The United States and China have become entangled in a number of disputes of late, ranging from trade and development of the global economy to fundamental values and human rights. Five particularly urgent issues now at stake include U.S.-China trade tensions, Hong Kong’s anti-extradition bill protests, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and human rights concerns as well as religious freedom.
US-China trade war
In August 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to investigate China’s technology transfer practices. Based on Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, the USTR concluded that China’s policy violated fair trade practices and thus negatively impacted U.S. enterprises operating in China.
In March 2018, Trump signed an executive memorandum to impose billion-dollar tariffs on Chinese imports. This led to the year-long trade dispute between the U.S. and China.
1. The U.S. trade deficit with China is huge. The value of Chinese goods exported to the U.S. is much higher than those of the U.S. to China.
2. China’s practice of forcing corporate technology transfer and stealing the intellectual property of American firms has to be resolved. China is using policies such as “Made in China 2025” to steal U.S. technology and intellectual property. Such practices allow China to seize a leading position in cutting-edge technological fields while hurting the U.S. economy.
HK anti-extradition protests
The extradition bill, proposed by the Hong Kong government in February, would have allowed any individual to be extradited to China. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other non-governmental organizations promoting human rights warned that such a bill, if passed, would undermine Hong Kong’s judicial system.
The legislation would allow the Hong Kong authorities to hand over individuals to China. There, they could face trials, torture, and other forms of ill-treatment.
South China Sea disputes
Conflict in the South China Sea would, on the surface, seem to be a battle between China and Southeast Asian countries over control of the region. However, there are also strategically important resources in the South China Sea.
The United States Energy Information Agency estimated there are 11 billion barrels of gas and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas under the South China Sea. The energy reserves are greater than many energy-exporting countries possess.
In addition, the South China Sea has abundant fishery resources. These are estimated to account for about 10 percent of the world’s total.
Above all, the South China Sea is an important trade channel where 30 percent of the world’s trade goods pass through every year, surpassing US$5 trillion in value, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Defense. These goods include large amounts of oil and more than US$1.2 trillion of U.S. imports and exports.
Disputes derive mainly from China’s increasing control over the waters in the South China Sea. These were previously claimed by other countries or considered to be “high seas.”
China has occupied reefs and used them as bases to construct artificial islands, where military facilities have sprung up. Chinese vessels also regularly patrol these areas and drive away non-Chinese ships.
Human rights issues
China has established concentration camps in Xinjiang province, which the CCP refers to as “re-education centers” that offer “job training” to local Uyghur people. Many reports have shown that China exaggerates the threat of Muslim extremism in the region as an excuse to suppress the Uyghur population.
An unprecedented network of concentration camp facilities has been built, with up to 2 million people detained in the region. At these camps, Uyghurs are forced to learn Chinese, abandon their cultural traditions, and renounce their Islamic beliefs.
Individuals who have experienced these “re-education centers” and fled from China have described programs of brainwashing and inhuman torture. Media reports have observed that the CCP equates belief in the Islamic religion with mental illness.
How is it that the world can turn a blind eye to these abuses? Is it perhaps because there is no longer any room for human rights in a world of increasing globalization?
The deafening silence of many Muslim nations toward China’s inhuman treatment of the Uyghur people would seem to illustrate a sad truth of globalization: that wealth has been placed above human rights.
China is also known to persecute human rights and defense lawyers, often threatening their livelihoods and demanding they be “loyal to the party.”
Likewise, the Falun Gong movement, which meets the spiritual needs of many ordinary people, is also a regular target for persecution by the CCP. Falun Gong’s explosive growth in China is seen as a threat to state power and as an enemy of the party.
Freedom of religion
The United Nation’s “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” states that every human being has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. This means that any member of any society should be able to freely choose their religion and be permitted to participate in religious traditions without fear of persecution.
As such, individuals are also free to choose not to believe in any religion, and likewise, they should also not fear discrimination or persecution by the government or other social organizations. However, China has adopted laws which permit only “normal” or “state-approved” religious activity, which stipulates that all religious organizations must be registered and their activity pre-approved.
For this reason, there are many marginalized religious traditions that are not permitted in China such as independent house churches, underground Catholic groups, Islamic associations, Tibetan Lamaism, among many others.
Those individuals whose religious activity is found to be in violation of China’s state laws regularly face harassment. They can also be imprisoned and forced to publicly renounce their faith or join approved religious groups so they can be monitored.
U.S. President Donald Trump should hold a summit meeting in Hong Kong with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. They should address these five important issues in their talks.
If Trump can effectively make Xi confront these issues, it will create peace in the region and benefit the people of the world by promoting economic prosperity. In turn, Trump should be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize if he convinces Xi and the CCP to address these issues and works toward genuine solutions.