By Using North Korea and Iran, Beijing Seeks to Divert Attention From Hong Kong Mass Protests

June 18, 2019 Updated: June 19, 2019


Beijing unexpectedly announced on June 17 that Chinese leader Xi Jinping will go to North Korea on June 20, the first state visit to North Korea by a Chinese head of state in 14 years.

The question is, what is behind the high-profile visit to North Korea occurring in such a hasty manner?

Shifting Attention From Hong Kong

It was the day after Hong Kong’s second massive parade that Beijing made this announcement. After June 12 protests opposing the controversial extradition bill was brutally suppressed by the Hong Kong police, nearly 2 million Hong Kong people took to the streets in protest on June 16, setting a record for attendance at a Hong Kong mass movement and attracting worldwide attention. Many countries condemned Beijing for trying to encroach on freedoms and human rights in Hong Kong.

China’s top leaders seriously underestimated the Hong Kong people’s courage and anger. The unexpected massive turnout in Hong Kong has become too challenging and embarrassing for Beijing to handle. They had to quickly put the brakes on the crackdown, and try to separate themselves from Hong Kong leaders.

The high-profile announcement of Xi’s visit to North Korea was undoubtedly intended to shift the focus of public attention, both at home and abroad, from what’s happening in Hong Kong.

Use North Korea as Bargaining Chip

If everything goes as expected, U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping will meet during the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, near the end of June, which will have a huge impact on the future of the U.S.-China trade war and technology war. Beijing has made frequent tough speeches through the Party’s mouthpieces and officials, to show its strength and accumulate bargaining chips in preparation for the upcoming meeting with Trump, a known expert in negotiating.

Unexpectedly, huge protests and demonstrations in Hong Kong broke out. Amid international condemnation of the police use of force to disperse protesters on June 12, China is facing yet another tussle with the United States—U.S. officials criticized China’s human rights and announced plans to impose financial sanctions. U.S. lawmakers proposed legislation that would revoke Hong Kong’s special economic and trade status if the city is deemed not sufficiently autonomous from mainland China.

The privileged groups and corrupt officials within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are frightened and extremely worried. As a result, China has already lost its chutzpah and confidence in successfully managing trade talks.

Beijing has played the North Korea card again, attempting to make use of the threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons to increase China’s position as an important player in the international order and increase its leverage in the upcoming trade negotiations.

Although this hackneyed scheme successfully deceived and misled former U.S. administrations, it won’t fool Trump, who has long realized Beijing’s part in the failed “six-party-talks” that attempted to end North Korea’s nuclear program. Trump hasn’t fallen for the regime’s ploys since he took office in January 2017.

Resorting to this old trick not only indicates that the CCP is running out of strategies to deal with various crises, but it also reveals that China does not have the sincerity or goodwill it needs to reach an agreement in trade talks with the United States. Chinese authorities are trying to hold on, hoping that the U.S. presidential election next year will bring about favorable changes.

Beijing Seeks Iran to Divert Attention

Nonetheless, the CCP could be aware that the “China and North Korea” drama may not fool the United States, so it brought in Iran to help out.

Over the years, the CCP has been giving the Iranian regime large quantities of weapons and military technologies. Iran has become another rogue regime that threatens the entire Middle East and the main agent of the CCP in the Middle East and South Asia. In addition, Iran is the major hub of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, an ambitious strategy for China to expand its influence in the international community.

On the same day China announced Xi’s visit to North Korea, Iran announced that within the next 10 days it would break the uranium enrichment restrictions imposed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and would accelerate the production of enriched uranium.

In other words, similar to North Korea, Iran also uses “accelerating the development of nuclear weapons” to threaten European and American countries.

There are three reasons why Iran chose to do this at this time.

1. China hopes that the chaos in the Middle East will serve to alleviate its own crisis.

The CCP has been hit hard by the U.S.–China trade war and Hong Kong’s vast protests. It is not in a position to confront the United States alone. Therefore, Iran has created a new battlefield in the Middle East, and posed the threat of turmoil to divert the US “attacks” on Beijing to the Middle East. It also helps the CCP gain more leverage in the G-20 talks.

2. Pressuring the EU and Sowing Discord Between EU and U.S.

Iran is well aware that threats cannot sway the Trump administration’s firm stance. Therefore, Iran specifically targets the European countries with intimidation and demands that they restore Iran’s economic benefits as soon as possible or it will accelerate the development of nuclear weapons, which threatens the Middle East and Europe.

Both China and Iran understand that the EU is not as resilient as the United States. In addition, Iran’s move also attempts to sow discord between the European Union and the United States, and eventually separate the allied relationship they have.

3. Intimidate and Blackmail EU for Iran’s Economic Growth

Iran’s economy has suffered greatly as a result of the economic sanctions and the oil embargo imposed by the United States. Iran decided to imitate North Korea and use the “nuclear weapon” card. In addition to supporting the CCP, Iran appears to be using the opportunity to restore its economic development by intimidating the European countries.

Iran May Suffer a Serious Defeat

After the two-million-strong protest against Beijing’s attempts to erode Hong Kong’s freedoms, instead of making apologies to Hong Kong citizens, the CCP led its two little brothers, North Korea and Iran, to threaten to build up their nuclear weapon arsenals. What a dangerous gamble.

Beijing’s calculation could be another misjudgment; moreover, Iran may well be seriously defeated in the end.

Trump has long declared that Iran is the top enemy of the civilized world, and has been taking actions to restrict its economic growth.

Still, the CCP sought Iran’s help, which has undoubtedly placed Iran in an extremely dangerous situation. If, in the near future, there is a military conflict between the United States and Iran, under Trump and Bolton’s hardline strategy, Iran is likely to face a fundamental change in political power.

Impact on the CCP

If China only hopes to drag on the negotiations and does not plan to reach a trade agreement at all, it will have to face $300 billion in added tariffs on Chinese goods, which would be a burden on Chinese businesses and the Chinese people. In addition, an escalated technology war, financial sanctions, and even a currency war could occur one after another.

By then, the situation in Beijing would be even more acute and drag the Chinese people and the economy into a more difficult position.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.