Recent events in Hong Kong are even more important to us in our country today – another lesson to be learned. The Communist Party of China (CCP) has restored “Law and Order” with the National Security Law. Dissidents jailed, no protests, writing anything against the party on social media or print is subversion, even school books will be changed … they will have “Law and Order. But don’t think what is happening in Hong Kong can’t happen to us. The right to protest (peaceful) is our constitutional right; taking a knee or marching. Writing opposing views is our right, Freedom of the Press and Speech. Yet too many of us are welcoming the ill-advised cries for “ law and order” without considering the consequences.
There are many lessons to be learned from the current events in Hong Kong. These lessons can be taught by people who desperately want to keep their freedoms. They want to protect freedom of the press as well as their right to assemble. Some lessons include free trade, international corporations, international finance, and world trade agreements. There are lessons to be learned from people living in a modern cosmopolitan city with a good education system. I think that probably the most important lessons come from the differences between two distinct ideologies – communism and democracy. I’ve been there and it was a wonderful experience and an expensive lesson for me.
Hong Kong was under British rule, which lasted from 1842 when the British took over the colony (under less than noble circumstances, by forcing the Chinese to accept opium) to 1997 when sovereignty over the territory was transferred to China. Up to then, the people of Hong Kong shared the same freedoms that you and I share today. The area was a free trade zone that attracted investors and businesses from all over the world. It was also the eighth-largest city in the world and even then had a capitalist economy, low taxation, minimal government intervention, and an established international financial market.
When the Chinese government took the territory back from the British, they promised the people of Hong Kong autonomy. It was to be “one country, two systems”; Capitalistic Democracy and Socialist Communism. During this time, international corporations and financial institutions, as well as many of our electronic corporations, flocked to Hong Kong and built headquarters. It was like a Chinese New York City and the gateway to a huge developing market, low wages, educated people, and a willing Chinese government that encouraged investment. The 1990s brought a wave of companies from all over the world. Many of these corporations, while based in our country, moved their factories to China. Hong Kong was one of the starting points.
Because of This We Lost Jobs and Much More
Within a decade, Apple and many other companies moved all their manufacturing into China. We lost jobs, and when we complained, these companies told us that they couldn’t make their products in the USA anymore. We were even told that Chinese workers are better educated! (The truth is that these companies were just looking for cheaper workers.) They wanted to be there at our expense and made sure trade agreements kept their profits flowing. Now they complain about how the tariffs are hurting their businesses. Worse yet, they are worried that if China cracks down on the people of Hong Kong, then this will affect all of them and us as well.
I not only blame the Chinese, they did what they needed to do to develop their country, but I also blame corporate greed and the legislators of abiding governments (ours too) – China and all the other countries – who exploited their people and hurt ours. We lost jobs – not from China – but from the companies who worked together with China to sell our jobs offshore and then bring the products back to us. How can there not be a trade imbalance? Aside from electronics, China is a major exporter of steel and so many other products. All of this is due to political leaders (that were bought off) who facilitated this exodus.
Will the Tariffs Help?
This is where I believe and feel that tariffs are warranted – to a point. China is suffering from the tariffs and they quickly adjusted its currency to offset the cost to keep their factories working. How long can this last? They will be hurt and cannot devalue their currency too much without truly hurting themselves and their economy. So, what do we do? We can wait, however, we too will eventually be hurt by these actions. We can’t do this forever. Historical precedents prove that protectionism has not and does not work. I hope the results from the tariffs will force those companies who quickly ran to China to move their manufacturing to other markets that have fair labor laws and democratic governments, including back home to the United States. This is a policy I agree with.
My opinion, instead of tariffs for everyone, we need to work with other democratic countries and make sound trade agreements that exclude bad actors like China and Russia. We may need targeted tariffs and subsidies to help our companies. To do this, we need legislators to legislate for the people and not the corporations. Ross Perot was right. If China sees an exodus of companies moving from Hong Kong and the loss to their economy, they may change their position to the people of Hong Kong, the people of China, and the people in our country. A capitalistic democratic market will help everyone.
But can the people of Hong Kong win? In nearby Shenzhen, I saw an interview with an older man who was leaving Hong Kong because he felt the situation there was too dangerous. He wanted the safety and security of the Chinese Communist government… I was shocked! This man never experienced the freedoms of democracy and he sought the comfortable and secure life of Communist China even though he knew he’d have to give up some freedoms. It’s attitudes like that that will make the battle harder for people of Hong Kong. I only hope that international corporations do not think like that man.
The people of Hong Kong are in a difficult situation. To me, even the idea of having our freedoms taken away is implausible and I’m sure they feel no different. How will China allow them to have the freedoms they want and not destroy its authoritarian rule in the rest of China? Additionally, any suppression – by force or otherwise – would destroy the government and constitution that made Hong Kong a financial powerhouse. This is a dangerous situation and the corporations that made Hong Kong and China their home may have to move elsewhere… maybe back in the USA.
There are many lessons to be learned from Hong Kong. For me, the most important lesson is the way we must legislate… and that is to always legislate for the people
Originally Written: August 27, 2019