The opening line of Rudyard Kipling’s poem If speaks of keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. It is an apt illustration of how developments have played out between China and the United States in recent days. Large parts of US cities are in flames, literally, over the death of African American George Floyd in police custody. Rioting continues in many US cities, some of which have called out the National Guard. Protests in support have taken place in Toronto, Berlin and London.

Viewed from Beijing, the question may well be asked: Why then the fuss about China passing special legislation to deal with unrest in Hong Kong that has descended into violence? China has acted to impose more of its writ on its Special Administrative Region, after its patience seemingly ran out with aspects of the “one country, two systems” model. The US was not a party to this agreement between China and Britain. Nevertheless, President Donald Trump, who describes the protesters at home as “THUGS”, chose to punish China for its legislation in the face of damaging violence, as well as the response of Hong Kong’s security forces, by withdrawing special trading privileges that Washington accords to Hong Kong.

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