With the official passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act by the US Senate, the city is now officially a new front line in the emerging cold war 2.0 between Beijing and Washington. It’s possible that US President Donald Trump will refuse to sign it into law, as he no doubt thinks getting an advantageous trade deal with China far more important. Beijing may be more inclined to offer a better deal to suit Trump by linking it to his rejection of the bill. That will be the best possible outcome for Hong Kong. But given Trump’s unpredictability, who can really say? However, if the bill does become US law, it will achieve none of the objectives it claims to desire. That, however, may be exactly the point. China summons US diplomat, vows to retaliate over Congress’ Hong Kong act The point, of course, is to encourage Hong Kong people to go against Beijing and the mainland, just as it is the same point with Taiwan. That purpose has already been achieved even if it ultimately fails to become US law. However, does anyone seriously think such a US law will change Beijing’s policy on Hong Kong and “one country, two systems” in any way? Yes, actually it will, but in myriad negative ways. First, Beijing will have to downgrade the city’s importance as a trade and financial hub as a contingent that Washington may one day stop recognising Hong Kong’s separate customs status. Beijing will take an even dimmer view of the city’s democratic aspirations, as they are being equated, not unreasonably, with consorting with the enemy against the motherland. However limited or flawed the terms of democratic electoral reform offered by Beijing in 2014 for Hong Kong, they are now off the table. It’s now a matter of containing Hong Kong and its trouble from spilling over the border, as well as punishing its defiance. We have had two decades of carrot; we can look forward to three decades of stick. As for the local economy, it will be under a permanent cloud. Every year, while Washington examines whether one country, two systems is being adhered to, by whatever criteria are used, uncertainty will force major international businesses to downgrade Hong Kong as a stable haven for business into the rest of China. In short, nothing good can be expected once Hong Kong is classified as a trouble spot by Beijing, and exploited as one by Washington.