Tom Holland

Tom Holland

Tom Holland is a former South China Morning Post staffer who has been writing about Asian affairs for more than 25 years.

Hong Kong could suffer from corporatist ‘white terror’
In 1558, at the very beginning of her reign, Queen Elizabeth I of England famously declared that she had “no desire to make windows into men’s souls.” What the 25-year-old monarch meant was that under her rule, people’s religious convictions would be a matter for their own conscience, and would be no business of the state, nor indeed of any corporate body. Instead of launching an inquisition to root out those whose religious practices differed from her own, as her predecessor and half-sister Mary I had done, Elizabeth set up an established church which had compromise rituals all could live with. And instead of burning dissidents alive, she simply fined them a shilling (roughly $13 in today’s
The real danger behind calling China a currency manipulator
The Chinese government doesn’t generally get – or deserve – much sympathy, but you almost have to feel for Beijing on this one. Last Monday, Chinese policymakers briefly stopped manipulating the exchange rate of the yuan, and within 24 hours the United States had turned around and formally designated them currency manipulators – a designation Beijing has long been anxious to avoid, and that Washington has long withheld from making. In truth, the currency manipulator label doesn’t actually mean that much. In theory, its award starts a process lasting six months to a year that may result in Washington imposing some token sanctions that would be irrelevant in the case of China anyway. But as a
One country is winning the trade war. It’s not the US or China
Donald Trump says “trade wars are good and easy to win.” Conversely, orthodox economists like to say that in trade wars, there are no winners. Strictly speaking, neither view is correct; things aren’t that simple. The agreement between Trump and Xi Jinping in Osaka last month to put further tariff increases on hold and to resume bilateral negotiations amounts to a ceasefire which marks the end of the first round of the US-China trade war. So this is a good time to look at how the conflict has played out so far and to examine who, if anyone, is winning, and who is losing. First, let’s look at the United States, which continues to levy tariffs of 25% on some $200 billion of imports from China
In Europe, China’s economic cold war with the West is over before it’s begun
There has been an enormous amount of nonsense reported in the last couple of months about the state of economic relations between the European Union and China. First we heard that the EU was adopting an altogether more assertive, even confrontational, stance towards Beijing. Brussels had declared China to be a “systemic rival,” European politicians were slamming the Chinese government’s protectionist industrial policies, and the EU was vowing to stop the Chinese from obtaining cutting-edge technologies by acquiring European companies. Relations, it seemed, were rapidly deteriorating. Then, miraculously, the skies cleared, with much of the international media proclaiming “a breakthrough” trad
Beijing’s high-tech plans aren’t dead, they’re dangerous
When Chinese Premier Li Keqiang stood up in the Great Hall of the People last month to deliver his annual work report, he spoke for more than an hour and a half. Yet he was notably silent about one high-profile government policy. Not once did he mention Beijing’s flagship “Made In China 2025” industrial strategy, unveiled with such fanfare back in 2015. Since then, of course, MIC2025 has attracted intense criticism internationally. Beijing’s plan to pour vast state resources into seizing a dominant position in emerging high-tech industries was one of the main complaints in the US Section 301 report that last year led Washington to impose punitive tariffs on imports from China. And MIC2025 w
The next financial crisis will come from the US, not China
After a panicked end to 2018 in the financial markets, and a jittery start to the new year, an increasing number of investors, analysts and economists are beginning to warn about “the crisis of 2019,” as often as not to be followed by “the recession of 2020.” Part of the reason is simply the feeling that the world is overdue for another downturn. A look at the economic history of recent decades shows that major financial crashes tend to come along every five to seven years. Seven years on from the European debt crisis that peaked in 2012, and more than 10 years after the implosion of Lehman Brothers, financial markets have accumulated a whole new batch of excesses that are ripe for correctio