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Taipei Times Online featured Dyson Professor Joseph Tse-hei Lee's piece "US sanctions undermine diplomacy"

08/17/2020

Taipei Times Online featured Dyson Professor Joseph Tse-hei Lee's piece "US sanctions undermine diplomacy"

US-China relations have evolved in ways beyond what has been anticipated, with many unforeseeable challenges.

Washington’s latest sanctions against 11 Chinese officials and their allies in Hong Kong, including Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥), are more than a sideshow to the deteriorating bilateral ties. This is just the beginning of a more coordinated campaign of economic and political pressure against China’s misrule in the territory.

While Hong Kong’s political elites and business leaders are coming to grips with the rippling effects of the sanctions, one should never lose sight of the far-reaching consequences of this radical shift in Washington’s policy toward Hong Kong.

The immediate effect is political — undermining rather than facilitating diplomacy.

Whenever the US sanctions a head of state, that leader is no longer perceived as legitimate. By targeting Lam, Washington signals to Beijing that she has to go before any fresh start can take place.

The timing of the sanctions is also of great symbolic importance. Within three days, Washington released a string of harsh policies against China and Hong Kong.

Before announcing the sanctions on Friday last week, US President Donald Trump vowed, two days earlier, to revoke the territory’s special economic status in global financial markets. The next day, he signed two executive orders, banning China’s immensely popular social media apps Tik Tok and WeChat.

Very soon, the US’ allies are likely to launch similar sanctions, and such punitive policies entail cross-debarment and information sharing by multilateral banks and national governments.

On the diplomatic front, the sanctions highlight the changing attitude of the West toward Hong Kong amid escalating US-China tensions. 

Read the full Taipei Times Online article.