Playing Chinese Checkers

 

Two conservative voices on Hong Kong yesterday, starting with Friend of Ricochet, Annika Rothstein:

Then Josh Hammer, Editor-at-Large at The Daily Wire:

No one (to my knowledge) is suggesting boots on the ground in Hong Kong, but it really shouldn’t be too much to ask POTUS to provide meaningful rhetorical and moral support to democratic protesters (literally) standing athwart Chinese Communist Party tyranny. There are likely other substantive measures we can take, too, that are short of boots on the ground. I hope to elaborate later this week.
This leads to the inevitable question? What is “meaningful rhetoric” without the will to back it up? I believe that’s called “drawing a red line” like Mr. Obama did in Syria. We know how that turned out.
So, what are the “substantive measures?” Is the crowd that has invested almost four years into the arguments that tariffs and Orange Man bad ignorant of basic economics now going to suggest that we slap economic sanctions against China? American jobs and American prosperity is not worth economic gamesmanship but Hong Kong is? And possibly American military lives?
Published in Foreign Policy
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 52 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Percival Thatcher

    Tell ’em the whole world is watching, Donald. It is true whether you say it or not, so you might as well say it.

    • #1
    • August 13, 2019, at 3:34 PM PDT
    • 15 likes
  2. Vance Richards Member

    • #2
    • August 13, 2019, at 3:35 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Barfly Member

    China’s situation is about as exciting as international politics can get without ordnance flying. We’ve constructively engaged their catspaw North Korea, their economy was sagging before the “trade war”, their lies about it are obvious to everyone, they’ve honked off all their neighbors, and now their international trade center is getting decidedly uppity.

    Heh. We’ve got one king already and a couple more pieces on their next-to-back row. Stupid Xi. The game has always been Draughts, but that little tyrant thinks he’s playing Go. May he live in interesting times in his Middling Kingdom.

    • #3
    • August 13, 2019, at 3:41 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  4. Front Seat Cat Member

    China has been gaining power on the backs of the free world while strengthening their strangling communist choke hold, while smiling for photo ops with our president and other world leaders. They have built islands in the Pacific to claim a strategic advantage, stolen intellectual collateral worldwide and have no qualms about it, manipulated their currency, shut down any kind of worship among Christians, demolishing churches and using cameras and scanners to control the population to keep them in line. While past presidents have tried to extend fair trade policies and advocate for human rights, they’ve been ignored, probably laughed at, while tightening the noose and gaining more power.

    Hong Kong is only as free and an ally as long as she can remain free from China. I hope Trump will stand up for freedom.

    • #4
    • August 13, 2019, at 4:40 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  5. Steve C. Member

    I don’t envy the Red Chinese the problem they’ve created for themselves.

    • #5
    • August 13, 2019, at 4:45 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Mark Camp Member

    A man of honor would not be silent in the face of such barbaric behavior. 

    But men of honor* are Out of Stock, and we’re all complacently coasting on the results of past sacrifices by past honorable leaders and followers, thinking our life of ease and peace will last forever in a country without honor, and without any production of, or even production plans for, future men–men and women, if you like–of honor.

     

     * * * * * * * *

    * Maggie Thatcher was a one of this group…it’s not a reference to the male sex.

    • #6
    • August 13, 2019, at 5:04 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. Steve C. Member

    In 1953, East Germans in Berlin took to the streets to revolt against the the East German government and their Soviet puppet masters.

    The East Germans were crushed by the Red Army.

    President Eisenhower did nothing.

    In 1956, the Hungarian people revolted against the communist government and took over.

    The Hungarian revolt was crushed under the treads of Red Army tanks.

    President Eisenhower did nothing.

    In 1968, the hardline Communist government of Czechoslovakia was replaced in a soft coup.

    The Prague Spring ended with an intervention by Warsaw Pact forces.

    President Johnson did nothing.

    In 1989, the Red Chinese massacred hundreds of their own citizens. Peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square.

    President Bush did nothing.

    Sometimes doing nothing, as distasteful as it may be, is the only realistic alternative.

    • #7
    • August 13, 2019, at 5:06 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  8. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Mark Camp: A man of honor would not be silent in the face of such barbaric behavior. 

    I think this has been one of the biggest revelations of the Trump Era is the absolute premium people put on empty rhetoric. Screw the results as long as the proprieties are followed.

    • #8
    • August 13, 2019, at 5:34 PM PDT
    • 17 likes
  9. Franco Member

    When the Brits gave up Hong Kong, this was inevitable. The USA has no standing or claim to how Chi-na deals with this. It’s unfortunate but this is the real world. Any ‘conservative’ who wants to compel Presidential blustering over this sad and possibly tragic result is way out-of-bounds.

    We are pledged to defend other nations in the region. There’s no agreement defending China’s portal of capitalism handed over by the British . If they screw that up, it will isolate them further and hurt their economy badly. It’s and interesting test. Go full commie or not? 

    Other places can take note. NYC for example.

     

    • #9
    • August 13, 2019, at 5:34 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  10. Mark Camp Member

    Steve C. (View Comment):

    In 1953, East Germans in Berlin took to the streets to revolt against the the East German government and their Soviet puppet masters.

    The East Germans were crushed by the Red Army.

    President Eisenhower did nothing.

    In 1956, the Hungarian people revolted against the communist government and took over.

    The Hungarian revolt was crushed under the treads of Red Army tanks.

    President Eisenhower did nothing.

    In 1968, the hardline Communist government of Czechoslovakia was replaced in a soft coup.

    The Prague Spring ended with an intervention by Warsaw Pact forces.

    President Johnson did nothing.

    In 1989, the Red Chinese massacred hundreds of their own citizens. Peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square.

    President Bush did nothing.

    Sometimes doing nothing, as distasteful as it may be, is the only realistic alternative.

    The question is not about whether a man who is powerless should exert power he doesn’t have. It is about whether he should speak out in protest against the persecution of his innocent, powerless brothers, in spite of his own powerlessness against evil. Only a cynic defines virtue as respect for evil as long as it is powerful. A brave man speaks even if it means his own death.

    • #10
    • August 13, 2019, at 5:35 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  11. Mark Camp Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Mark Camp: A man of honor would not be silent in the face of such barbaric behavior.

    I think this has been one of the biggest revelations of the Trump Era is the absolute premium people put on empty rhetoric. Screw the results as long as the proprieties are followed.

    The comfort that unprincipled people take in their clever choices, of whom to suck up to and whom to leave to their suffering, is soon revealed to be folly. Cunning cowardice and cynicism only appear to provide security for a little while.

    • #11
    • August 13, 2019, at 5:38 PM PDT
    • Like
  12. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Mark Camp : Cunning cowardice and cynicism only appear to provide security for a little while.

    Cunning cowardice? Wiskey Tango Foxtrot big fella. One can keep quiet or “condemn in the strongest terms” from here to eternity with the same results. But it makes you feel good so it must be correct, right? That’s called “theater.”

    • #12
    • August 13, 2019, at 5:53 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  13. Franco Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    Mark Camp: A man of honor would not be silent in the face of such barbaric behavior.

    I think this has been one of the biggest revelations of the Trump Era is the absolute premium people put on empty rhetoric. Screw the results as long as the proprieties are followed.

    Insightful and devastating.

    It looks to me that America is a concept for some people whereby we elect a President to reflect their opinions and values upon the world. (Left unconsidered is the price real people will pay for the bluster, whether in following through or ultimately backing down)

    This makes them feel better that the world is moving toward enlightenment. To them , our President needs to be a master statesman while playing the role of world moralist and champion of global freedom.

    Ironically, they want there to be some overarching authority in the world. Naturally, there isn’t, so there must be a world policeman (meaning us– our cannonfodder from the Midwest or south or from otherwise humble backgrounds, and all of our taxes and debt burdens) to somehow deter or punish totalitarian actions on the other side of the globe.

     

    And they also want a world court – the UN or other world organizations who have no method of deterring or punishing offenders. So ‘world policemen’ US military is tasked with something outside the purview of the world court, (which is riddled with corruption by the way), and now the US becomes a rogue cop taking ‘justice’ into its own hands. These police have body cameras in the form of the media, so every transgression will be broadcast.

    No thanks.

    Let’s stop trying to impose collective virtue. Practice that at the individual level. There’s something sickeningly immoral about practicing virtue by proxy.

     

    • #13
    • August 13, 2019, at 6:07 PM PDT
    • 12 likes
  14. Doug Watt Member

    Don’t want to make Beijing angry, if we can only offer words then offer them to the residents of Hong Kong. Keep Walmart shelves filled for Christmas, nothing to see here folks.

    • #14
    • August 13, 2019, at 8:34 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. rgbact Member

    American jobs and American prosperity is not worth economic gamesmanship but Hong Kong is?

    If we sanctioned China economically, it wouldn’t be for our economic benefit, it would be for a moral reason. And those moral reasons aren’t worth tanking the stock market over…..so it ain’t gonna happen. Trump already caved on some “gamesmanship” this morning….and the Dow was only tanking a little.

    Anyway, Trump’s trade war is costing about $16B in farm welfare….so I’m eager to see how he plans to gain that $16B back in “jobs and prosperity”.

    • #15
    • August 13, 2019, at 8:39 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. James Lileks Contributor

    EJHill (View Comment):
    I think this has been one of the biggest revelations of the Trump Era is the absolute premium people put on empty rhetoric. Screw the results as long as the proprieties are followed.

    One of the hallmarks of the Trump presidency is the . . . zesty nature of the president’s rhetoric, and the way it upends the usual high-flown blandishments one expects. Often the blunt or carefree rephrasing of an issue gets people talking about it again, or gives the president’s advocates an opportunity to revisit hoary shibboleths.

    The international order requires everyone to pretend Xi is a World Leader and hence on the same moral plane as Merkel, Johnson, Trudeau, et al. Tweeting something along the lines of “Troops moving into HK. China really wants to shoot kids who want freedom?” with a retweet of government white-shirt thugs laying into subway passengers with clubs might not be carefully calibrated diplomacy, but it would be bracing.

    OTOH, it would give false comfort, inasmuch as it suggested that moral support might mean actual support. I think we could have helped the Iranian insurrection, but there’s little we can do here. The question is whether the Trump era is the start of a long-term shift in American opinion about China, from indulgent indifference to cautious antagonism. And whether a D POTUS, eager to distance him or herself from all things Trumpian, embraces a pro-China policy that gives away the store in the name of the usual internationalist fictions. 

    • #16
    • August 13, 2019, at 11:03 PM PDT
    • 16 likes
  17. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    OTOH, it would give false comfort, inasmuch as it suggested that moral support might mean actual support. I think we could have helped the Iranian insurrection, but there’s little we can do here.

    Yes. It is sad and horrible. The UK should not have sold the people of HK out.

    • #17
    • August 14, 2019, at 4:01 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Front Seat Cat Member

    What about the rest of the world – our allies? THE UN? Are they standing up for Hong Kong? Remember the strong, behind the scenes collaboration between Thatcher, Pope John Paul II and Reagan against communism? They had courage and appeasement was not in their veins. Like ISIS, if it’s ignored, it spreads it poisonous tentacles further and further. The Soviets had a plan to roll through Western Europe and Poland was ground zero.

    • #18
    • August 14, 2019, at 6:41 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    OTOH, it would give false comfort, inasmuch as it suggested that moral support might mean actual support. I think we could have helped the Iranian insurrection, but there’s little we can do here.

    Yes. It is sad and horrible. The UK should not have sold the people of HK out.

    I agree that the situation is dreadful, but what do you think the UK should have done differently? I don’t see how the UK could have held the territory, if the PRC wanted to take it. Further, after the expiration of the 99-year lease in 1997, the UK had no legitimate claim to most of the land mass (about 86% HK’s area, according to Wikipedia).

     

    • #19
    • August 14, 2019, at 6:48 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Front Seat Cat: Remember the strong, behind the scenes collaboration between Thatcher, Pope John Paul II and Reagan against communism?

    Remember when the United States had a bipartisan policy not to sell debt or send our manufacturing base to a Communist country? Good times. Good times…

    • #20
    • August 14, 2019, at 7:31 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  21. Columbo Member

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    What about the rest of the world – our allies? THE UN? Are they standing up for Hong Kong? Remember the strong, behind the scenes collaboration between Thatcher, Pope John Paul II and Reagan against communism? They had courage and appeasement was not in their veins. Like ISIS, if it’s ignored, it spreads it poisonous tentacles further and further. The Soviets had a plan to roll through Western Europe and Poland was ground zero.

    • #21
    • August 14, 2019, at 7:46 AM PDT
    • Like
  22. Theodoric of Freiberg Member

    We need to stand with Hong Kong, but we can’t because virtually all of American manufacturing has been shipped to China for their cheap slave labor.

    Here’s what should be said (below), but we weren’t faced with these economic constraints at the time because we didn’t do business with communist countries during the Cold War. In essence, we’ve already made a deal with the Chinese people’s slave masters.

    • #22
    • August 14, 2019, at 7:49 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. Western Chauvinist Member

    Theodoric of Freiberg (View Comment):

    We need to stand with Hong Kong, but we can’t because virtually all of American manufacturing has been shipped to China for their cheap slave labor.

    Here’s what should be said (below), but we weren’t faced with these economic constraints at the time because we didn’t do business with communist countries during the Cold War. In essence, we’ve already made a deal with the Chinese people’s slave masters.

    Dang! Who was that man’s speech writer?!! ;-)

     

    • #23
    • August 14, 2019, at 8:27 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. Zafar Member

    Talk is just talk

    • #24
    • August 14, 2019, at 9:40 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Retail Lawyer Member

    Does the US have a dog in this fight? A very bad eventual outcome for Hong Kong was assured with the terms on which the UK pulled out. I do not think it wise to give false assurance to Hong Kong that we have their back. Trump is negotiating and preparing for several other flashpoints with China and he has (apparently) decided not to draw a red line here.

    The whole world is watching whether or not Trump states that obvious point. Xi does not appear to care.

    And what are the leaders of Sweden doing about this situation?

    • #25
    • August 14, 2019, at 10:28 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. colleenb Member

    I really see both sides of this situation – or maybe its multiple sides. I would like President Trump to speak up for the Hong Kong people (“The whole world is watching” for instance). At the same time I know the US cannot do much of anything to help. I am reading Korda’s book about the Hungarian Revolution. Is this a similar situation where it shows a flaw in Chinese communism that will eventually lead to its downfall? Or is the Chinese totalitarianism going to succeed because of the high tech world we live in and the control they can exert on peoples’ lives?

    • #26
    • August 14, 2019, at 10:42 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  27. Stad Thatcher

    Not to pick and choose, but Taiwan has a much stronger argument for our support than Hong Kong. My guess is Chinese tanks will eventually do to the Hong Kong protests as they did in Tiananmen Square: wipe any resistance off the map.

    • #27
    • August 14, 2019, at 11:31 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. Bill Nelson Member

    EJHill: What is “meaningful rhetoric” without the will to back it up?

     

    First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    Martin Niemöller

     

    • #28
    • August 14, 2019, at 11:47 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    Bill Nelson: First they came for the socialists…

    OK, Bill. And when you “speak up” for the residents of Hong Kong and the Chinese still crush them, what have you accomplished except assuage your own conscience? Unless you’re willing to back it up with the business end of a gun?

    • #29
    • August 14, 2019, at 12:06 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    OTOH, it would give false comfort, inasmuch as it suggested that moral support might mean actual support. I think we could have helped the Iranian insurrection, but there’s little we can do here.

    Yes. It is sad and horrible. The UK should not have sold the people of HK out.

    I agree that the situation is dreadful, but what do you think the UK should have done differently? I don’t see how the UK could have held the territory, if the PRC wanted to take it. Further, after the expiration of the 99-year lease in 1997, the UK had no legitimate claim to most of the land mass (about 86% HK’s area, according to Wikipedia).

     

    They should have said, based on a vote of the people, it is staying. Force China to take it. I don’t think they would have. 

     

    • #30
    • August 14, 2019, at 12:52 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  1. 1
  2. 2