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03 August 2019

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ted richard

Hongkong is no longer of great importance for bejing as a financial and trading locus. up and down the south china sea coast are many cities of far greater importance than Hongkong.

perhaps when the PLA finish in hongkong they can come over here and deal with antifa since our government at any level does not appear to have the sense or spine to do it themselves

Ramon Zarate

Did Britain in it's day back down from repression? Does the US back down from repression? what's the news?

ambrit

Sir;
The 'dirty little secret' about "heavy handed" repression is that it usually works. Think the Mexico City operation before the Olympics in 1968, or Tiananmen Square in 1989, or Occupy, all across America in 2011. The list could be well nigh endless.
Trump has stated that he considers Hong Kong to be an "internal affair" of China's. For all the last centurys' ferment in China, what has emerged in Peking looks very much like a central government anywhere. They would be stupid to allow what they consider a part of their country to flout the authority of the "Neo Mandarinate."
The upshot of the next few days could unleash a new wave of refugees from Mainland China into the surrounding territories. Plus, it will be a salutary warning to Taipei.

jjc

Provoking direct intervention may be the intent here. Few jurisdictions anywhere would tolerate mob attacks on legislature buildings or police stations. Donning body armour and throwing bricks at police gets one labelled a domestic terrorist in the USA. The HK police have been remarkably restrained to this point, particularly compared to similar actions in, say, France.

The protest movement succeeded in achieving its immediate demand - the shelving of the extradition law - and is now motivated by more amorphous grievances. If much of the motivation is the desire to retain a degree of independence from the mainland, then engaging in insurrectionary violence directed at governmental institutions is precisely a way to achieve the exact opposite. In that context, the influence of malign interests seeking to provoke the CCP into a TIannemen-like crackdown is an understandable supposition.

John Minehan

"There is supposed to be a General Strike in Hong Kong on Monday. Gordon Chang said today that if the participation is big enough the Chinese government/CCP may back away from repression."

Mr. Charg is clearly very bright but has not been right on anything that I can recall.

Tiananmen Square worked for the PRC; it preserved order.

In general, harsh repression preserves order. If you are a totalitarian regime (and the troops obey that regime's orders) repression works better than attempting to negotiate or compromise. For example, some sources indicate Hussein of Jordan (a somewhat enlightened monarch by popular reputation, but a monarch) thought the Shah of Iran could have held out in 1978 and '79 if he had taken fairly harsh measures and not hesitated.

Of course, this is true of totalitarian regimes, legitimacy works differently in Republics and democracies.

So, this might turn on whether the PRC government thinks its soldiers will obey the orders (more of a question in '89) and if it thinks it can bring enough force to bear without upsetting other applecarts.

turcopolier

Ramon Zarate

Yes. The US backs down from repression. If we did not there would be a lot of dead people at the border.

walrus

I’m afraid some people don’t understand the significance of these demonstrations. To put it bluntly, as Col. Lang and I have tried to explain, they represent an existential threat to the existence of a Chinese nation. The Chinese Government response, quite rightly in my opinion, is going to be proportionate and violent up to and including the destruction of the city state and its population. To understand this you must NOT try to view this through a Western liberal democratic prism.

By their nature and cultural traditions the Chinese do not adhere to the idea of higher loyalties much outside their extended family. The concept of nationalism or any other “ism” is foreign and is supported in China only as far as it provides goods, services and opportunities to the family and no further. If the “ism” doesn’t deliver, then it is discarded. The “current “ism” is a CCP led China as one nation. It has delivered massive benefits to the man in the street and is therefore tolerated. The alternative to this is not some liberal democratic paradise, it is China breaking up into fragmentary, warring city states as has occurred for much of China’s history. China, one China, is ungovernable without very strong, dictatorial, autocratic central control. Hong Kong is directly threatening this model.

This is encapsulated in the old Chinese saying: “we bow in awe at the power and magnificence of the Emperor in Beijing, but the mountains are high” - meaning that Government control exists only as far as it can be enforced. Seen in that light, the CCP social credit computer system is not some devilish device to turn people into mindless automatons but a perhaps heavy handed attempt to try and get Chinese to think of the national interest as most Americans automatically do. To put that another way, how do you inculcate a sense of national responsibility into people who think nothing of making and selling poisoned baby formula to make a buck?

I was in Singapore yesterday and at breakfast I couldn’t help but overhear an animated discussion at the next table between four Chinese businessmen over the subject of Hong Kong, Trumps trade war, the latest tariff announcement and Taiwan. The talk was not about lofty democratic ideals, repression, etc. it was about the likely effect on their businesses. They couldn’t care less about democratic forms, neither do most Chinese.

If Hong Kong doesn’t toe the party line it will be destroyed. So will Taiwan. That much is clear.

difficult bird

China will not intervene unless there is pro-independence armed insurgency, like what happened in Tibet in 1959. The Chinese government does not have to worry about contagion either, because most mainland Chinese either doesn't care or they oppose the protest. In fact, most Hongkongers probably also oppose the protest. The Chinese and Hong Kong governments will wait the protest to run it course and use it as a cautionary tale for future protests, because such movement eventually hurts Hong Kong's economy and its own bottom line.

blue peacock

Col. Lang

I lived in Hong Kong for 2 years a little over a decade ago. While there I did not hang out much with the large expat crowd but mostly with multi-generational HKers. IMO, they are a very cosmopolitan and sophisticated people. By and large HKers viewed mainlanders as uncouth and boorish and believed they were different both culturally and by temperament. In recent months many there have told me that their belief in the CCP sales pitch of One Country,Two Systems have been shattered. The distrust of CCP and their minions in HK is sky high and even those apolitical now feel that they must demand autonomy. They fully expect martial law and the PLA using extreme violence and the subsequent witch hunt. Even with this expectation they still feel that they must take a stand. They seem convinced that CCP provocateurs are creating what limited violence there is to create the pretext for the takeover by the PLA.

As you and others have noted the CCP will not tolerate any protests for autonomy or even any kind reduction of political repression. They will have no compunction in using extreme violence to end the protests. The lesson they have learned from Tiananmen is that the west will not complain in any material sense even if their rhetoric is about human rights and self-determination.

The CCP spends more on domestic security than on national defense. It is clear they fear their own people more than any external threat. They have maintained power through repression. They believe perestroika showed weakness and caused the opening to the destruction of the Soviet Union. So naturally they will go to extreme lengths to prevent any mass movements that threaten their monopoly of power.

I have great sympathy for the people of HK and their courage in standing up to the authoritarian CCP. Unfortunately, the US and the west in general, it seems, only care about human rights or genocide or state violence against their own people when it is a weak nation like Iraq or Libya or Syria. They have sanctions on Russia and several top Russian citizens and most US politicians call Putin a thug. Guys like Josh Rogin get to write opeds in WaPo decrying the "brutal dictator Assad" but will never call out the most authoritarian dictator, Xi Jinping. Their silence against the most repressive and totalitarian political force in the world today, the Chinese Communist Party, speaks volumes and signals acquiescence to repression. All the CCP paid agents are busy running interference in the media, think-tanks and K-St.

Trump unfortunately has no strategic compass as you have pointed out. If he did, he could respond to PLA violence against HKers by sanctioning the top CCP & PLA officials who have stashed much of their illicit wealth in the US and banning US investors including banks from financing any CCP linked entity. That would be a beacon on Lady Liberty and can hurt CCP where it matters - their own pocket books!

m

Colonel

that is the wrong way to describe it! the chinese do not recognise (quite rightly) hong kong borders. if the hong kongers choose to play up then they will be put down just as you describe.

b

The Hong Kong police has so far done little against the rioters. Few have been arrested. It can still up its response by several grades.

The tactic for now is to let the rioters expose themselves as what they are. The typical Hong Konger want to mind their business and dislike having it disturbed by some unruly students. They back the police.

When the time is ripe the police will pick off the leaders of the riots and do them in.

No need for the PLA to intervene.

Jim S

Sir,
Please forgive the somewhat hasty reply but I will be traveling later and you raise interesting topics.

If at an opportune moment you had leaned over and asked the table "How much money is truth worth?" you would have made instant friends (you may be familiar with the joke but I presume the majority of the Committee and readership are not). The Han are the most pragmatic people on earth, pragmatic to a fault: the punchline is that truth is the joke. The Han are pragmatic enough not to need Orwell's admonition that in utopia some animals are more equal than other animals. This may be the secret of 'capitalism with Chinese characteristics'.

I disagree that communism has delivered massive benefits to the man on the street. As I alluded to in an earlier thread the Great Leap Forward propelled urban China into modernity, but at the cost of calamity to rural China. The adoption of capitalist models since have made the Party bosses and their cronies fabulously wealthy and raised many more into billionaire and millionaire status but my feeling is that the costs have been transferred to the masses--peasants today have cell phones, but they are still peasants and their children will be peasants; their lot seems similar to Appalachian coal miners, incrementally better off while our 'social betters' are buying apartments for tens of millions of dollars; and both groups may be equally spiritually impoverished. Of course some of the costs were transferred to the US during the ascent of globalism. As China's economy tightens the costs are continually spread to larger and larger groups in the form of inflation.

China is also in the grip of its own age of shoddy: Chinese firms are perfectly capable of putting out first-rate goods but they sell poisoned baby formula (as you point out) and fake medicines and put up apartment buildings that begin decaying before the paint's dry, again and again and again, because the system is rigged by the cronies against the people. The Party isn't failing to stop the fraud because it's weak: the Party doesn't stop the fraud unless it has to because it's in on the action.

I could go on--and I'm tempted--but I will merely reiterate that I don't agree that communism has been good to the Chinese people. It's been very good to the Party, but the Party is not the same as China as Jack did so well to point out.

China's economic growth in the 21st Century must be viewed through the lens of 2008. Prior to Lehman growth in the West and in China seemed limitless thanks to easy money. China had a special place in the globalist structure. Part of the realignment we are witnessing is the folly of globalism collapsing under its own weight. China is in trouble because it was so tightly integrated into globalism. We in the US are witnessing our own struggles.

Again, I apologize if this meandered too much. Hopefully you can make some sense of it.

As for Hong Kong its people are pessimistic. I think they will turn out anyway. Perhaps you would spare them a prayer, Col. Lang, because in this they are kindred spirits.

turcopolier

m

Yes, I know. Te border between Hong Kong and the rest of China is an administrative border. It does not represent sovereignty.

Fred

blue,

"banning US investors" in China? That would be our wonderfully diverse manufacturing leadership. He doesn't need to ban them investing in China, just point out their hypocrisy as he most recently did with the political party running Baltimore.

fredw

There is a wider context missing from the discussion. From the viewpoint of the CCP, this is not even particularly about Hong Kong. It is part of a massive tightening of control underway for six years now since Xi Jinping took over. Hong Kong is just the latest target. Chinese never considered Hong Kong to be anything separate from China, but until recently they tolerated a regime of fairly loose control. The end of that tolerance has little if anything to do with Hong Kong or its people. They are collateral damage. The entire Chinese system is being subjected to similar pressures. (If Hong Kong got serious about independence, then it would indeed be an existential threat to China. But what we are seeing is a reaction to pressures from the center rather than any sort of coherent independence movement. It was deliberately provoked for purposes of the Beijing authorities.)

Yes, the system in place has massively improved the lives of Chinese people. The mystery is why the authorities are now in so many ways ending the system that has worked so well for them. Has Deng Xioaping's architecture for bringing China into the modern world reached its limits? Is their just-in-time management of the economy in more danger than in the past? Is there just an inbuilt tendency toward monopolization of power? I don't know the answers to those questions, but I see the current Hong Kong imbroglio as just the most recent chapter of that story.

fredw

Here is one hint about what may have changed in the last ten years:

"And the world found a new borrower of last resort. Ten years ago, China had been enjoying phenomenal economic growth for two decades, and largely avoided debt to fund it. No more. China’s debt has ballooned, transforming the geography of global debt in the process. It’s now bipolar, revolving around the U.S. and China.

The global economy suffered a difficult decade—a global Great Recession followed by a persistent slump in western Europe, and slow growth and widening inequality in the U.S. It might have been far worse without desperate measures from central banks and China’s debt-fueled spending splurge. But while their intervention averted a painful deleveraging, it created an alarming set of problems."

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2019-decade-of-debt/

Seamus Padraig

No kidding. This commenter would probably be among the first to complain when Trump threatens to slap tariffs on Chinese goods; but if Trump instead just called the tariffs 'sanctions', he'd cheer!

emboil

What a great way to get Chinese money back to pumping up global asset prices, while circumventing Chinese capital controls.

Babak Makkinejad

Walrus:

I think it is quite evident that Westministerian Democracy can only be practiced by the English or people derived primarily from that stock. It has never been an option for the rest of mankind, including China.

What could be an option for China, and which would not be predicated on ideas and ideals of Christianity or the practices of the English Common Law, in my opinion, is respect for the Rule of Law even under political conditions of tyranny. The significance of Hong Kong lies in the fact that for the first time in 2000 years and for 99 years, a few million Han Chinese were safe in their property and person, under conditions of Colonial Tyranny.

2200 years ago, the ideas and ideals of the Legalists - the last best hope of China – which were that even the (Red) Emperor is subject to the Law, were discarded when that great humanist visionary emperor, Ti Shi-Hwang died. And the bafflement has continued to this day.

To my knowledge, derived from secondary and tertiary sources, the Chinese modernization ideas going back to Yen Fu, had more to do with a search for the restoration of Wealth and Power to the Middle Kingdom than reviving the ideas of the Legalists. I might be wrong, but even the May 4th Movement or its imitation, the Democracy Movement of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, was not clamoring for the Rule of Law, which would have had a substantially more positive impact on the quotidian life of the Chinese people.

I find it noteworthy to contrast this with the agitations that led to the Constitutional Movement in Iran and the establishment of the first parliament there; a demand of the revolutionaries was the establishment of a House of Justice to constrain the autocratic arbitrariness of the shah and his cronies. But the idea of (impartial) Justice has been a pillar of Shia Islam. Furthermore, this idea of Justice itself has had antecedents in the religion of Zarathustra as well as some of the practices of the Persian Kings.

In both cases of China and Iran, the past has persisted and intruded into the present. Sometimes for ill and sometimes not.

I agree with Col. Lang's prognosis; I would never underestimate the ruthlessness of Chinese Government, be it Communist or not, when it comes to its reaction to perceived threats to social and political stability. Peking, a city of 10 million people, will starve in case of disorder that would affect China's road transport. Any whiff of disorder, however small, and the Chinese government, regardless of its political philosophy, would come down hard on it. Especially now with history of the Color Revolutions behind us.

J

Well, CCP's CI has had more than enough time to strengthen their infrastructures in HK even more than they already had in place when HK was still a Brit hangout. Pity the HK dissenters as CCP's CI is probably running circles around the dissenters western handlers, while they're not paying attention.

ISL

Blue Peacock,

With weak states you are right - human rights are for annoying, non-client states, but with China, I think you are seeing echoes of Brzezinski/Kissinger and the policy of splitting China from Russia (at a time when Russia was a larger threat to the US).

It is amusing when the EU cant find a human rights speech about the protests in France and previously in Spain. I think a lot of EU citizens drank the cool-aid, and are waking up.

Of course now that the US (Obama first, now faster under Trump) is pushing the two together, expect to see eventually the US begin to critique China (unless money from China* leverages the general corrupting effect of money on the US system and cancels US autonomy as with Israel).

*Many fortune 500 are as much Chinese entities as US - they know where future growth is - and are effective lobbyists for Beijing. But then the Chinese did not create the US election / media / think tank industrial complex.

Tom Wonacott

One of the few alternate media sites to cover the protests in Hong Kong. You will not find this in your typical far left wing sites like the Intercept, Consortium News and Truth Dig (which all cover some selective stories well).

Allowing the protests to continue in Hong Kong would send the wrong message to the mainland Chinese. A country willing to hold in mass detention facilities by some estimates up to one million Uyghurs for re-education purposes is certainly not going to let protests in Hong Kong challenge the authorities. The same principle applies to the protests in Moscow - and in other authoritarian states.

b

In 1990 750 million people in China were below the poverty threshold. Today there are less than 30 million poor in China.

Worldbank -
Poverty & Equity Data Portal - China

It was, in your words, "the most repressive and totalitarian political force in the world today", the CCP, which achieved that?

John Minehan

To give a Western Analogy, Paul of Tarsus was beheaded because it was against the law to crucify Roman citizens. Even in the time of Nero, there were rules.

Eliot

It’s my understanding that the protesters in Moscow did not have a permit. Presumably, they did this in order to provoke the police, and get themselves arrested. Arrests get more media coverage.

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