“I’m not excited about anything with respect to China”, Donald Trump said Wednesday, just in case anyone was under the impression that relations between the world’s two superpowers might thaw anytime soon.
As previewed here last week, China has spent the last several days pointing to nationwide protests across America (and particularly the administration’s handling of those protests) as evidence of hypocrisy vis-à-vis Beijing’s plans to impose mainland security protocol to help quell violent demonstrations in Hong Kong.
But it’s not just America’s position on the Hong Kong issue that’s undermined by the demonstrations against racial inequality across the US. Ongoing discrimination against African Americans also undercuts the State department’s moral authority when it comes to human rights abuses committed against Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.
China is taking full advantage of the situation.
“We always oppose racial discrimination”, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, during a Wednesday media briefing. “We hope the US government will take concrete measures to fulfill its obligations under the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination to protect the legal rights of ethnic minorities”, he added.
That has to be absolutely maddening for Mike Pompeo, but such is life, and such are America’s foreign policy dilemmas as long as the country refuses to confront and address its own “original sin” (i.e., slavery) in a serious way.
“China has shown patience toward the Hong Kong riots”, a Global Times commentary reads. “Does the White House believe that deploying the military can solve its deep-seated problems?”
The answer would appear to be “yes” if you ask Donald Trump (or William Barr), but it’s a definite “no” if you ask Mark Esper – you know, the guy in charge of the military.
“The National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support to civil authorities in these situations in support of local law enforcement”, Esper told the media on Wednesday, during a somewhat forlorn press conference.
“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations”, the Defense chief went on to remark. “We are not in one of those situations now”.
Perhaps fearing he wasn’t making himself clear, he reiterated: “I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act”.
That is about as unequivocal as it gets in terms of the Pentagon rebuking the president. Esper also called Trump’s widely-criticized jaunt to St. John’s Episcopal Church “a photo op” and said he knew nothing about the plans when he and Mark Milley accompanied the president on Monday evening after protesters were gassed and fired upon with rubber bullets.
Trump claims he didn’t order the protesters dispersed and says no tear gas was used. “I didn’t say, oh, move them out”, Trump told Fox’s Brian Kilmeade. “They didn’t use tear gas”.
That latter contention is starkly at odds with the events as they unfolded on live television Monday evening. Every national media outlet was broadcasting live when police deployed some manner of gas or smoke into the crowd.
Meanwhile, Trump suspended passenger flights from Chinese airlines to the US. The Transportation department says it was “responding to the failure of the Government of the People’s Republic of China to permit US carriers to exercise the full extent of their bilateral right to conduct scheduled passenger air services”.
The order is effective from June 16 and applies to Air China, China Eastern Airlines Corp, China Southern Airlines, and Hainan Airlines.
There’s a long-winded rationale which you can read for yourself (below), but the bottom line is that this is just another tit-for-tat escalation on top of the myriad issues which have plunged the world’s two largest economies into the closest thing to a cold war since… well, since the Cold War.
All of the above speaks to frayed nerves and high drama both on the domestic and foreign policy fronts, as the White House is now apparently out of sync with the Pentagon on the relative merits of deploying active-duty US troops against American citizens, and still determined to find time for daily escalations with Beijing.
Department of Transportation noticeDOT-OST-2020-0052-0014_attachment_1 (1)