A statement released by a Chinese military official on the People’s Liberation Army website heavily suggests a culmination of escalating tensions between the U.S. and China: “‘A war within the president’s term’ or ‘war breaking out tonight’ are not just slogans, they are becoming a practical reality.”
The statement is a response to comments made by Trump’s Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, who criticized China’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. Days later, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reaffirmed Tillerson’s remarks, saying that Trump plans to “protect [U.S.] interests [in the South China Sea]” and “defend international territories from being taken over by one country”.
As President Xi has grown increasingly aggressive in asserting China’s global economic influence, Trump appears to be arming for a collision course. With tensions escalating by day, pundits in both the U.S. and China have expressed concern over the possibility of a “cold war” between the two nations. If Trump’s sensationalist rhetoric and repeated attacks against China (i.e. accusing the Chinese government of unfair trade practices, going so far as to say that China has been “raping” the U.S. with its trade policy; and proposing a 45% tariff on Chinese imports) do materialize in his foreign policy, the U.S. may certainly launch a trade war against China, one that could be detrimental to both nations.
Crucially, however, what does this mean for Hong Kong? Trump’s rambunctious talk and discriminatory practices (most recently, his Executive Order banning Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspending all refugee admissions for 120 days, and blocking citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.) are, in effect, perpetuating and validating attitudes, ideologies, and policies that are unjust and inhumane. Hong Kong, like many other countries and regions looking towards the U.S. to maintain and preserve the stability of world order, may find itself betrayed by a President who prides himself on “Making American Great Again” at the expense of basic human rights.