• U.S., Australian and Japanese forces participate in a trilateral exercise dedicated to a free and open Pacific. These and other nations are worried about China's aggression in the wake of the Middle Kingdom reneging on its 50-year promise of economic and political autonomy to Hong Kong. Credit: U.S. Navy photo
     U.S., Australian and Japanese forces participate in a trilateral exercise dedicated to a free and open Pacific. These and other nations are worried about China's aggression in the wake of the Middle Kingdom reneging on its 50-year promise of economic and political autonomy to Hong Kong. Credit: U.S. Navy photo

China’s Hong Kong Crackdown Spurs Indo-Pacific Distress

July 22, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Other countries are taking note as the Beijing government breaks its promise.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a sweeping effect across the Indo-Pacific region, but ultimately the most disruptive security threat to that vast area may turn out to be China’s strongarm moves against Hong Kong, says the head of the U.S. command for that region. Adm. Phil Davidson, USN, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, specifically cited the Hong Kong crackdown as having a greater effect on security over that hemisphere of the globe.

Speaking at a media roundtable, Adm. Davidson said that other nations are alarmed by China breaking its promise to allow Hong Kong to keep its economic and political systems until 2049. “China’s reneging on its 50-year agreement to maintain Hong Kong’s political structure has sent a chill across the entire region,” he declared. “It certainly vacates the idea of ‘one country, two systems’ as a promise from China is totally undermined by China’s activities.

“Across the region, whether it’s a first island chain nation or a close neighbor like [South] Korea or as far away as Australia, it really sends a chill with the idea that a nation with a closed and authoritarian internal order is willing to undermine its own promises in order to extend that closed and authoritarian order elsewhere,” he pointed out. “That has to be particularly alarming for everyone.”

Adm. Davidson noted that the objection to China’s moves is not an attempt to contain China. The nations of the region are concerned about the Middle Kingdom’s efforts to supplant the rules-based international order, and that is the focus of efforts by the United States and its allies. The United States considers China its biggest strategic challenge.

And the Hong Kong move, along with territorial declarations in the South China Sea, are a part of China’s long-term strategy that seems to be accelerating. Adm. Davidson offers that the COVID-19 pandemic is having significant effects across the region, but none may be more significant than China’s exploitation of it. “They are using COVID-19 to take advantage of the timing and opportunity that it presents,” he stated. This includes squeezing other nations, such as Australia, that have tried to examine closely how China handled the pandemic.

“Every democratic nation in the region is watching what’s happening in Hong Kong and worrying about their own situation,” the admiral continues. “Proximity plays a reason in everybody’s calculation across the first island chain.”

These actions are increasing concern in Taiwan and other nations that seem to be targets of Chinese moves. China’s activities are part of an increased aggression designed to further China’s aims. The admiral described these as “a whole-of-party effort to coerce and corrupt the idea of a free and open Pacific.

“They believe that Asia is not just for Asians,” Adm. Davidson declared. “They believe that Asia is for China, and they are starting to advance that idea at a quicker rate."

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