Stock market plunged more than 300 points after it shows that the existing US-China trade war has become worse. In the run-up to high-level trade talks in Washington this week, relations have deteriorated between the world’s two-largest economies. Unlike in the past, it appears both Beijing and Washington were serious about going for each other’s throats.
The Dow fell 313.99 points after the closing bell on Tuesday as hopes for a trade deal crashes. The U.S. added some 28 Chinese agencies and companies to its trade blacklist, including 8 of China’s top artificial intelligence (AI) companies. Hikvision, Dahua Technology and Megvii Technology are among 8 commercial groups on the list, all of which specialise in facial-recognition technology.
The move came as Wall Street was bombarded with reports that China had little expectations for the upcoming trade talks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He reportedly will be flying to Washington without the title of “special envoy” – indicating that President Xi Jinping had not given Liu any specific instructions or authorities for any negotiations.
Trump administration claimed that the move to blacklist the Chinese companies was punishment for Beijing’s treatment of predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities – the Uighurs – in the far-western region of Xinjiang. Apparently, human rights groups and the UN say China has rounded up and detained more than 1-million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in vast detention camps.
However, China has rubbished those claims and said Uighur Muslims are attending “vocational training centres” which are giving them jobs and helping them integrate into Chinese society, in the name of preventing terrorism. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alleged that China “demands its citizens worship government, not God.”
Mr. Pompeo, telling China to stop abusing the minority groups, said – “The United States calls on the People’s Republic of China to immediately end its campaign of repression in Xinjiang, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate.”
Furious, China’s Ministry of Commerce said that it “strongly urges” the U.S. to stay clear of the country’s domestic issue. Signalling it would retaliate, Chinese Foreign Ministry told the U.S. to “stay tuned” for China to fight back. Liu He’s delegation reportedly would cut short its planned stay in Washington (which is set to kick off on Thursday) and depart Friday instead of Saturday.
It was the exact warning for the U.S. to stay tuned that sparked the sell-off in the stock markets, causing the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) to plunge more than 300 points. The financial markets were afraid something similar to August 23 will happen again, when equities plunged as much as 3% as traders waited for 5 hours for Trump to reveal his threat to respond to a Chinese tariff escalation.
By now, it’s safe to presume that China will definitely retaliate. What is uncertain is what, how and when they plan to strike. The new developments have also gotten investors’ worries that the trade war could push the U.S. into a recession. But the fact that Trump uses human rights violations against China is both jaw-dropping and mind-boggling.
Every Tom, Dick and their hamsters knew that Donald Trump doesn’t careabout human rights. The president’s silence on human rights issues started from the moment he stepped his foot on the Saudi Arabian soil during his first foreign visit, up to the stage where the world was shocked by the gruesome murder of Khashoggi under the watch of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Neither Trump nor anyone in the administration has spoken about Egypt’s killing of protesters and arrests of tens of thousands of political dissidents. Heck, the U.S. president had even made it clear that he favoured reintroducing torture as an interrogation technique, only to chicken out after former Defence Secretary James Mattis talked him out of it.
As hilarious as it may sound for Trump to claim that the 28 Chinese organizations have been blacklisted for abusing human rights, it’s even funnier for his administration to say it wanted to champion the rights of Muslim minorities. It’s already public knowledge that the president dislikes Muslims – even hates them – from the beginning. Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry has a long history.
As early as in 2011 and 2012, Trump insinuated that President Barack Obama was secretly Muslim. In September 2015, at a campaign rally, Trump agreed as a supporter claimed “we have a problem in this country – it’s called Muslims.” In November 2015, he indicated that he would “certainly implement” a database to track Muslims in the United States.
On Dec 7, 2015, Trump called to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. As expected, upon taking office, Trump surrounded himself with anti-Muslim advisers. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton is known for their hatred of Islam. He also imposed a “travel ban” that prohibited issuing visas to citizens of seven largely-Muslim countries.
So does it make sense that suddenly President Trump is so concerned about the welfare and rights of Uighur Muslims? Past moves to blacklist companies such as Huawei Technologies have been taken on national security grounds. Now, the moves of blacklisting Chinese AI companies marks the first time his administration has cited human rights as a reason.
Facing impeachment, Donald Trump needs WMD (weapon of mass distraction) to divert attention. He has blamed the recent stock-market sell-off on Democrats pushing for his impeachment. And he has warned that the stock market would plummet further if Congress successfully removed him from office. What better way to prove his theory than to escalate the current trade war with China?
Yes, it appears that the president wanted to crash the financial markets to make a statement that his removal as the 45th President of the United States will come with a price. Why should he strike a trade deal, and end the trade war with Beijing when his presidency is being threatened? If he were to go down, he wants to bring down the U.S. and global economy with him.
At the same time, Trump faces growing pressure at home to support pro-democracy protests in the Chinese-controlled territory of Hong Kong. He realised that very few allies believed Huawei was blacklisted due to genuine security threats and not because of the U.S.’ lagging in the 5G technology. So, he used the suppression of ethnic minorities in China to target other Chinese companies.
To make matters worse, the Trump administration also placed visa restrictionson Chinese officials it believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention and abuse of Uighur Muslims. Max Baucus, former U.S. ambassador to China from February 2014 to January 2017, said – “You don’t do these things prior to negotiations.”
Such actions could be a tactic to get a better deal. However, by now, it’s silly to think China can be bluffed. The sanctions of 28 companies was huge a slap in the face of President Xi Jinping. Hence, either President Trump has lost his mind, or he simply doesn’t want a trade deal at all for the moment. Trump is building a narrative that only he can control the stock market.