This article by Ken Davies appeared in China Daily, Hong Kong Edition on 30 May 2016.
In my last article, I sketched a worrying scenario for Hong Kong resulting from Donald Trump becoming president of the United States and imposing harsh trade measures on China. Today I turn to the other policies that would have a direct impact on people in Hong Kong: Bolstering
the US military in the East and South China seas and curbing immigration.
As in the previous piece, I focus not on the candidate' s sometimes unprepared and erratic pronouncements in public meetings but on the more considered statements on Trump' s own
website. I also venture to guess how much these policies may be moderated if Trump is
actually elected in November.
sees strengthening the US military in the East and South China seas in economic as well as diplomatic terms. He wants to " make America great again" by abandoning the cautious foreign policy approach of the Obama administration while, as he sees it, putting more muscle into the US' trade negotiating stance. This is a surprising addition to the more predictable aim of supporting US allies over island sovereignty disputes. The problem for Hong Kong is that China may not necessarily back down as easily as Trump appears to expect, and indeed it may not even be in a position to do so. What would military pressure be expected to achieve? A revaluation of the renminbi? Not if it is not in China' s economic interests. Compliance with labor and environmental standards? But this requires local compliance that the central government cannot ensure overnight, and it has been making efforts to do so for some years, more for domestic social stability reasons than from a desire to please critics from outside the country; moreover, it would not want to lose face by backing down in response to a build-up of armed force. An actual military confrontation between China and the US, though highly unlikely, cannot be entirely ruled out. It would be a catastrophe for Hong Kong, obstructing or halting maritime trade flows in the region surrounding the SAR. Even if there is no actual conflict, a hostile stand-off could produce, as in the 2001 Hainan Island incident, a temporary, or long-term, ban on US navy use of Hong Kong for rest and recreation. That would be bad for all those service sectors that benefit from US military patronage, including restaurants and entertainment. It would also halt any attempts to develop cooperation between the two navies for peaceful purposes such as maritime search and rescue, and counter measures against piracy. What will actually happen is difficult to predict. In my last article I suggested that domestic and external constraints would moderate Trump' s trade policies. It is also likely that there will be strong factors holding back the implementation of policies that do not directly affect Hong Kong, such as building a wall with Mexico ( impractical) or killing the families of suspected terrorists ( illegal). But Trump' s military policy toward China appears to be merely the further implementation of Obama' s " pivot" or " rebalancing" policy, so not subject to such restraining factors. While Donald Trump' s condemnation of immigration has mainly been directed at Mexicans and Muslims, Hong Kong residents may well be concerned at the implications of his policy proposals for immigration in general, which could affect them if they want to study, work, live or just go sightseeing in the US. Again, let' s look at the Trump website rather than just listen to his campaign rhetoric. The logic of his proposals is identical to that of his trade policy: Simple protectionism - keeping ( or throwing) out illegal immigrants and, in the case of highly skilled foreign workers brought in to fill gaps in the American workforce, raising their legal minimum wage so high employers will try to hire locals instead. Trump appears to be allergic to H-1B visas, which are granted to skilled foreigners with university degrees who are recruited to work in what the US Citizenship and Immigration Services describe as " speciality occupations" in the US. Trump' s promise to raise wages for holders of H-1B visas is good news for you if you can scramble under the net to obtain an H-1B before he is inaugurated, but not so good if it may price you out of the labor market later next year. You would also be right to be worried about his promise to add a requirement that employers must seek to hire American workers first. Most of the curbs on immigration are aimed at illegal immigrants, not tourists or legal migrants, who form the vast majority of entrants from Hong Kong. The one area in which you would be well-advised to keep Trump' s warnings in mind is that of illegal overstaying: If you study in the US and intend to remain there after graduating from university, you need to extend your visa well before it expires, or you could be one of the illegal immigrants Trump promises to expel.