Trump and Hong Kong

Trump takes credit for stopping his "friend" Xi from attacking Hong Kong protesters.

The following set of statements by Trump made (where else) on Fox & Friends are just, well, odd:

“We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi [Jinping],” Trump said on Fox & Friends. “He’s a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy. … I stand with freedom, I stand with all of the things that I want to do, but we are also in the process of making one of the largest trade deals in history.”


“If it weren’t for me, thousands of people would have been killed in Hong Kong right now. And you wouldn’t have any riots. You’d have a police state. … The only reason he’s not going in is because I’m saying, `It’s going to affect our trade deal, you don’t want to do that,’ ” Trump said.

Source: “Ted Cruz vows that Congress will override Trump if he vetoes bill denouncing China’s crackdown in Hong Kong,” The Dallas Morning News.

First, I am not sure how one can “stand” equally Hong Kong and with Xi, although I will acknowledge the situation is politically fraught for the US. But, one thing is for sure: standing with Xi is not standing with freedom in this context.

Second, Trump calls Xi “a friend of mine” but he then stands “thousands of people would have been killed in Hong Kong” save for Trump’s alleged intervention. So, his “friend” Xi, with whom he “stand[s]” would have killed thousands save for Trump’s intervention? So, great guy to have as a friend and boy, someone really thinks highly of themselves.

Another version of the above:

“If it weren’t for me, Hong Kong would have been obliterated in 14 minutes. He’s got a million soldiers standing outside of Hong Kong that aren’t going in only because I ask him, `Please don’t do that. You’ll be making a big mistake. It’s going to have a tremendous negative impact on the trade deal,’ ” he said on Fox. Asked Friday afternoon at the White House whether he will sign the bill, he told reporters: “It’s being sent over. We’re going to take a very good look at it.”

And, of course, he thinks it all is about the trade deal. Where are the words in support of freedom, democracy, and human rights?

Meanwhile, Congress is acting:

On Tuesday, the Senate approved the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on a unanimous vote. The House approved it the next day 417 to 1.


The bill authorizes sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in human rights abuses. Chinese officials have denounced the measure as meddling in their country’s internal affairs.

Trump’s assessment that it would complicate trade talks is widely held. 

By the way, I am sure it will complicate the trade negotiations. But first, some things are more important than a trade deal. Second, can I point out that we wouldn’t need to be negotiating at the moment had Trump not started an unnecessary trade war?

To Ted Cruz’s credit, he noted:

In response to Trump’s threat, Cruz vowed that Congress will override any veto.

“President Xi and the Chinese Communist Party cannot silence the United States Congress. In case they aren’t familiar with how our Constitution works, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed the House and Senate by overwhelming veto-proof majorities and it will become law. This was a true bipartisan moment and a clear signal to the rest of the world that political threats from corrupt regimes will not stand in the way of America supporting the millions of freedom fighters in Hong Kong,” he said.


“The police brutality that we have seen and the Chinese Communist Party’s larger assault on the people of Hong Kong has been shameful,” he said, noting that last weekend police used tear gas and rubber bullets on university students “peacefully protesting that brutality,” turning their campus into a “war zone, where no one was safe.”
“Today,” he said, “we have the opportunity to tell the world, these blatant human rights attacks and this campaign to bully Hong Kong into submission are not OK and America won’t stand for it.”

That Trump wants to underscore his friendship with someone that he thinks would order the deaths of thousands for the crime of pro-democracy protests, and that he is more worried about trade talks than human rights, is just another example of his unfitness for office. It certainly is yet another example of his indifference to global democracy and his willingness to support, indeed befriend, authoritarians.

It is worth noting that Trump is being nicer to Xi than he was to key allies at various G7 and NATO meetings.

FILED UNDER: Asia, China, Donald Trump, US Politics, World Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    On Tuesday, the Senate approved the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on a unanimous vote. The House approved it the next day 417 to 1.

    I wonder how they voted on the Uighurs Human Rights and Democracy Act. Oh, wait a minute, that one never got introduced. I wonder why?

  2. @OzarkHillbilly: This is a well-made point.

  3. mattbernius says:

    I’m a bit surprised that the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act wasn’t blocked in the Senate by Graham or one of the President’s allies.

    It’s hard to see how that is going to assist with trade negotiations. So in many respects, that is as damaging to PoTUS’s current foreign policy initiatives as the Armenian Genocide issue.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    Xi isn’t going in because taking control of a city of 7,000,000 people who seem awfully united is about as hard a military task as it is possible to imagine. Unless he can cow the people he’s left with a number of really bad options: let HK become independent, try to take out the leadership of the rebellion, cut off water and lay siege, invade and try to take the place high rise by high rise, stand off and shell the city into submission.

  5. Slugger says:

    I just want to say that I have personally caused all the good things that happen on this earth. The bad things are due to the nefarious activity of evil people who oppose me. Please bow down in gratitude. Sometimes I support both sides to ensure that good things happen.

  6. CSK says:

    Speaking of Trump’s infatuation with bloodthirsty despots, there’s an eye-opening and horrifying piece by Tim Miller in today’s entitled “Trump’s Turkey Corruption is Way Worse Than You Think.” Very well worth reading.

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: TBH, if I hadn’t come across Secret documents reveal how China mass detention camps work this AM, it might not have occurred to me.

  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    …and his willingness to support, indeed befriend, authoritarians.

    He’s a submissive fuqboi.
    I promise you that he will get played, and the American people will lose out, in this “Major Trade Deal”.

  9. Jax says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I read that the other day, pretty horrifying stuff.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jax: I’ve known it’s happening, but that article makes it a lot more real.

  11. gVOR08 says:

    Putin, Xi, and Erdogan must go to bed every night thanking whoever for their incredible good luck. Which is by way of saying that if they can see any way a few rubles, yuan, or lira spread strategically can maintain that luck they’re sure gonna try. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an announcement that a Turkish company is going to build a big refrigerator plant in Kentucky.

  12. Kathy says:

    In the past: he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.

    In the present: He’s a great guy.

    The past was amoral foreign policy bordering on immoral. The present is outright immoral.

  13. Sleeping Dog says:

    Amazing Graham didn’t try and block it. What is Thomas Massie (R-KY) thinking? The only dissenting vote.

  14. Gustopher says:

    Second, Trump calls Xi “a friend of mine” but he then stands “thousands of people would have been killed in Hong Kong” save for Trump’s alleged intervention. So, his “friend” Xi, with whom he “stand[s]” would have killed thousands save for Trump’s intervention?

    To the best of my knowledge, none of my friends have killed anyone and buried them in an unmarked grave 250 years off a trail in a national forest. I take full credit for this, as they are all aware that our friendship would suffer.

    This is also why if they do kill people, they hide it from me.

  15. de stijl says:

    For Trump, everything is transactional. Principles are for losers.

    The shining profit center upon the hill.

    A beacon of refusing to pay contractors and suing them if they squawk.

  16. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    But street-by-street fighting is good and easy to win; not a brutal, bloody meat grinder at all! Xi could so easily subdue all of Hong Kong in five minutes, were it not for the all-merciful Trump’s disinterested intervention holding him back.

    Back to reality, I expect Xi would have cracked down hard, if he were able to hide it from the rest of the world. After all, his government negotiated a deal with Britain to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy for fifty years, of which not even half have passed. Sending in troops to do a Deng-style massacre wouldn’t play well.

    I doubt he’ll cook up a fake terrorist incident to have an excuse to crack down, either. it just wouldn’t be credible. So I’m guessing Xi doesn’t quite know what to do.

  17. An Interested Party says:

    Interesting how the one part of China that really doesn’t want to kowtow to the bully boys in Beijing was a British colony for over 150 years…and Trump bumbling his way in is like some toddler with building blocks wanting to play chess with the adults…

  18. de stijl says:


    China will be the dominant military and economic power quite soon.

    We have to figure out how to deal with that.

  19. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    That’s gonna be tough.

  20. de stijl says:



    I think by dealing with that, we agree to comply quietly.

    It will be interesting. World hegemonic power will shift. That doesn’t happen often.

    In my lifetime, likely.

    Hard to call a firm date. Somewhere around 2030.

    America had their shot and we blew it on frivolities.

  21. de stijl says:


    Given your past comments I assume you live in Mexico.

    Correct me if I’m wrong. Back me off if I’m over-stepping.

    If true, what is is like to live next door to a country way more powerful?

    Perhaps too direct, so tell me to back off and I shall, but I am truly curious about that feedback.

  22. Michael Reynolds says:

    @de stijl: @Kathy:
    China’s got problems of its own. They’ve slipped into negative population growth. They have internal conflict with the Uighurs. We still have a naval ring around them. They have a serious local enemy, Japan, as well as Taiwan. Huge differences in wealth in a country not used to it. I don’t like their hand. I think this ends up being a trinity, US/Europe, India and China.

    Some elements I haven’t really put together: Climate change will send a lot of people north from Africa into Europe. Where does Japan go? How viral is Chinese cultural power? How durable is American cultural power? How long will relatively populous Chinese areas remain peaceably up against an empty but resource-rich Siberia? How much longer are regular Arabs going to let themselves be used by a handful of self-appointed princes? Many moving parts, but I’m not sure this ends up with a single superpower.

  23. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I bet that sheer aggregate numbers trump all.

    There are a lot of people moving up to middle class as we speak. There are a lot of people in China. Someone should coin a cheesy remark about it. They can’t be wrong. A billion…

    We had our run. Did pretty good for awhile. Blew it at the end.

    We will do okay in the new world order. We farm like crazy compared to most.

    As the UK is to us today, we will be to China. Producers of both popular and critically acclaimed film and games.

    Amusing youtubers. Musicians and songwriters. Actors. Chefs.

    There will be an oversized American culture, but China is coming. Inexoribly.

  24. Jax says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Climate change is really the “known and yet unknown” variable. We see what’s happening, the computers can track some models, but computers don’t know how to really CALCULATE the human costs, let alone all the species that come along with humans. We all have our geopolitical bullshit going on, walls, refugees, etc, but predicting what happens in 30-70 years when the shit really hits the fan with the weather is going to change a lot of alliances.

    And that’s if we can keep Trump from firing nukes cuz “somebody, somewhere” said he had a tiny mushroom penis.

  25. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    I don’t think California is a country 🙂

    Seriously, I don’t mind. But I’m a bit busy now to get into it. I’ll post something if I find the time.

  26. Michael Reynolds says:

    @de stijl:
    If sheer numbers are what matters, it’ll be India in the driver’s seat. They’ve either already passed, or soon will pass, China’s population.

    But geography remains important in power projection. The US has pretty much perfect geography – facing two oceans with lots of ports, huge amounts of arable land, decent energy resources, long, navigable rivers, an ally to the north, a weak client to the south and a roughly stable population. By contrast China stares out at Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines, shares borders with a number of enemies: Vietnam, Russia and India. China also remains a fairly poor country with a per capita GDP equal to Mexico. I’m not denigrating Chinese power, but I don’t think we are looking at Chinese dominance so much as possible parity.

  27. de stijl says:


    Sorry for getting it wrong!

  28. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I agree with all of that. We do have built in geographic benefits.

    But power is not permanent. Macedonia, Rome, the Grecian cities, Zimbabwe, Carthage, the HRE, Spain, Inka, Britain, the Mayan empire.

    Entropy, the center cannot hold, degenerate elites. Something stops working and that “it” fades.

    Jared Diamond had a follow-up to Guns, Germs, and Steel called Collapse. Which was an inside out take on his break-out book – climate / ecosytem collapse is a big factor. Granted, Diamond is not the most rigorous of scholars.

    I’m an American. I want us to do well and be a force for good. I will totally take parity.