US ends preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong

Hong Kong's skyline acts as a key symbol of the City State's economic fortune Source: Wikimedia Commons

By Dewi Morris

On Wednesday, President Trump ended the US’ preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong. This comes after China introduced new security laws which curb the democratic freedom of Hong Kong’s people.

The new law came into effect on June 30 (the day before the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China).

The security law introduces criticism of China as a crime. Critically, the law states that Beijing will hold power as to how the law is interpreted and not any judicial body in Hong Kong.

Critics claim the new law undermines the promise of 50 years autonomy for Hong Kong under ‘one country two systems,’ which would end in 2047.

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has welcomed the law, and China has claimed it will bring stability to Hong Kong.

Trump has spoken about ending the US’ preferential treatment of Hong Kong, stating the move aims to:

“hold China accountable for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong” and, “to hold responsible the individuals and entities involved in extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom.”

Trump also claims;

“we’re going to do a lot more business because of it because we just lost one competitor.”

The American-Chinese trade war

This law has been interpreted as part of the trade war between the US and China which has heated since Trump took office. The two nations are the largest economies in the world.

The US has accused China of unfair trading practices and theft of intellectual property and have therefore imposed four rounds of tariffs on imported Chinese goods since July 2018, to encourage customers to buy American products. China, in retaliation, has too imposed four rounds of tariffs on US imports.

The tariffs were perceived in China as an attempt to curb their fast-growing economy, in fear that it could overtake the US as the world’s largest economic superpower.

The end of Hong Kong’s preferential treatment means the City State will now be treated in the same way as mainland China, a blow to the Chinese economy as many Chinese products were imported to Hong Kong and then imported to the US to avoid such tariffs.

The relationship between Washington and Beijing has become especially strained in recent weeks.

Last week the US announced sanctions against Chinese officials they have claimed are responsible for violations against Uighur Muslims.

Over a million Uighurs are being detained in China’s Xinjiang region and it has recently been alleged that China have systematically used forced birth control on Uighur women, to reduce its Muslim population.

China has responded to the US imposed sanctions, having sanctioned US Republican politicians including Florida senator Marco Rubio and Texan senator Ted Cruz, although the nature of these sanctions remain unclear.

A more insular US

The Trump administration withdrew the US from WHO (the World Health Organisation), claiming it was being controlled by China, a move which has been widely criticised.

Joe Biden, who will challenge Trump for the Presidency in the November election, tweeted;

“On my first day as President, I will re-join WHO and restore our leadership on the world stage.”

The US’ withdrawal has also raised serious questioning of the WHO’s future funding, as the US was its largest single contributor, paying 15% of its total funding.

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