Three key lessons of Hong Kong protests: Xi’s brittle power


As the Beijing bureau chief for the Washington Post in 1989, Dan Southerland covered the Tiananmen massacre and stayed on in China for more than a year afterward to report on the Communist Party’s crackdown on supporters of the student-led uprising. So as the world marked the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre earlier this year – and speculates about prospects for PLA intervention in Hong Kong – he describes in The American Interest how the student-led protests there brought out the best in the people of Beijing.

The Hong Kong protests provide three key lessons that foreign policy-makers are is in danger of missing, argues FT analyst Edward Luce:

  • The first is that people always have the capacity to surprise. Nobody foresaw the Hong Kong protests. They are homegrown. As a reporter for the South China Morning Post in the early 1990s, I often heard complaints about how apolitical Hong Kongers were. All they cared about was materialism, went the refrain. Hong Kongers today are taking enormous risks for their autonomy. Nobody asked them to. . ….
  • Second, Mr Xi’s power is more brittle than many suppose. …. Xi is in a quandary. If he ignores the protests, they may achieve some of their goals. This would deflate the awe of Mr Xi’s power. Other parts of China could take their cue from Hong Kong. Taiwan could shift towards independence at its presidential election next January. Should Mr Xi intervene, however, he could tip China into recession by putting a chill on investment. That, in turn, could spark domestic unrest…..
  • Third, in a world where war is unthinkable, diplomacy matters even more….RTWT

“Without the steady centripetal force of American diplomacy, disorder in Asia is spinning in all sorts of dangerous directions,” said William J. Burns, a deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration and National Endowment for Democracy board member. “The net result is not only increased risk of regional turbulence, but also long-term corrosion of American influence.”

Amid escalating protests in Hong Kong and as Beijing fans the mainland Chinese nationalist sentiment against the Hong Kong democracy movement, a young Hong Kong protester has written and published an open letter to mainland compatriots, Citizen Power Initiatives for China reports.

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