Why China Cannot Send in the Troops



Posted by Ed 57 days ago
China’s Hong Kong Problem Is Just Beginning
Hong Kong protestors scored a big win. The city’s Beijing-approved chief executive, Carrie Lam, has withdrawn the extradition bill that would have undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy and that sent what seemed like millions into the street. Hong Kong’s avenues cleared only briefly. Leaders of the democracy movement and their supporters have already declared, “too little, too late.”

Something more mundane but perhaps also more compelling will sustain Hong Kong’s discontent and continue to make trouble for Beijing. The city faces severe economic problems. They will underlay future protests, even if the placards and shouts have a political focus. Nor can Beijing play as rough as it did, say, in Tiananmen Square. Beijing needs Hong Kong to remain open and prosperous.
Too heavy a hand would risk destroying that critical character. With reason for complaint and some assurance that Beijing will restrain itself, at least by historic standards, future protests seem highly likely. They will not only cause Beijing trouble, they will threaten it.

The crucial fact underlying all this is that Hong Kong is more important to China than China is to Hong Kong. Before Beijing took possession of the city in the late 1990s, Hong Kong had long prospered on its own. To be sure, it was a British possession, but it had operated independently when it came to economics and finance and had turned itself into a powerhouse in both areas.
When Beijing acquired control, its favored phrase, “one country-two systems,” seemed to many like a concession by Beijing, to smooth the transition and reassure Hong Kong’s residents. But it also spoke to a harder reality. Beijing was well aware how important the city’s commanding position in global finance was and would remain to Chinese development.
China’s leaders could also see that Hong Kong, as China’s most prosperous province, helped secure the implicit contract between the Communist Party and the Chinese people, that the population would acquiesce to the party’s special place as long as its leadership made people richer.
Certainly, Hong Kong’s great wealth has added substance to President Xi Jinping’s promise of a “Chinese dream.”
These considerations protected the protestors from Beijing’s wrath and will likely continue to do so. The shield did not stop water cannon or rubber bullets, of course, much less beatings and mass arrests, but it was nonetheless a far cry from how Beijing has treated other resistance movements elsewhere.


Ed 57 days ago

< Back to main category

Login now