On Tuesday afternoon, following a wild morning that found the US and China tag-teaming an effort to calm nervous investors by detailing a high-level phone call and unveiling a decision to delay planned tariffs on key consumer goods until December 15, Donald Trump spoke to reporters over the loud din of Marine One’s rotors.
Naturally, he was asked about the situation in Hong Kong, where civil unrest and violent protests have snarled traffic, forced flight cancelations and brought the city to the edge of what embattled chief executive Carrie Lam on Tuesday called “an abyss”.
Trump hasn’t been what one would call “aggressive” in warning Beijing to exercise restraint and he came up a bit short in that regard on Tuesday as well. “Well the Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation… we’ll see what happens”, he said.
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“I’m sure it’ll work out”, he continued, adding that he hopes it works out for China too. After a 30-second ramble, the president summarized his take on the situation by saying “I hope nobody gets killed”.
That’s an understatement, and it’s not exactly the kind of nonchalant attitude you want from the ostensible leader of the free world when military intervention appears imminent.
Beijing has clearly run out of patience with the situation and speculation is running high that Xi is close to sending in the PLA to restore order. That threat, along with the methods local police have used to quell the protests, have raised eyebrows in the international community, although the absence of a full-on outcry has unnerved civil rights activists.
Shortly after lunchtime, after Hong Kong police entered (and ultimately exited) the airport, Trump decided it would be a good idea to spark a panic.
“Our Intelligence has informed us that the Chinese Government is moving troops to the Border with Hong Kong”, he inexplicably tweeted, before imploring anyone in the line of fire (and you can take that literally at this point) to try and stay alive. “Everyone should be calm and safe!”, Trump shouted.
Needless to say, just about the last thing that’s conducive to keeping folks in Hong Kong “calm” is the President of the United States tweeting (with an exclamation point, no less) about US intelligence which suggests the PLA is about to institute martial law.
Of course, this whole thing is complicated by the fact that the Trump administration is probably just fine with the unrest to the extent it puts Xi in a bind. Indeed, Beijing has repeatedly accused the US of fomenting discord in the city.
In any event, “Nobody panic!” “It’s just a military invasion!”