Gordon Chang, the author of "The Coming Collapse of China," said Thursday that Beijing’s threats of taking "countermeasures" over the U.S. law backing the protests in Hong Kong are “laughable” and that the nation is in no position to "anger its best customer" as its economy slumps.
Beijing was quick to admonish President Trump and Congress for passing two bills aimed at supporting human rights in Hong Kong. The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement that the bills will only "strengthen the resolve of the Chinese people, including the Hong Kong people, and raise the sinister intentions and hegemonic nature of the U.S.," and promised vague "countermeasures."
Chang said in an email that anything Beijing can do "will hurt itself more than us, and given how close its economy is to the edge of the cliff the regime could end up doing itself in by retaliating."
He continued, "For four decades, we were told by elites and policymakers that we could not afford to upset China. Wednesday, President Trump did what his predecessors would not do — defend America from a China that is going after us. The same power that is encroaching on Hong Kong’s autonomy is attacking our society across the board."
Hong Kong, a former British colony that was granted semi-autonomy when China took control in 1997, has been rocked by six months of sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations after an extradition bill surfaced last summer that – if passed – would have sent alleged criminals in Hong Kong to China for trial.
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., requires that the U.S. conducts yearly reviews into Hong Kong’s autonomy from Beijing. If ever found unsatisfactory, the city's special status for U.S. trading could be tossed.
Up until Wednesday's announcement, Trump did not indicate whether or not he would sign the bill. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to answer a reporter's question about the president's leanings as recent as Tuesday.
"I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong," Trump said in a statement. "They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all."
The bills were applauded by protesters who see them as a warning to Beijing and Hong Kong.
"In any event, let the Chinese huff and puff over the bills President Trump signed," Chang wrote. "Wednesday was a great day for America, and a great day for free societies across the world."