China was one of the last countries to congratulate President-Elect Joe Biden on his US election victory. Its announcement came during a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) press briefing, where foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, said: “We respect the choice of the American people. We extend congratulations to Mr Biden and Ms Harris. “We understand the results of the US election will be determined according to US laws and procedures.”
Many noted the comments contrasted considerably to President Xi Jinping’s personal message of congratulations to President Donald Trump when he won the election in 2016.
China has in recent years managed to bolster its influence across the world in order to achieve Xi’s aim of becoming the leading global power.
Earlier this year, Beijing forced its hand on to the autonomous region of Hong Kong, which the UK Government warned violated the One Country, Two Systems framework, which was meant to last until 2047.
Nearly all liberal democracies around the world fiercely opposed the move but appeared helpless in the face of President Xi Jinping’s relentless political drive.
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It wasn’t the first time the West and others who uphold democratic values have been caught in two minds about intervening in such malpractice, as Sean King, senior vice-president of Park Strategies in New York and an affiliated scholar at University of Notre Dame’s Liu Institute, told Express.co.uk.
He said that China’s current ability to “meddle” with countries in the West and elsehwere is becoming increasingly adept.
This is due to a number of reasons, one of the biggest being vested business and trade interests from abroad.
As countless countries in Europe rely more and more on China for business ventures, governments and organisations appear to be losing the ability to speak out for fear of economic coercion, Mr King explained.
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Talking about Hong Kong and the reaction to events there, Mr King said: “Now, if you speak out in any way against the Chinese government you could be indicted under the new Hong Kong Security law.
“If a university alumni association or a think tank wants to have a forum in hong kong about any topic whatsoever, how are we going to get people to speak openly? Even if we had it in New York, or Seoul, or Stockholm, anybody from Hong Kong who then speaks against the government could be arrested when they come home.
“The same goes for any online forum or Zoom chat – if you speak out then you could be indicted upon your return.
“We have to remember that this is not necessarily a Hong Kong local law, it’s a national law promulgated by Beijing.
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“Anything anyone says about China in general while in Hong Kong or passing through Hong Kong can be penalised, so how can we ever say have a forum in hong kong or with hong kong activists to discuss religious freedom on mainland china? Or the future of Taiwan? Or environmental devastation in china?
“These people will now all be liable to be indicted on their return to hong kong, so it’s going to send a very chilling effect around the world.”
The residual after-effects of Hong Kong were felt across the globe.
The US-based NBA was hit hard after the former boss of the Houston Rockets retweeted a message in support of protestors.
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That saw a slew of pre-season games in China cancelled, as well as lucrative broadcasting deals instantly terminated.
Others were less willing to pledge their support for the pro-democracy activists.
Banking giant HSBC publicly backed the new security law – a move which was lambasted by British MPs.
After much deliberation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself announced he would give any Hong Kongers with British National Overseas (BNO) passports the chance to settle in the UK and apply for citizenship.
The Communist party reacted furiously to this, threatening the UK with retaliation.
China observers like Mr King have long said that the only way to escape Beijing’s economic coercion is to do business with like-minded countries.
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Yaqiu Wang, China researcher at the organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW), told Express.co.uk, that, “China is huge: you need strong alliances and friendships to get together and put pressure on China – but Trump did no good in terms of making sure, for example, that the EU is with the US on China”.
On a more somber note, she explained: “As things are, the most radical people attacking Chinese human rights abuses are doing so with language, and that is getting us nowhere.”
Meanwhile, China, alongside 14 other countries, today agreed to set up the world’s largest trading bloc.
The new trading superpower accounts for almost a third of all global economic activity.
Many in Asia hope the pact will hasten recovery from the shock economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.