Caught between giants

Caught between giants

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The US has accused China of keeping the yuan rate unfairly low.
The US has accused China of keeping the yuan rate unfairly low.
Photo: Reuters
President Barack Obama has won a second term in office. Most Chinese people appear to be happy with the results of the recent US presidential election.

Throughout the election campaign, China had been a talking point for both Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Neither Romney nor Obama is a fan of the mainland, but Romney was especially harsh on Beijing's policies.

Romney accused China of keeping its currency at a low rate and taking jobs away from American citizens. He promised that, if he became president, he would immediately declare Beijing a "currency manipulator".

Even though Obama has not taken such a strong stand against China, it is unlikely that he will be too lenient towards the mainland.

Since the beginning of his first term as president in 2008, Obama has repeatedly pressured Beijing to re-evaluate the yuan. He has blamed China for many of America's economic woes. Recently, he enforced tariffs on Chinese-made tyres and solar panels. The US has also filed a case against China with the World Trade Organisation, citing unfair car subsidies.

The US will be forced to respond, as the mainland's economic power continues to grow. As a result, there will be many challenges for the two countries over the next four years.

The rivalry means headaches to Hong Kong. Where do we stand on this issue?

Hong Kong is the bridge between the mainland and the rest of the world. This special status has brought us economic prosperity. Our politics is also influenced by Beijing. Earlier this year, our new chief executive was voted in by a 1,200-member election committee approved by the central government.

On the other hand, Hong Kong enjoys almost the same freedoms as the United States. We have our own currency and we enjoy freedom of speech and we have a free press.

The Hong Kong dollar is pegged to the US dollar. So if the US dollar weakens, our economy will be affected.

While we are grateful for our special relationship with China, we are still wary of complete integration with the mainland. We still have a separate border and require a special visa for mainland visitors.

It's been 15 years since the handover. Yet we still have trouble establishing our identity.

If we're forced to take a stand between the US and China, the Hong Kong government will mostly likely be pro-Beijing. Let's hope we won't have to make that tough choice.

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