CHINA TIGHTENS ITS GRIP ON HONG KONG, AND BEYOND

by Gunnar Eigener

‘The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years.’

Chapter 1, Article 5 of the Hong Kong Basic Law

The recent introduction of the new Security Law in Hong Kong by the Chinese government has sent waves throughout the city, and beyond. The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is exactly the type of security legislation it sounds like. The law views subversion of central authority, secession from the mainland and collusion with foreign entities as criminal actions; furthermore, all applications of the law are open to interpretation. In line with communist tradition, the management of non-governmental organisations and media outlets will be stricter. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave her blessing to the legislation, and encouraged the international community to accept its legitimacy, but reactions have varied.

The tit-for-tat diplomacy that threatens to break out into a full-blown trade war between China and the United States continues to flare up regularly with the US, who is no longer justifying special trade and travel privileges for Hong Kong. In a gesture of solidarity with the people, Australia suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and the UK reassured that it would not turn its back on its commitments to Hong Kongers. The UN has issued an oral rebuke, and The EU has urged China to reconsider the law. 

Two significant escape routes for the people of Hong Kong have presented themselves since. One is through the United Kingdom, where Boris Johnson announced that those in Hong Kong with a British (Overseas) Passport could gain British citizenship, with potentially up to 3 million who could claim. The second is through Taiwan, which has set up an office to help Hong Kongers resettle  and adapt to a new life in their own borders. There has also been increased internet searches for properties abroad, particularly in the UK, Australia and Canada. 

China is a friend that the UK and indeed most other economies, cannot afford to lose.

China has reacted strongly, however, accusing the UK of interfering in its former colony and accusing Taiwan independence activists of colluding with Hong Kong independence activists. Both countries face risk, as Taiwan lives with the constant threat of military action hanging over its head while the UK may well depend heavily on economic and financial relationships with China in the future. With its lure of cheap labour, as well as Beijing’s vast global investment funds, China is a friend that the UK and indeed most other economies, cannot afford to lose.

But alas, the UK has shown itself woefully incapable of influencing Chinese policy; only the US really has that power, but Donald Trump sways between disdain for Chinese business practises and admiration for the Chinese leader. Should Joe Biden win the upcoming US presidential election in November, the US might change its stance. Biden is likely to prove more amenable to creating strong trade bonds and dispensing with tit-for-tat diplomacy.

China is accustomed to acting with impunity when it comes to violations of human rights.

The new security law in Hong Kong is the latest in a string of assertive action against political dissent, and hardly comes as a surprise. China is accustomed to acting with impunity when it comes to violations of human rights. Despite outrage over the Uyghur ‘re-education camps‘, the international community has done next to nothing about it. Despite Chinese agents kidnapping dual-nationals and putting them on trial in China, the world has stood still. Even in regards to the land grabs by China in the South Seas and on the borders with India and Nepal, the global community says a lot and does nothing. It is little wonder that China is now unafraid to pursue aggressive state actions. 

China is not going to change. The belief from Western authorities that China can be slowly tempted to change its ways is not realistic. At the same time, pointing more missiles at the country is hardly likely to encourage them to lower their guard. China has never shown any intentions of softening its position on any of its issues, such as developing bases in the South China Sea, closing so-called re-education camps or giving independence to Tibet. Ever more media savvy, the reactions to any topic in which the country or party is criticised are always measured and strong-worded. China will continue to defend itself from public criticism even if that means cutting off its nose to spite its face. Suppression of the population through the Sesame Credit system, restriction on internet access, and threats of re-education discourage many from social and public criticism and, while the rest of the world turns a blind eye, China will push ahead. 

The situation in Hong Kong has drawn condemnation from various countries mainly because of its global financial status, but the biggest problem remains mainland China’s ability to mass-produce cheap goods; goods which Western economies are relying upon to reboot their domestic economies in the wake of Covid-19.

Most countries have incoherent policies when it comes to China. Condemning its actions while continuing to seek trade deals or accept Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Most countries have allowed their supply chains to become interconnected with China to the extent that any significant action poses an immediate and serious economic risk. The Security Law is a warning shot across the bows; China intends to bring what it considers its own back into the fold and increase its political and economic reach; and that likely extends beyond Hong Kong.


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AMERICA’S FADING ROLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

by Gunnar Eigener

America’s influence in the Middle East is beginning to fray at the edges. This is bad news for both the region and the global community. America has, over the past decade, became something of a pariah in the area. Its foreign policy, already distrusted by enemies and allies alike, has looked increasingly unclear and erratic under the current administration.

While previous Presidents acted with caution and measure, the Trump White House presses on, having found in its new National Security Advisor John Bolton the man who would seemingly give weight to any decision that Donald Trump would be likely to favour, yet is already being rumoured to be behind Trump’s decision to withdraw from the North Korea Summit. Continue Reading

IRAN AND THE ART OF THE DEAL

by Gunnar Eigener

The US President, Donald Trump, has announced that the US will pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran much to the dismay of all those involved and many other countries around the world. The deal was viewed by Trump as ‘the worst deal ever’, possibly an overstatement since Iran surrendered 97% of its enriched uranium stockpile and limited to installing at a maximum 5,060 centrifuges, making the production of a nuclear weapon impossible. Still, time limits were placed on these and other elements of the deal, meaning that in 15 years, Iran could have begun its nuclear programme again. While the JCPOA can, and should, be viewed as a successful deal, it is another example of not dealing with the root cause of the problem, which is the part Iran plays in propping up terrorist organisations and brutal regimes worldwide.Continue Reading

THE LATEST NORTH KOREAN MISSILE TEST: A NEED FOR CHANGE IN U.S. GRAND STRATEGY IN THE REGION

by Oliver Steward

The latest North Korean missile launch over Japan on the 28th August 2017 is a sign that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is willing to act unilaterally, despite what any other country may think or want the regime to behave according to international accords. This is obviously disturbing and only goes to show that the North Korean regime is totally defiant towards the international community, and sticking its middle finger up at the United States and the wider world.Continue Reading

M.A.D. CAN’T SAVE US NOW.

by Toby Gill

Madness. Or, more precisely, M.A.D.ness. This is the doctrine which has governed foreign policy among major powers for the last half a century: ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ – the idea that the possession of nuclear arms is, in of itself, the ultimate deterrent against aggression from other nuclear armed powers.

It is the reason why the UK is willing to continually bankrupt itself keeping its Trident system running. It is the reason why, in the Cold War, the US and Soviets tolerated one another pouring funding into nuclear missiles, but mutually agreed to ban investment in systems to defend against nuclear missiles, as they were too dangerous. It is the reason why many International Relations experts believe that additional nuclear weapons could actually make the world a safer place. M.A.D. is the key to understanding the ecosystem of superpowers, in the Cold War and beyond.

There is, of course, only one problem – we have no idea whether it really works.

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A FRIGHTENED AND DANGEROUS NEW WORLD AWAITS? – LOOKING BACK ON OBAMA’S 2ND TERM

by Oliver Steward

Two things that have become clear with the election of Donald J Trump as President – elect.  Firstly, America’s status as a sole superpower and its Exceptionalism is coming to an end, and secondly, the liberal international order, rooted in principles of international law and community and defined in part by American hegemony, has been turned upside down.  The world is in an increasing state of flux.

While it is undergoing a process of reordering, the likelihood is that global affairs may not be very responsive to the will of the United States either through its diplomatic capacity, its institutional structures which it retains its legitimacy, or through hard power.  Authors such as Kupchan go further, arguing that America must prepare for the decline of the West, correlating with a decline in its own position.Continue Reading

THE CONSEQUENCES OF WAR

by Gunnar Eigener

When soldiers go to war, they face a grave peril. On the battlefield they face a danger that most of us back at home have no comprehension of. If we follow the logic of the Government regarding their policy of airstrikes in Syria, it is likely that boots on the ground may very well become part of the military intervention to defeat Daesh. Once again, young men and women will be asked to put their lives on the line for their country and for democracy. Irrespective of your view on a particular military venture, such men and women deserve our respect, but should our government really be sending our armed forces into war yet again, if they aren’t able to uphold their promises to look after them and guarantee their welfare when they come home?Continue Reading

NO ONE CAN WIN IN SYRIA – SO WHY ARE WE TRYING?

By Josh Wilson

I am going to be honest, I have no idea exactly is happening is Syria. Now is when I should stop writing an article about the Syrian War right? Of course, that doesn’t seem to stop everyone else from having an opinion, so I’m going to have a punt.

The Syrian ‘Civil’ War, that seems like it is now as international as the Cold War, has raged for more than 4 long years. The death and displacement it has caused is the most severe in recent history. There are so many players and interests that anyone that says they have a solution that is fool proof is lying to you. With Assad, a plethora of anti-government rebel groups, ISIS all backed by various outside sources, notably the US and Russia as well as other regional powers. The thought that any one of these groups can ultimately win and create lasting peace in the country seems like a fanciful claim to me.

Continue Reading