Angered by Chinese President Xi Jinping's plans to undermine Hong Kong's democratic system, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to reclaim their rights. The droves of young citizens currently occupying the streets of Hong Kong, have issued an ultimatum to the central government in Beijing. If the government does not respond their demands by Wednesday, October 1st, the protesters will take their occupation to the next level:
We face three foreseeable choices. The first is to widen the protest areas across the city, the second is to launch a labour strike and the third is to occupy a government building,” Federation of Students secretary-general Alex Chow said.
Occupy Central leader Chan Kin-man echoed the students’ demands and insisted on the resignation of Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
“Only then can we elect a new government and restart the political reform process,” Chan said.So how will Beijing respond to the bold demands of the protesters? Well, to reach an understanding of China's political elite, we should look no further than president Xi Jinping, who appears to be hell bent on unifying all of China's provinces under the strict, singular rule of Beijing. Not only will this include the rebellious citizens of Hong Kong and Macau, but Taiwan as well:
China will take “a firm and unwavering stance” on national reunification, Xi told the visiting delegation last Friday, the Xinhua News Agency reported. “No secessionist act will be tolerated.”
At the same time, Xi tied reunification with Taiwan into his Chinese Dream: “We are closer to the goal of the great revival than at any other time in history. We have more confidence and ability than ever to realize that goal, which is good news and an historical opportunity for Taiwan.” Xi’s comments seemed oblivious to the fact that Taiwan had its own student-led Sunflower Movement earlier this spring, protesting against too close ties with China.In addition, the hardline president appears to have a rather deep-seated fear of a Chinese collapse. This isn't entirely unreasonable. As I've mentioned before, throughout history China has gone through many periods of civil conflict, where tens of millions of people perished. That potential is still a very real threat in modern China.
However, his belief that he can rein in every wayward region of China under the iron fisted rule of his government, is misguided to say the least. The crux of his desire appears to be rooted in his very warped view of history:
Ultimately, if it were deemed absolutely necessary, Xi and the rest of the top leadership probably would not shrink from aggressively squashing the protest movement—the likely economic and business fallout would be unfortunate but a cost worth accepting to ensure China’s continued authority over Hong Kong. Xi is remembered for some ominous lines he delivered in an internal speech in late 2012, on the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
“Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and convictions wavered,” Xi said. “Finally, all it took was one quiet word from Gorbachev to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Communist Party, and a great party was gone. In the end nobody was a real man, nobody came out to resist.”What a disturbing fantasy. The Soviet Union didn't collapse because it lacked the will to survive. It fell apart because the people would no longer tolerate such a brutal regime, and its economy was crushed under the weight of decades of economic oppression, and military expenditure.
Obviously the high ranking members of China's Communist Party have learned nothing from history, as they continue to bury their nation in debt and brutality, much like the Soviets. The only reason their regime has lasted as long as it has, is because of the economic freedoms they have given their people. They opened their borders to international business and capital, lessened the economic restrictions on their own citizens, and did away with the worst of the communist system.
And yet they still think their heavy handed decrees will save them. They still believe that a society structured under totalitarianism (with themselves in charge of course) can survive. Even after they partially gave their country over to capitalism, with great success I might add, they still can't bring themselves to let go of their authoritarian ways.
Personally, I used to think that the leading members of the Chinese Communist Party were only “fake communists”, simply using the ideology to maintain control of the nation. But the words of President Xi make it clear, that the Chinese elites are completely delusional. They actually believe in their own rhetoric, and they still have one foot set in the Communist dream.
So when these delusional elites in Beijing go toe to toe with the democratic grassroots movement in Honk Kong, how is it going to pan out for the protesters? Given China's history, I think we're looking at another crackdown the likes of which we haven't seen since Tiananmen Square. The people running that country aren't very different than the ones who ran it in 1989. The elitist attitude that is seen in most Chinese officials, reveals just how far they are willing to go to maintain their power:
After the formal smiles and handshakes with Zhang Xiaoming, the head of China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, the mood soured. Pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung asked Zhang whether Beijing would allow any democrat to run for the city’s highest office.
Zhang, 51, dressed in a black suit and a navy blue striped tie, delivered a blunt response. “The fact that you are allowed to stay alive, already shows the country's inclusiveness," he answered, according to two people in the room who declined to be named.The people of China are about to witness an event that is critical to the future of that nation. Either the elites in Beijing will crackdown on the protesters with soldiers and tanks, or cooler heads will prevail; a decision that will either send China down the path to further freedoms, or will hurl them into authoritarianism and social collapse. Either way, China won't be the same country after the dust settles in Hong Kong.
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