FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Is Hong Kong Important? For Whom?

Hundreds of thousands in the streets of Hong Kong protesting the anti-extradition bill for now over ten weeks; thousands closing down the busy international airport; an influential British parliamentarian proposing to return UK citizenship to Hong Kong residents; Chinese students supporting the government and those supporting the protesters clashing in foreign countries; videos showing Chinese armored personnel and troop carriers moving closer to the border with Hong Kong threatening a military intervention.

Is any of this important, or is it merely an internal Chinese affair?

While there have been international calls by world leaders for calm and a peaceful resolution of the situation, and while tensions continue over the trade war between the United States and China, most of the world is just waiting to see what the Chinese government will do to stop the protests. Will the situation degenerate? Will the army intervene?

There is another place we should all be watching. What is happening in mainland China? Is there any movement to support the Hong Kong protesters? Although the casus belli of the protests was the extradition bill, the Hong Kong riots have gone way beyond that to include high-priced housing, unfair elections and now police brutality. The extradition bill was quickly suspended by Chief Executive Carrie Lam on June 15, and the protests continued.

The Chinese miracle of economic growth with authoritarianism has been in direct opposition to liberalism. Francis Fukuyama’s end of history proposed democracy and capitalism as the final answers to organizing society. The rapid rise of China called that dual ideal into question. The Chinese system of state controlled economics has been successful, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.

With increasing authoritarianism and increasing economic inequality, it seemed that democracy and capitalism were reaching their limits. How Democracies Die by Harvard University political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt is a recent example of growing skepticism about democracy and Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate is another example of capitalism’s critiques. The Chinese model, or Beijing Consensus, has been put forward as a counterforce to the Washington Consensus.

“We are all Hong Kongers” is a headline that invites people in the West to support the protesters. What are they supporting? Freedom of expression and other liberal values would be high on the list. But behind that is a rejection of the China model with its authoritarianism and state controlled economics. If the protests spread beyond Hong Kong to the mainland, then it will show that the China miracle has not been successful, and that Fukuyama, even with his later revisions, was right after all.

This plays particularly well at the moment that ideas of socialism have been creeping into the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Candidates self-branded as democratic socialists have been lambasted by the right wing as Un-American, recalling visions of Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) or Steve Bannon’s current iteration with “the destruction of the administrative state.” If the Hong Kong protests spread to the mainland, the Chinese model will be seen as an unrealistic alternative to free market democracy, fulfilling Fukuyama and right-wing visions of the inevitable end of history.

The Chinese government has been very successful in controlling its domestic affairs, whether by overseeing internet or the censoring the press. There have been very few anti-government activities that we in the West know about. And when they have become public knowledge, there has been considerable support. Those in opposition have become heroes. We want the Chinese system to fail because it is so different from ours.

So whatever the failings of liberalism and democracy, we must be better than some other system. The protests in Hong Kong could be the beginning of something larger. And if that happens, there will be gloating throughout the West to emphasize how even if there are problems within our system, we are better than any other system. Winston Churchill’s famous quote will be repeated and repeated: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

And all our failings will be pushed under the carpet. After all, aren’t we better than other systems? The Soviet Union collapsed, and now China. Isn’t that what we are hoping for?

More articles by:

Daniel Warner is the author of An Ethic of Responsibility in International Relations. (Lynne Rienner). He lives in Geneva.

August 05, 2020
Roy Eidelson
Black Lives Matter: Resisting the Propaganda of Status Quo Defenders
Melvin Goodman
The Department of Homeland Security: the Ideal Authoritarian Tool
Paul Street
Misleaders at a Funeral: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama Eulogizing Racial Justice in the Name of John Lewis
Seiji Yamada
Hiroshima, Technique, and Bioweapons
Vijay Prashad
How Trump Managed to Lead the World with the Worst Response to the COVID Pandemic
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s Alternative
Jonas Ecke
The Worst Hunger Season Yet to Come: Global Moral Failure in the Time of Covid-19
Rafiq Kathwari
The Battle for Kashmir
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Arch-Kleptocrat is Found Guilty
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
 U.S. Cold War China Policy Will Isolate the U.S, Not China
Lee Camp
Why Housing Is a Human Right
Sam Pizzigati
For Egalitarians, a Sudden Sense of Possibility
Jonathan Cook
Can Israelis Broaden Their Protests Beyond Netanyahu?
Thomas Knapp
Ten Years After Lieberman’s “Internet Kill Switch,” the War on Freedom Rages On
Binoy Kampmark
Staying on Message: Australia, the US and the AUSMIN Talks
Elliot Sperber
The View From Saturn 
August 04, 2020
John Pilger
Another Hiroshima is Coming…Unless We Stop It Now
Dave Lindorff
Unsung Heroes of Los Alamos: Rethinking Manhattan Project Spies and the Cold War
Kenneth Good
Escalating State Repression and Covid-19: Their Impact on the Poor in Kenya
Dean Baker
We Need an Economic Survival Package Not Another Stimulus
David Rosen
Globalization and the End of the American Dream
John Feffer
The Pandemic Reveals a Europe More United Than the United States
Patrick Cockburn
The Government’s Failed Track-and-Trace System is a Disaster for England
Ramzy Baroud
‘Optimism of the Will’: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Yale Faculty on Hydroxychloroquine and Its Use in COVID-19
Manuel García, Jr.
Ocean Heat: From the Tropics to the Poles
Sonali Kolhatkar
Why the Idea of Jobless Benefits Scares the Conservative Mind
Greta Anderson
Framing Wolves in New Mexico?
Binoy Kampmark
Pulling Out of Germany: Trump Adjusts the Military Furniture
Shawn Fremstad – Nicole Rodgers
COVID Stimulus Checks Shouldn’t Penalize One-Parent Households
Adam Shah
The 1 Percent’s Attack on Unemployment Benefits is a Sign of Our Broken Democracy
Evaggelos Vallianatos
On the Beauty of Life
B. R. Gowani
Mohammed Rafi: Singer and Human Par Excellence
David Krieger
Eight A-Bomb Haiku
August 03, 2020
Linda Pentz Gunter
The Resistible Rise of Nuclear Gangsters…and Their Downfall
John G. Russell
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters
Cal Winslow
Their Heroes and Ours: California’s Health Care Crisis
David Barber
Renouncing White Privilege: A Left Critique of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”
Linda G. Ford
Free Joy Powell! America’s Political Prisoner for Fighting Police Brutality
Prabir Purkayastha
Trump’s Withdrawal From WHO: a Cover-Up for His Abject Failure on COVID-19
Dean Baker
The Plunge in Consumption of Services Leads to a Record 32.9 Percent Drop in GDP
Ramzy Baroud
Human Rights Defenders: Palestinian Eyewitness Testimony of the Execution of Abdul Fattah al-Sharif by Israeli Soldier, Elor Azaria
Karen J. Greenberg
Accountability is Gone in America
Cesar Chelala
A Wrong Message for the Pandemic
Jonah Raskin
Chesa Boudin: Reformer in the San Francisco DA’s Office
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail