Wednesday, August 14, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He found something to like in the Chinese government.

Hong Kong is a "special administrative region" of China that has enjoyed a degree of local self-rule from the Beijing government since British rule ended in 1997. This summer, and especially in the past week, there have been massive pro-democracy and anti-Beijing protests and labor strikes aimed at keeping that independence from the rest of the nation. 

The government of Xi Jinping has called the protestors terrorists and rioters, and is massing military forces at the edge of the region.

There is almost unanimous bipartisan sympathy in the United States for the protestors. Unlikely allies like John Bolton and Nancy Pelosi both expressed their support, and warned Xi to tread carefully. 

Asked about the situation by reporters yesterday—which made American news because the protests shut down the Hong Kong airport for two days—Trump seemed uncertain what the questions referred to, and answered evasively.

Today, however, Trump has caught up, and responded—by praising Xi Jinping

Trump tweeted that Xi was a "good man" and a "great leader." Trump called the overwhelmingly peaceful pro-democracy protests a "tough business" that Xi could "humanely solve."

While Trump has often demonized the nation of China, comparing its trade with the United States to rape, it's hardly the first time he's expressed admiration for Xi personally. When Xi succeeded in changing internal rules so that he could serve as President indefinitely, Trump openly praised the move. Trump rarely praises people other than himself, but seems to be unable to contain himself around "strong" leaders—or dictators—like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Abdel Fatah el-Sisi of Egypt, and many others.

Why is this a problem?

  • Presidents shouldn't be caught completely unaware by major world news stories.
  • It's bad if the President of the United States can't find the courage to side with pro-democracy protests against a repressive government.