The West’s intense response to Hong Kong’s National Security Law is but one part of a geopolitical strategy to contain China’s growing economic power and influence, scholars and political advisers said.
The experts cautioned that when nations adopt a strategy of turning up the heat and intensifying confrontation, everybody loses in the tensions of a battered global economy. And it means that nations will face even greater challenges when working together to deal with global crises.
That stakeholders have to forge new cooperation and new rules of engagement to prevent a lose-lose result for everyone was the consensus on the sidelines of China Daily’s “National Security Law and China’s Hong Kong” webinar on Friday.
Richard Cullen, a veteran legal expert from Australia, sees the rising tensions and the sanctioning of Hong Kong over the National Security Law within the framework of “a new Cold War”.
Cullen, a visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law, said some Western countries are intent on frightening people about Chinese influence, spreading Sinophobia among global communities.
‘A new Cold War’
The enactment of the National Security Law on June 30 has met with opposition and condemnation from some Western nations led by the US. Hong Kong has seen its favored trading status revoked by the United States and replaced with economic sanctions.
Cullen cited the opinion of economist Huang Yukon, who contends that the West, led by the US, is turning the relationship with China into a zero-sum game — which America is determined to win and that “China must lose”.
“Win-win just is no longer in the American vocabulary when they talk about China,” Cullen said.
Chandran Nair, a Malaysian business leader, told China Daily that the true colors of the Western alliances have gradually emerged within this present-day climate.
“The masks have been taken off the pretext that the Western liberal order essentially is willing to co-exist with the rest (of the world). It (the West) is not willing,” said Nair, founder and CEO of Global Institute for Tomorrow, a Hong Kong-based think tank.
Nair said that the Five Eyes — an alliance of the US, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand that shares intelligence from around the world — has acted in concert, each turning up the heat amid rising tensions. All have taken a high-profile position on the National Security Law.
Cullen said that the apparently synchronous responses revealed the deep alignment among the Five Eyes members when it comes to dealing with China issues.
“On these foreign policy matters, it’s almost like the foreign policy in Australia is drafted first in the US or at least advice is given (from the US). … The members basically are pretty united (in the belief) that China is a menace that has to be dealt with.”
Cullen cautioned that careering into spasms of Sino-confrontation may be too costly for some Western countries — like Australia.
The current climate poses the threat of decoupling the West from China, the world’s second-largest economy. Australia’s economy is tightly bound to its exports of minerals and agricultural products to China, its largest trading partner in both imports and exports. Its trade surplus with China accounts for more than 80 percent of its total surplus.
According to the latest figures by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2019, Australia recorded a trade surplus of US$48.83 billion with China, a 51.1 percent jump from a year before.
Cullen suggested Australia adopt a more realistic disposition in setting its diplomatic policies. “Adjustments will have to be made to a more rational attitude of dealing with China,” he said.
Christine Loh Kung-wai, Hong Kong former undersecretary for the environment, told China Daily that the ongoing toxic global climate hurts business all around the world — including in the US.
“People seem to be driven to a situation where they have to take sides,” said Loh, who is also the founder of the local public policy think tank Civic Exchange.
Actually, businesspeople, whether they are in China, the US, or in other places, have to consider the political risks, she added.
Loh said that US sanctions will splash up on American companies. If Americans do business with regions that are sanctioned under the US law, or carry on business relationships, or have subcontractors in their supply chains, or use banks, any of those relationships involving parties under sanctions could be caught by the long arm of US law, Loh said.
What Loh stressed as even more important is international cooperation to deal with worldwide crises, such as COVID-19 and climate change. Amid the current atmosphere, efforts to deal with the most pressing issues of our times are being impeded, Loh said.
Global stakeholders share the hope that China and the US, two of the world’s most influential countries, set new rules of engagement, Loh said.
She cited Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s recent remarks that China and the US can have a new way of redefining their relationship.
“I think at this stage it’s important for more and more people to call for finding room for collaboration, rather than to continue this punch-up with each other,” Loh said.
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