to say that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the world is seizing the moment to reassess their relationship with China. While the United States has led the West in speaking out about China’s crimes against humanity, it’s worth taking a look at how some of the countries in the Eastern hemisphere are starting to respond as more information about China’s culpability comes to light.
Many Asian countries are generally known for having centralized rule—think the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), North Korea’s dictatorship, and the tyrannical government of the Philippines. However, three recent developments may prove to be pivotal points for the future of Democracy in Asia.
Pompeo Speaks Up For Hong Kong
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed China’s treatment of the pro-Democracy protestors in Hong Kong. According to Reuters, Pompeo said at a Wednesday news briefing that he is “closely watching what is going on there.” He said this in reference to the 15 activists the Chinese government is charging with dozens of crimes for protesting the CCP. They appeared in court on Monday, standing trial for dozens of charges, including illegally assembling. Pompeo also said, “Actions like these make it more difficult to assess that Hong Kong remains highly autonomous from mainland China.”
This is significant because, long story short, China needs Hong Kong much more than they’ll willingly admit. However, while Hong Kong is technically part of China, its government also operates under a banner of “One party, two systems.” While China oversees Hong Kong’s government, the city-state operates under a democratic system, a remnant of Hong Kong’s time under British rule. It also has a capitalist free-market economy, which plays a vital role in China’s own economy. According to a fact sheet from the U.S. Consulate of Hong Kong, 43% of Hong Kong’s total trade consists of exports between the U.S. and China. Additionally, it states the U.S. was also Hong Kong’s second-largest market for services exports in 2016.
If the U.S. decides to lessen or end relations with Hong Kong-based on China’s treatment of the pro-Democracy activists, China’s economy will be directly impacted as a result. China can’t afford to take any more financial hits right now. The U.S. is already making moves to pull out of China as much as possible. Soon, they will no longer be producing our pharmaceuticals or medical supplies, and if President Trump has his way, they won’t be manufacturing anything else before too long.
Therefore, it is in China’s best economic interest to maintain what they can, especially in relation to the U.S. They are in no position to criminalize Hong Kong citizens for promoting Democracy.
China’s Control Weakens
Another leading voice in taking decisive action against China is Japan, which is considered a parliamentary democracy. Japan announced in April they are putting together a $2 billion dollar stimulus package to pay their businesses to leave China and return home.
Furthermore, on Tuesday, Taiwan’s new president sent a strong message to China in her inauguration speech. President Tsai Ing-Wen said, “Here, I want to reiterate the words, ‘peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue.’ We will not accept the Beijing authorities’ use of ‘one party, two systems’ to downgrade Taiwan and undermine the cross-strait status quo.” Taiwan is outright rejecting the same system China has been violating in Hong Kong. Further straining the relationship between Taiwan and China is the fact that the China-centric World Health Organization intentionally denied critical COVID-19 information to Taiwan due to their tensions with China and continues to exclude them from meetings.
Taiwanese manufacturer TSMC has also announced last week that they will be building a $12 billion dollar plant in the U.S. The Governor of Arizona confirmed the report and said the plant will spur more than 1,600 jobs.
Could this be the beginning of a nationalist pro-Democracy wave in Asia?
The Cause of Freedom Spreads
With the U.S. supporting Hong Kong independence, Japan leaving China, and Taiwan maintaining sovereignty, China is losing its grip on the world’s economy. If these countries become stronger while maintaining their independence from China, it could inspire other territories to make the same moves while they can.
The West, particularly America, has long criticized authoritarian rule and promoted Democracy. Whether American citizens have supported the country’s involvement in foreign conflicts or not, many of our wars have been fought in the name of bringing freedom to people across the globe. Whether it was the Israelis, Iraqis, or other populations subject to the consequences of an oppressive and/or genocidal regime, America has been there to defend them. This holds true even today, though the weapons of this new campaign are economic rather than military.
But make no mistake…the cause of freedom is spreading around the world. China’s days may be numbered.