Is Xi Mishandling Hong Kong Crisis? Hints of Unease in China’s Leadership

Sep 07, 2019 · 328 comments
Danielo (NJ)
The ultimate irony to me is that the HK law to deport that was the tipping point belies the reality without the law they already would take anyone away - or worse- they deemed a threat.
invisibleman4700 (San Diego, CA)
“To rebel is justified” -Mao Tse-tung
Amanda Jones (Chicago)
Whether it be Putin or Xi or even our dear leader, ruling in an authoritarian bubble walls out the kinds of advice, insights, expertise, and just plain debate, that a leader needs to address complex problems---most of which the leader has no background in. Most any problem confronting leaders today, is complex, requiring diverse expertise and a full toolbox of organizational and leadership tools. Left only with yes men and one tool in the toolbox---the hammer---you see why these "leaders," including our own mini-Putin are is a downward governmental spiral.
moony (Singapore)
Xi has failed and continues to fail. As he will not change, he will also continue to fail. If someone better, kinder, smarter and stronger were in charge, that person would have known the right thing to do. They would have known to listen to and to respect the people that they are supposed to serve. Xi fails to understand that for any leader to be great, they must be good first. That is why he will be remembered poorly by history in 100 years. While alive, he can force his citizens to rewrite Chinese history all he wants in his favour, but the world knows it all and remembers every atrocity, thus all such attempts to rewrite the narrative will only make him look even weaker and more pathetic (which is as it should be).
William Chow (Melbourne)
The emperor has no clothes.
Pragmatist in CT (Westport, CT)
With Hong Kong and trade negotiations with the US, I bet Xi has needed Ambien to get to sleep at night. The Hong Kong protesters are exposing the unfairness of Communist rule and Trump is exposing the unfairness of China’s cheating on global trade. I hope both keep up the pressure to bring much needed change.
Dave (Perth)
I follow China quite closely. This is the first article in western media I have seen that suggests that xi Jinping is anything other than a genius. He isn’t, of course. He’s just a man - and one who has has as sheltered a life as trump. In fact the only real difference between trump and Di is that xi’s media can’t criticise him and foreign media doesn’t criticise him. There is a fairly straightforward way that the west can help to get China back on to a good path for the Chinese people, the west, and the world, while solving a lot of the world’s current problems. Unfortunately, it’s quite apparent that the people in charge in the west have absolutely no clue what that way is and neither do the people currently in charge in Beijing.
sKrishna (US)
Xi Jinping is a Chinese dictator and will try to curb Hong Kong the old-fashioned Communist way. US & the Free World should support Hong Kong in a strong way as Xi is on a slippery ground. He is sitting on a Real estate bubble and has an aging population which is used to a higher living standard. Xi is also under economic pressure because US tariffs. He is fooling Trump with sweet talks but will wait until 2020 US Presidential Election is over. Trump should keep the pressure on and increase the tariffs to 100%. Europe should also join US to put tariffs on China's made goods. This may be best opportunity to make a meaningful change in China and replace this Dictator for Life by a moderate Leadership.
W.Wolfe (Oregon)
I am amazed, ( and Grateful) that the Citizens of Hong Kong have held their valid protests against the Chinese Communist Party's dominating leverage, and the CCP's historic brutal boot heal, for this long. When one looks at how Communist China, under Chairman Mao, took and stole the entire non-aggressive, and peaceful Nation of Tibet, AT Gunpoint, in 1959, murdering thousands of citizens in the process, and jailing thousands more for following their Buddhist Faith - one does not have to look too far to see the next scenario of brutality for Hong Hong. But, if there is a silver lining to ANY of this - it is at these good people of Hong Kong have the absolute Right to Stand Up for their given Rights - to call out against a broken promise when they see one - and to not have any of their comings and goings dictated by someone else's ugly calculations. Freedom is EVERYONE's Right. And, Hong Kong has this one right. I truly hope, with all of my Heart, (dim as their odds are) - that Hong Kong wins this battle against the CCP's oncoming brutal occupation. Regardless of the outcome - the People of Hong Kong ARE correct in fighting for their Homeland, and for their Rights. Good luck, Hong Hong. Let Freedom Ring !
J. von Hettlingen (Switzerland)
Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, this is how the leadership seeks to convey a festive mood and promote an image of self-assertiveness. From this weekend onward karaoke bars and nightclubs in Beijing have been ordered to close until October 1 so the city can prepare for the ceremony. The measure is part of a campaign by officials to ensure that the festivity, which will include a speech by Xi Jinping, a military parade and a fireworks show, will be free of any glitch, including bar brawls. “In order not to affect the celebrations this time, all entertainment venues of Beijing will suspend business,” read the order, which shut bars and clubs starting this weekend for four weeks. The authorities are also cracking down on illegal transportation and possession of weapons across China etc. It sends a message to the wider public that the authorities have zero-tolerance for nonsence, let alone malign disruptions, like protests.
Stanley To (Hong Kong)
Appeal for international jurisdiction without prejudice on the de facto war between Hong Kong civilians and the HKSAR Police Force : 1. is the police still under lawful command ? 2. are all acts in the name of "police" reasonable and legitimate? 3. have the civilians no right to condemn police under any circumstance but lead to beating and arrest ? 4. confronting the heavily armed police with the feebly equipped blood and flesh, what do the Hong Kong citizens look for ?
Ken (MT Vernon, NH)
One overriding aspect of this problem with Hong Kong is that China is focused on bringing Taiwan into the family. They don’t want to do anything that scares the Taiwanese too much. That said, they will not put up with the local version of ANTIFA masked thugs running around hitting police and innocent bystanders with clubs for much longer. And we wouldn’t either.
AG (Los Angeles)
President Xi's strategy is paradoxical. He is gunning for global technological superiority, but he fears his peoples using the technologies he would have them develop. His uni-party claims to fully represent the interests of his people, but when the people disagree with the party the people are crushed. Perhaps it's time for him to worry less about historical, personal, international humiliation and losing face, and instead to actually be Communist for a change by serving the real interests of his peoples for a just and broad prosperity, for peace, etc. A spectre is haunting China - the spectre of (gasp!) communism...
Kevin O'Reilly (MI)
I am not aware of any sign of support from America for the protesters in Hong Kong. Not from Democrats Not from Republicans Not from anyone in America Please tell me I am wrong, that I missed any coverage of such support.
Roger (Palo Alto)
A number of false narratives have been portrayed by the protesters and their cheerleading squad in the western media, until it can no longer be sustained. A new false narrative then emerges to replace it. One is that China will send in troops and re-enact Tiananmen part II. Now it has become clear China never intended a crackdown. Instead, it let HK manage the unrest with its own riot police, and allowed HK to retract the legislation. The approach is not only in line with how such events are handled in the west, it’s consistent with China’s promise of 1 country 2 systems. So the new narrative is that Xi mishandled the crisis? It almost seems as though the media is disappointed that the spectacle they’re hoping for never materialized. Another narrative is that this is a peaceful, leaderless protest against the extradition bill. After vandalism of the parliament, airport occupation, rampant violence, fires set, destruction to public properties, 300+ police injuries, posting of family info of police, sabotage of oxygen equipment on Cathay Pacific Airline, etc., a pivot to a new narrative emerged that the movement is about fighting for freedom and democracy. The cheerleading squad conveniently leaves out the fact that HK already has freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and political party. Britain never gave HK democracy during 100 years of colonial rule. The Chief Executive was assigned by Britain. The land belonged to the Queen. What will be the next new narrative?
Sarah Johnson (New York)
The Hong Kong protesters completely undermined and discredited themselves once they started waving around British flags. Anyone with even an inkling of understanding of history would know that the British were cruel, corrupt, and abusive toward their colonial subjects in Hong Kong (a territory which was stolen from China through a vicious serious of opium wars instigated by the British themselves). Nothing Xi's government has done has even come close to the oppression perpetrated by the British.
Craig (Vancouver BC)
Unfortunately there are no pro democracy mass protests in the USA against the undemocraticly elected ill Trump, at least the Russians and Chinese are protesting against their despots Xi and Putin. How ironic the madness of Chairman Trump supported by Moscow Mitch and the Republicans is now the standard for a failed once exemplary state.
Freddy (LA)
Yep, he did bungle, by haven't turned HK into Palestine, or Kashmir yet. For that's plenty of mainlanders would love to see happening. Contrary to western pundits' lazy presumption, here in China, the chaos of HK has actually strengthened the prevalent view that, unchecked freedom/democracy is detrimental to society/people's well-being. And people here don't need the govt's propaganda for this. After all, CNN, with lower journalistic standard, and higher sensational tendency, is not censored here in China. The real challenge to Xi is actually how to resist the prevalent nationalist/populist sentiment here and not falling into the trap and engage directly. After all, instead of Palestine/Kashmir model, there's always the cheaper example of America's Tribal Reservation to emulate. With which, Beijing need to take less flak and HKers get to keep all the Freedom/Democracy/Identity they derserve, except with mainland as market, the only reason for HK's past prosperity.
WeHadAllBetterPayAttentionNow (Southwest)
Allowing Xi to choose how long he controls the government was a mistake. Power corrupts and absolutely power corrupts absolutely.
DofG (Chicago, IL)
No matter the type of government tensions, and conflicts, will always arise when the universal Force of democracy is illicitly encumbered. For governments have no justifiable reason to exist without the consent of the governed. Governments tend to forget this. The Force of democracy does not! If China's Xi Jinping was really smart he would back off and allow the people to choose the future rather than fight against what has already emerged that no amount of authoritarian rule can reverse. Because if it takes another thousand years the Force of democracy will ultimately have the last word on humanity's cultural regulation.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
Better than Tiananmen Square. So far. That is a pretty low standard. Still, there was reason to fear they wouldn't manage to meet even that low standard. There is still reason to fear they won't.
Truth is out there (Oregon)
If all else fails, China might simply abandon the 'one country, two systems' principle and rule Hong Kong directly. It will come at a great cost, but by doing so Xi hopes it will deter Taiwan from reaching the point of no return.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
@Truth is out there -- That might well push Taiwan to the point of no return, because it would terrify those in Taiwan who now are friendly to the Mainland and want to believe it can all be made to work out.
Matsuda (Fukuoka,Japan)
If Chinese leaders really have their intentions to continue the one- country- two- systems formula, they have to learn democracy much more. In democratic society people have freedom of speech and political leaders are repeatedly criticized in the media. Dictators cannot survive in democracy. Chinese leaders should understand democracy much more to maintain the one- country- two- systems formula which gives the big economic merits to the mainland.
Tim Phillips (Hollywood, Florida)
“The government’s deepest fear now appears to be that the demands for greater political accountability and even universal suffrage heard on the streets in Hong Kong could spread like a contagion through the mainland.” That seems like a ridiculous assessment. The CCP has solid control over what it’s citizens are exposed to. How would political accountability manifest itself? How would it spread? What is political accountability? The Chinese are doing what the western leaders have been doing all along, just let it burn out on its own. Remember the “Occupy” protest? The pipeline protest? DACA? Have any of those issues been addressed in a meaningful way? We have a president that got almost three million less votes than his opponent. Gerrymandering has thwarted the will of the citizens. Are our leaders worried about political accountability and universal suffrage? Universal suffrage would mean that my vote was as strong as someone that lives in Montana is. We really don’t have any business pointing fingers at China.
M. Paire (NYC)
In the words of a famous billionaire "Let Hong Kong rule itself"
Anno (Seattle)
To be honest, this is a classic case of Monday Morning Quarterbacking. Your better alternatives are what: bringing the tanks in on Day one? Making Hong Kong a sovereign country, no strings attached? Best that I can tell, there were no good choices where everyone wins. China plays the long game. This year may not be a good one for them. But everyone opposed to theirs should think about: what is the solution where everyone wins? If such a solution does not exist, what makes you think China will roll over and play dead, or that they will replace their leadership with Monday Morning Quarterbacks that also have no better plan?
athena (arizona)
@Anno: If China plays the long game, you would think they would wait until, maybe 2040, before they start taking over. China is not playing the long game. At least not currently.
WeHadAllBetterPayAttentionNow (Southwest)
@Anno - The CCP could start treating its citizens as human beings.
wsmrer (chengbu)
There is a bit of democracy within the CCP, the inter powers debate who is to be the man when power turned over every 10 years and Xi Jinping was the choice in 2012 because he had no outstanding power blocks in opposition, according to the Austrian outstanding analysis Richard McGregor. In the intervening years he has created enormous powerful enemies through his ‘anti-corruption’ breaking of opponents at all levels, civil and military, of power. Two further authorities, Carl Minzner Fordham University Law school and William H. Overholt, Senior Fellow - Asia Center, Harvard University, have detailed his shifts in policy and argue he has left himself few avenues of escape should events go sour domestically or internationally. As this article indicates Hong Kong is a pressing matter needing a release. Xi’s solution may be to offer up the local police force for critic as something that will cost him little and win international acclaim, and HK approval from many. He is a gifted politician, it must be allowed.
Norm Vinson (Ottawa, Ontario)
There is a bit of democracy in the CCP you say? I think you should do some reading on what democracy is.
Brian Bailey (Vancouver, Canada)
This is a very accurate reading of the situation. I have spent the last two years living in mainland China and have passed through Hong Kong regularly, the latest a couple weeks ago. The vast majority of the people of Hong Kong absolutely do not trust the CCP and they will not stop protesting until the five demands are met. They have gradually been losing their freedoms since 1997 as the CCP breaks its promises regularly in order to benefit its own interests. The only thing the mafia like CCP respects is power and money. Otherwise, they just ignore what they promised. A contract, signed, means next to nothing in China. Hopefully, democracy WILL spread to the mainland - I have lots of Chinese friends who WANT it - but they are afraid of their own government - and their own government is afraid of them, hence the censorship and making people disappear when they criticize the government. These are interesting times but I would say, get ready for a change at the top within a year if there isn't a change of course by Papa Xi in short order.
ExhaustedFightingForJusticeEveryDay (In America)
Did Xi Jinping mishandle the Hong Kong crisis, and the protesters? Yes, and absolutely yes! Why do you think the protests continue? The way protesters are being treated proves that their concerns over the extradition bill were legitimate. Now grievances and demands have gone up. The HK problem was extremely solvable three months ago. But Xi and his rep. in HK Carrie Lam botched everything up. These are weaknesses of an authoritarian systems. They can't even listen to a million peaceful marchers. No wonder protesters have escalated their strategies.
MikeZim (Yangon, Myanmar)
A very well informed piece offering deep insights. This is why I have a subscription.
smith (california)
HK have 7.5 millions people. At its peak, only 2 million people joined the protest, according to the liberal estimate by the organizers. Looks to me that majority of the HK people want to have a normal life. There are winners and losers in every society. Usually, winners don't demonstrate on the street with the exception of a nationalism event. But losers can take the whole society hostage threatening anarchy unless they get the ransom.
K (Canada)
@smith 2 out of 7.5 million taking to the streets is not insignificant... you want at least 3.5 million people out there to "officially" consider their grievances? They are truly taking action and taking risks and physically going out and protesting. We would never see something of this scale happen in the West.
Mr. Xi (Honduras)
Only 2 millions out of the 7.5 millions in Hong Kong came out to protest. At least it is more than the 1200 person committee that selected Carrie Lam. Out of the 1200, she only got 777 votes. Anyway you spin it, the SAR government is a total failure. What does it say about its its Beijing master.
Mike McGuire (San Leandro, CA)
@smith Most people can't be bothered getting out in the streets here, either. It doesn't mean they don't support freedom. A "normal life" doesn't require being ruled by a police state without basic freedoms. I
JOSEPH (Texas)
Hong Kong isn’t fighting for progressive values or laws, they are protesting for freedoms like the USA. Yet Progressives here are fighting for government control like China. Let that sink in.
Matt (Los Angeles)
@JOSEPH Progressives in the US are not fighting for Chinese style dictatorship. Get your facts straight.
pseudonymous (Toledo, Ohio)
@JOSEPH Trump is the one that wants total or dictatorial control. He can't take any criticism of anything he says or does. He says that the press is the "enemy of the people". This kind of thinking seems to me to be more in line with authoritarian governments than with free democracies.
Xi needs to stick to the original deal, which is that Hong Kong retains its autonomy even though it's been re-aquired by the communist Peoples' Republic of China from the British. Maybe the PRC can learn something from Hong Kong as to how things are done nowadays. Mao is long gone.
moony (Singapore)
@MIKEinNYC Xi has neither the courage nor the strength to think new thoughts. He will never change, he can never improve. China should oust him and elect someone better and younger with new ideas, and the courage and wisdom to offer all Chinese and Hong Kongers basic human rights and freedoms. In Confucianism, freedom is viewed as key to living a good life.
Ken (Portland)
The best way to know that Xi handled the Hong Kong protests poorly is that Donald Trump said he handled them very well. Case closed.
smith (california)
The media continue to characterize the HK protest as peaceful. Do you consider biting a finger off a police officer a violent act? How about setting fires on the streets? Breaking into and vandalizing public buildings? More than 200 police officers got injured on duty. I am sure that they all fell on their own. At its peak, only 2 million people joined the protest, according to the liberal estimate by the organizers. Majority of the HK people just want to have a normal life. There are winners and losers in every society. Usually, winners don't demonstrate on the street with the exception of a nationalism event. The real question is whether a society should allow using anarchy as hostage to secure ransom.
Lance in Haiti (Port-au-Prince)
@smith 2 million is pretty large number in such a small place. That does not mean that there isn't plenty of support among the 5.5 million who chose to stay home.
tom lui (hawaii)
@smith My hats off to you and your crystal-clear vision.
Nick (Denver)
@smith After this length of time, I'm surprised there are only the few cases you state. Well, can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, as they say.
The CPC can only see world events through a lens of threatening their ironclad grip on the personal, political, social, and religious life of the Chinese people. And frankly, they are right to be concerned, because if the people of Hong Kong chose their own leaders, they would not choose the inept plutocrats currently installed by the Mainland. I pray that Hong Kong will see a peaceful uprising of democracy. I just don't know how.
ExhaustedFightingForJusticeEveryDay (In America)
Did Xi Jinping mishandle the Hong Kong crisis, and the protesters? Yes, and absolutely yes! Why do you think the protests continue? The way protesters are being handled proves that concerns over extradition bill were legitimate. Now grievances and demands have gone up. The problem was extremely solvable three months ago. Xi and his rep. in HK Carrie Lam botched everything up.
Samuel Li (Cleveland, OH)
Difference is that previous Chairman Jiang and Wu were belonged to Shanghai tribe whereas Xi is belonged to Beijing tribe. For Shanghai, their main goal is to earn money (more towards capitalism) whereas Xi wants all the power. Please note that Carrie Lam didn’t say withdraw. Instead, it should be “proposed to withdraw” in Legco. The trap is that it will put the bill in Legco where the pro-Beijing legislators (who disagree with Carrie Lam on this issue) can opposed to Carrie Lam’s proposal and force to pass the bill. Therefore, Hong Kongers still protest on the street nearly every single night as we don’t trust this government at all
Wolf (Out West)
Your basic Asian Banana Republic or Spain under Franco, Portugal under Salazar, Romania under Caecescu. These things don’t end well, ask Mussolini and his girlfriend who ended upside down, or the Caecescus.....Repressive and corrupt both.
Confucius (new york city)
For the millionth time, the events in Hong Kong are not really about democracy -although that's what the protestors are ostensibly clamoring about- but about the lack of economic opportunities and equality. They see neighboring economic zones are booming...while their future prospects are slowly but surely dimming by the day. And for the millionth time, Hong Kong is part of China, albeit governed by the "one country, two systems" as accommodated for in the Chinese Constitution. So far, China has honored the arrangement. The question is whether the Chinese government will pour investments in Hong Kong to rival Shenzhen and others...and provide better future for the young protestors. I wouldn't bet on it.
Nick (Denver)
@Confucius For the millionth time, the protesters have not made any economic demands. They, in fact, have a higher standard of living and more freedom than the rest of china.
smith (california)
@Confucius Agreed. The election system, however imperfect it may be, was implemented as the handover of HK to China. The Brits ruled HK for more than 150 years and never allowed any election. They only started to preach universal suffrage when they knew their time was up. The royal subjects at the time in HK was as obedient as sheep and never made any noise to try to have any say to who was their governor. Evolution takes more than 30 years.
smith (california)
@Confuciusg Areed. The election system, however imperfect it may be, was implemented as the handover of HK to China. The Brits ruled HK for more than 150 years and never allowed any election. They only started to preach universal suffrage when they knew their time was up. The royal subjects at the time in HK never made any noise to try to have any say to who was their governor. Evolution takes more than 30 years.
Koen (Hong Kong)
Participation in the protests is visibly waning - yesterday the protesters tried to paralyse the airport but barely created a ripple - after Carrie Lam withdrew the law, most people accepted her peace offer. There are still some hard core elements but Hong Kong police can easily handle them.
paul (chicago)
Xi's problem with HK is always whether to use force or not since he and his advisers can not think of any other way to solve the problem, the same way how Tienanmen suppression in 1989 was resolved. These guys are schooled in the same tradition of Communist Party cadre since 1950, and they know no other way. So the solution is either HK government can put down the protest by itself or China steps in with force. And the time will tell.
Nick (Denver)
@paul ...or the HK government can accede to the people's demands like they have already started.
Dr. James Wilson (San Francisco)
Dear Mr. Xi, This letter is addressed to you. While I'm not a politician, I understand human nature. Magnanimity will gain you far more in long run, than threats and intimidation. If you want Hong to stabilize and realign with the One-Country/Two Systems Model, then allow them to choose their own leaders, and address their grievances through an understanding of their position. By doing so you will avoid any further strife or alienation, and paradoxically strengthen the relationship you have with Hong Kong, and those who will be watching closely in Taiwan. Leadership isn't always about strength, it is also about understanding.
Rex Nimbus (Planet Earth)
@Dr. James Wilson: Do you honestly think Xi would listen to such an appeal? The only hope is that his enemies within the Communist hierarchy rally enough support to stage a palace coup and oust him from power.
ErikW65 (VT)
China already decided its people can't have real internet, and an autonomous Hong Kong is not compatible with that totalitarian strategy of governance.
Zoro (China)
Let me correct you on one point. Hong Kong elected its own leader, not in the way you think. The Chinese communist party does not squeeze the people of Hong Kong like Britain does. Hong Kong people are really democratic under the rule of Britain. Even the leaders are the confidants of the queen
lester ostroy (Redondo Beach, CA)
Since China has been kidnapping people in Hong Kong all along, it is a mystery why they proposed a law to make it legal. To the CCP anything they want to do is legal. The Chinese people have no rights but they don't care at this time savoring their new found wealth. But China is still a poor country. With four times as many people as the US, China has 1/2 the GDP.
Trump is a buffoon, but Xi, with his unchanging facial expression of affected calm in his attempt to emulate Buddha, is truly scary. He would have no qualms about murdering thousands of HK protesters if he thought he would get away with it.
Che Beauchard (Lower East Side)
@SYJ Had you not noticed that neither Mr. Xi nor Mr. Trump would have any qualms about murdering thousands (or millions) if they thought it would further their interests? Indeed, psychopathology seems to be a necessary condition for obtaining political power. An American Secretary of State a few years ago was asked about the cost of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives caused by the American sanctions placed on a Third World country. The Secretary said it was worth it. Chinese leaders are no different from American leaders in this way, and in this, Mr. Trump differs little from other American political leaders.
Betsy (Maine)
After a bad patch for democracy, the worm is turning on autocrats. Our own dear leader may decide to take note.
Edward (Honolulu)
He was elected fair and square, so don’t toss words around. It’s not helpful.
David (Girlan, Italy)
If you are referring to the Grifter, he was elected by Putin, an antiquated, un-democratic system, and three million fewer voters than his opponent.
allen (san diego)
the liberal democracies of the world have to realize that the effort to democratize china has failed. tiananmen square marked the turning point where it should have clear that the communist party was willing to massacre its citizens rather that give up power. the opening by nixon to china had a two fold purpose. first as a cold war strategy to isolate russia and move china away from its influence. as the first strategy seemed to be working the second, to move china away from its totalitarian communist political and economic system was implemented. by increasing the wealth of its citizens and creating a more capitalist oriented economy the theory was this would make china more democratic. this second strategy has completely failed and its failure has had the effect of reversing the success of the first as china and russia are renewing ties. the hold of the communist party in china has actually increased, and with the advent of modern surveillance technology is more intrusive than ever. while the political strategy failed the economic aspects did not. china is on a path to become the largest economy in the world. much of that new wealth is being used to increase the size and technological advantage of its military and to spread its influence world wide. the US can absorb and adapt to the cessation of trade with china. other democratic countries must follow suit. hopefully we can force the chinese economy to slow if not contract. we have until 2047 to tame the chinese beast.
Aaron (US)
That Xi hasn’t gone Tienanmen indicates his government is self-reflective enough to recognize the depth of their dilemma. That’s a good sign and if anything we should rhetorically encourage such reflection instead of calling it weak or bumbling, which this article does. One can’t expect a government to nimbly and fundamentally alter its way of relating to its own populace, which these protests demand. The uncertain response doesn’t seem to be a Xi problem as much as a weakness of authoritarianism. How does authoritarianism deal with direct challenges to its power from a significant internal source, if not through overwhelming force? Its an achilles heel of that system of governance, that if overwhelming force would destroy significant resources of the nation, the nation either maintains authority by eating itself and emerges weakened, like Syria or Russia, or it considers its failures and embarks on change, regardless of how slow that change may emerge. I, for one, believe China is moving in that direction, however halting, though of course we have to be wary of their destabilizing expansionism.
ErikW65 (VT)
so awareness allows denial? China is not really moving in a positive direction, and your post contains a lot of spinning.
smith (california)
Watching the protesters in helmets and body armors roaming through the HK streets, setting fires, blocking the public transportation, paralyze the HK international airport, and vandalize the public buildings including subway stations, I cannot understand the claim that they were fighting for their freedom. Looks to me they surely have ample freedom.
Thomas C. (Florida)
@smith: So you believe that the citizens of Hong Kong have no clue about their own lives. Brilliant.
smith (california)
@Thomas C. HK have 7.5 millions people. At its peak, only 2 million people joined the protest, according to the liberal estimate by the organizers. I think that majority of the HK people want to have a normal life. But, there are winners and losers in every society. Usually, winners don't demonstrate on the street with the exception of a nationalism event.
Nick (Denver)
@smith What places have had more than 25% of the population turn out for a protest? How many of the 7.5 million in HK are too young or elderly to participate. The actual participation rate could be above 50% of adults in that case.
Peeking Through The fences (Vancouver)
Xi, and the CCP generally, are fascists. Of course they cannot understand, much engage with, the people of HK. They have no practice engaging with their own people.
Mark (Shanghai)
@Peeking Through The fences I don't think that "fascists" is accurate. Living in China, we see the Hong Kong "protesters" as violent and unaware of their role as the pawns of the west, not to mention the history of their own "country." If any country should be seen as fascist, it is certainly the United States, with the tentacles of its military empire embodied in its ubiquitous military bases, its encroaching battleships in the South China Sea, and its President's economic attacks on free trade. The Hong Kong protesters are attacking police and civilians, throwing molotov cocktails...that is not the appropriate way to express their discontent.
Mark (Shanghai)
@Peeking Through The fences I don't think that "fascists" is accurate. Living in China, we see the Hong Kong "protesters" as violent and unaware of their role as the pawns of the west, not to mention the history of their own "country." If any country should be seen as fascist, it is certainly the United States, with the tentacles of its military empire embodied in its ubiquitous military bases, its encroaching battleships in the South China Sea, and its President's economic attacks on free trade. The Hong Kong protesters are attacking police and civilians, throwing molotov cocktails...that is not the appropriate way to express their discontent.
@Mark Because you don't have friends and families in Hong Kong. Or you would know the truth. Propaganda manipulate citizens' thoughts. That's what the Great Firewall was built for, to block the truth from seeping into the Mainland. Police also impersonate protestors to incite violence in Hong Kong. Please be empathetic to people that are suffering. Hong Kongers have enjoyed democracy for a very long time, it's impossible to give up freedoms. Once you are free of oppression, you will also understand.
bill (overland park, ks)
yes Hong Kong at one time Hong Kong ran like a finely tuned watch. Its people obsessed with getting ahead. Its laws were such to give business the maxiomum advantage. Probably like our laws here should be now. anyway then China comes along and decides to downplay Hong Kong. And the people don't like that. So they want out. OK i'm cool with that. China underestimated Hong Kong and its people. Ok China had its chanxce and blew it. so get out of the way China. Either get with the people or get out of the way and set them free.
velocast (New Castle De)
At the mist of the Cold War, the Sino-Soviet border conflict was going on. Nixon probably envisioned: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. That was one Nixon’s big stab to democracy! No only that he conceded Big China almost anything they wanted. So, since then Big China become a bully. There should never ever be a one China principle unless is democratic.
Mark (Shanghai)
@velocast It would be appropriate for all us to be wary when we use the word "democratic," given that that term, as Orwell notes in "Politics and the English Language," is meaningless, and can be applied to any government. What type of democracy would be preferred? The American sort that gives its people the blustering Donald Trump? The British sort that gives them Brexit? The Russian sort that gives Putin continual power? Or China's form of democracy that pulls millions out of poverty and develops their country at the most rapid pace ever seen? Or the Hong Kong sort that leads to chaos in the streets? Democracy is not a monolithic term.
Nick (Denver)
@Mark Stay on topic, Mark.
@Mark Does China has universal suffrage? Can people choose or replace their leaders? Did Xi eliminate the term limit? Can Chinese use facebook or google in the mainland? Why did China use censorship to control the people? What's the need of millions of surveillance cameras? Can people criticize the government? Why are citizens being judged by a scoring system and get blacklisted? Why the blacklisted get denied of basic human rights? Can people even decide how many children they can have? Did people get arrested and have to abort their children under the one-child policy? What happen to people who speak up about their different ideas? What happen to Wan Yanhai, Hu Jia and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo? Democracy isn't a perfect system. Humans aren't perfect. But a government is supposed to serve the people. A one-party system means autocracy. China doesn't have democracy.
Since 1997, Beijing has been meddling with Hong Kong’s election, suppressing free press, freedoms of speech and education. To force assimilation, Beijing allows huge influx of nationalistic mainland migrants into already over-populated Hong Kong, a way to white-wash Hong Kong’s identity. Not only do these reckless migrations drain the welfare and healthcare system, they cause discontent from citizens due to unemployment and shortage of housing. While Hong Kongers fight to preserve their freedoms, these mainland migrants chant loyalty to Beijing, ratchet up propaganda through social media to bully and defame Hong Kongers. Their clashes with pro-democracy protestors give the world an impression that Hong Kong society has become divisive. The truth is: Hong Kongers are united. Some natives, fear of reprisal, are supporting covertly, while the courageous stay in the frontline. On August 23rd, Hong Kongers of all ages form an over 27-mile-long human chain that even the Lion Rock with its elevation of 1,624 feet could not block their solidarity for freedoms. Since then, the chain continues to link together 200 secondary schools and 10 universities in Hong Kong. Boycotting classes are one of the many ways Hong Kong youth are doing to defy Beijing’s heartless grip. Their fight to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and Hong Kong’s beautiful past isn’t just an act of hope. It’s their determination to defy oppression. Their outcry for China to acknowledge Hong Kong’s unique identity.
ErikW65 (VT)
since 1997 HK has known that any autonomy would be temporary. Why does the timing of the crackdown change the morality of China's actions so much?
Nick (Denver)
@ErikW65 ...because a lot can happen in another 30 years. The current China regime will be long gone by then.
@Nick At least, let's hope that this regime will reform. In China, a scoring system is implemented to measure citizens’ “trustworthiness.” The household registration (hukou) system, established in 1950s, initially for restricting population migration, made possible this massive computerized rating system which recognizes the “good” and reprimands the “bad.” Obedience is the most important character of a model citizen. A Red-listed gets special treatments while a Black-listed would be scrutinized for the rest of this person’s life. This sophisticated computerized socialistic system is set up to make sure that all Black-listed citizens would be publicly targeted, attacked, defamed until they are completely stripped of their connections, opportunities and basic rights. A black-listed person will always have a hard time finding a job, or ever getting promoted in China. As common sense, a company will avoid hiring a black-listed person at all cost, or risk being black-listed. A black-listed person, depends on the level of seriousness, can be barred from purchasing luxurious goods, renting a car, traveling by train or plane and many other privileges we take for granted. Together with nationwide facial recognition, 200 million surveillance cameras and the Great Firewall, this autocratic regime is keeping the people in its tight grip. Hong Kongers believe they are endowed with the power to shape their society. This generation would rather die than lose their human rights.
DB (San Francisco, CA)
The fire that burns starts small. An oppressed people will awaken. All those who have not enjoyed the prosperity are susceptible. And those at the top off shore money and families while sleeping in fear of the coming revolution. Time to visit Macau.
Peter Filardo (New York, NY)
The failure of Western democracies to stand up to Generalissimo Franco's fascist forces in Spain led directly to WWII. While I am not trying to make a facile analogy, the defeat of the people of Hong Kong will have enormous repercussions, symbolic and actual, short term and long term. A defeat would likely lead to a China that may well be unalterably totalitarian and quasi-Stalinist, for the foreseeable future. Given China's large and growing economic, political and military power, this would be an ominous development, and one with as yet unknown, but nevertheless negative, consequences, again, both symbolic and actual.
Tim (New York)
“The trade war is adding to the pain," . . . and tariffs aren't working!
Timbuktu (Honolulu)
”Indolent, incompetence and becoming divorced from the public’, interesting words coming from the people’s leader. Well, Carrie Lam was his pick. So what does it say about him? Th extradition bill was just the straw that was needed to break the camel’s back. The social problems in Hong Kong are there to see if you bother to pay attention. Housing, income inequality (the minimum hourly wage in Hong Kong is less than Hk$40, or less than US $5.), lack of opportunities for the young and the acceleration in erosion of freedom of expression in recent year exemplified by the disappearance of the book sellers. Life after the turnover has deteriorated as high real estate prices affected rents for all, translating into high prices for every day goods and living conditions (Hong Kong consistently ranked amongst the top one or two most expensive places in the world to live). The Gini Index is high and getting higher. The tycoons have done extremely well under the SAR government and control everything from real estate, to electricity, internet providers and super markets, etc. People are living in cages. What has the SAR government done to address these problems? Nothing that I am aware of. What ever they do, it’s only in half measures. In the midst of all these turmoil, the SAR government raised the tender threshold for bidding on government lands effectively shutting out any mid size developers from qualifying to bid. So there you have it. Is it any wonder why people are angry.
hen3ry (Westchester, NY)
Xi Jingping seems to have set himself up as another Mao. He eliminated the term limit. That simple elimination means he's not accountable to the public or to the party. It could pave the way for a coup if party leaders decide he is not fit to lead. But such a plan could backfire and lead to civil war which China doesn't need. Perhaps mainland China finds honoring the agreement for the handover from Britain to itself onerous. Perhaps they don't like having Hong Kong as a reminder of the problems Communist China faced while Hong Kong was becoming prosperous. One can entertain any number of theories here and never come to a satisfactory conclusion. As an outsider to the dance that China and Hong Kong and Macau do with each other the one thing that has struck me is the similarity to Tiananmen Square. Hong Kong is not the People's Republic of China. Bulldozing them will backfire. And sending in the army to quell the rioters will worsen the situation. China will be viewed as violating the terms of the agreement and for what?
ErikW65 (VT)
seems like Xi is employing an actions speak louder than words strategy, but without much confidence or clarity.
UC Graduate (Los Angeles)
By getting rid of the two five-year term limit as the President of PRC, Xi Jinping upset the fragile political arrangement between PRC and Hong Kong. Within Hong Kong, the 50-year quasi-autonomy has always been viewed as a window of time where PRC would become more democratic. Since 1997, the trajectory of leaders--Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Xi Jinping--seemed more modern, managerial, and worldly. Many within and outside of China hoped that this direction would lead to a break from CCP's authoritarian past and more open and democratic future. For residents of Hong Kong, this hope was much more than an academic exercise as Beijing would impose direct rule in 2047. When Xi Jinping consolidated his power and basked in the glow of "lifetime ruler," Hong Kong residents who staked their future in a more democratic China had little choice but to engage in active and militant resistance: barring any formal way to register political dissatisfaction, Hong Kong residents can only raise the economic and financial cost of ruling the Special Administrative Region. Seen this way, the future of Hong Kong look grim: as the saying goes, "All politics is personal." As long as Xi Jinping leads China, Hong Kong residents will continue to raise the cost of governing Hong Kong.
ErikW65 (VT)
Hong Kong residents who staked their future on a democratic system existing in a time that is 28 years from now either didn't read the agreement, or they are trying to alter the contract after the fact, just like China is doing.
Che Beauchard (Lower East Side)
@ErikW65 The HK people had nothing to do with "the agreement," as you put it. The handing over of HK by the British was a deal between the mainland government and the British and the HK people played no part in putting the deal together. Thus there can be no "trying to alter the contract after the fact" by the HK people. This was imposed on them by their colonial masters--the British and the mainland government.
"Imperious style", from a guy who declares himself "President For Life"?
hkuA (california)
@MIKEinNYC His is Imperial style!
Hopeless American (San Francisco)
Naw. Hong Kong people are destroying their own country to create a better one for all.
Dudesworth (Colorado)
Obama was right about T.P.P., by the way. A lot of people across the spectrum were angry that countries were “picking winners” behind the scenes during those negotiations. That seems much better than having an idiot like Donald Trump picking winners by porcelain throne tweetstorm whimsy on a daily basis. I hope the next president looks hard at joining T.P.P. early on in their administration. The only way to counter China and attempt to have positive change in that country is with our friends and allies (if we have any left). Who knows maybe the next president should also start pushing for an independent Hong Kong? That would certainly rattle some folks in Beijing. Time to get smart AND take the kid gloves off!
Michael (Los Angeles)
I am the former Chairman of Republicans for the National Interest. We were the “America First” agitators within the GOP long before the Tea Party and the Trump Presidency managed to wrest the party apparatus from the K Street Free Traders and the Neo-conservatives. Still, I cannot deny the strategic insight that President Obama displayed in his tilt away from the Middle East quagmire and toward the Pacific Rim. Containing China is the top American foreign policy prerogative of the 21st century, and the TPP is the tip of the spear in that regard. We should negotiate our way into that pact. The Rust Belt manufacturing jobs lost to globalization are better outsourced to Vietnam, a historical enemy of China, than to China. In the end, the only way to break the back of the tyranny in Beijing is to remove as much of our supply chain from mainland China as possible.
John Harper (Carlsbad, CA)
@Michael But you voted for Trump?
David (Michigan, USA)
'Republicans for the national interest': clearly a contradiction in terms.
smith (california)
People give HK too much credit to think that the HK situation could possibly affect president Xi's standing. Firstly, the protests is will contained in a small geographic area surrounded by the ocean on one side and the anger mainland public on the other sides. Secondly, the only damage the protesters can inflict is on the HK. Hurting yourself is a leverage only to undisciplined parents on nominal issues. Thirdly, the HK's importance to the mainland has been exaggerated. Financial service is the only industry that hasn't moved to the mainland. People invest in China because of the market opportunities in the mainland, not because HK happens to be next to China. International capital can find its way to Zimbabwe, if compelling market opportunities exist. HK is just a convenient, but dispensable venue. Without an obvious central decision-making body, the protest movement will be hard to be wrapped up voluntarily. I can see two possible outcomes. The first is that the public sediment starts to tilt against the protesters and the HK government regain control through its police force. The second possible outcome is that the violent protest goes on in a confined geographic location. Under such a scenario, the protesters' slogan "if we burn, you burn with us" might just come true.
For as long as I can remember, Hong Kongers have rescued Mainlanders. Hong Kong donated HK$9 billion since 2008 to help Sichuan rebuild after a magnitude 8 earthquake killed more than 80,000, injured 370,000 and left 4.8 million homeless. The Li Ka Shing Foundation, Hong Kong’s largest charity, provided a grant of $1 billion to establish the Technion Guangdong Institute of Technology in Shantou, Guangdong Province. These facts alone should be enough for 1.4 billion Chinese Mainlanders to be more empathetic to 7 million Chinese brothers and sisters in Hong Kong. They are fighting to preserve basic human rights. Based on Den Xiaoping’s “One China. Two Systems.” principal, Hong Kong is guaranteed another 28 years of self-governance, which means a separate legal system and a government that serve their interest. Hong Kongers want nothing more than they already have—freedom. Once you have tasted freedom, it’s impossible to let it go.
Nick (Denver)
@smith If HK is so insignificant, why not honor the terms of the agreement? Why apply this much pressure so soon? Easy, the Chinese political system is totalitarian. Just ask the Uighurs, just ask the families of those at Tienanmen. Now its HKs turn. Then Tiawan. Then Japan..... Then the US
@smithSince Den Xiaoping opened up China’s moribund economic system to the world in 1978, Hong Kong has been vital to China’s manufacturing and export business in Guangdong Province. Deng’s Open-Door Policy wouldn’t have succeeded without direct investment from Hong Kong based companies. Under the CEPA, a free trade agreement between the Mainland and Hong Kong, Hong Kong is a free port and doesn’t levy any Customs tariffs on imports or exports, except for a few exceptional commodities. Besides being a key entrepôt for China, Hong Kong is an aviation hub and global offshore Renminbi business hub, sharing about 79% of the world’s RMB payments. Hong Kong has always been China’s most reliable trading partner, international financial center, and one of the most important trade and capital-raising centers, long before Shanghai Stock Exchange reentered the world stage. During the global economic crisis in mid-2008, Shanghai’s stock exchange plummeted, down 65%, the second largest turnover in the world. Its volatility and Central Government’s tight regulation on Shanghai’s stock market make Hong Kong a more welcoming entity for investors. Hong Kong needs China, but China’s economy would be destroyed without Hong Kong. By the end of 2018, 1,146 Mainland companies were listed in Hong Kong, with total market capitalization of around US$2.6 trillion: 68% of the market total. Since 1993, Mainland companies have raised more than US$800 billion via stock offerings in Hong Kong.
Icarus Jones (NYC)
It seems to be that "semiautonomous" and the rule of law don't mix.
smith (california)
@Icarus Jones Not sure whether your statement is true. But that's a temporary arrangement by 50 years. In 2047, HK will become just another Chinese city.
David H (Washington DC)
Mr. Xi is so thin skinned and defensive that he has banned images of Winnie the Pooh. With that sort of mindset, is it any surprise the China now displays impotence in the face of Chinese citizens agitating for their freedom?
Summer Smith (Dallas)
Is it surprising that an authoritarian who is in office for life is exercising authoritarian rule? Is it surprising that a “leader” who has imprisoned millions of minorities in re-education camps now wants to quash dissent and freedom in HK? Pay attention and you won’t be surprised by Xi. The people’s suffering is nothing to him.
c harris (Candler, NC)
For all the power China has given Xi he has cornered himself.
Nick R (Fremont, CA)
Xi Jinping carries the weight of one billion people on his back. His position is not enviable because even though he is the self proclaimed people's leader, he is living in constant fear of Chinese society collapsing upon him.
Peeking Through The fences (Vancouver)
Perhaps the burden would be lighter if he let the people walk their own path
@Nick R If Xi Jinping is truly aspired to unite China, respecting diversity and human rights should be his first step.
Grace (Bronx)
Like all strongmen, Xi's biggest strength is generating fear and propaganda. He overplayed his hand in Hong Kong but he is still dangerous. He is also backed into a corner with the trade war. His biggest problem is not the tariffs but the decoupling of the Chinese economy from the economy of the rest of the world. Thank you Mr Trump.
karen (Florida)
You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. These young people will never go backwards. China needs to chill and embrace it.
@karen Brilliant metaphor! In this grim time, it's comforting to hear sound wisdom!
badubois (New Hampshire)
Best news story I've read all week! Now, if he and best bud Putin were to retire to some estate on the French Riviera, the world would be a much better place.
S. Lam (New York)
Hong Kong’s crisis is dragged out because Xi wants to see Chinese fight among themselves. He is betting that Hong Kong’s unity and support from the world will fade as violence becomes destructive. As Sun Tzu stated in The Art of War, “The wise warrior avoids the battle.” Instead of sending his Liberation Army and risk losing global recognition of Hong Kong, a key entrepôt, an aviation hub, a global offshore Renminbi business hub, an international financial center, and one of the most important trade and capital-raising centers for China, Xi reduced Hong Kong to a police state. A police state means citizens are being terrorized but they have nowhere to turn to. A police state means people are disappearing. Riot-gears-packed-bags are forced onto those arrested to fabricate evidence. Convictions won by coerced confessions. Lynching becomes a norm. Police hid their identification, but citizens know they were sent from the Mainland. Xi doesn’t understand he is discrediting China and hurting the image of Chinese everywhere in the world. He doesn’t understand how he will ultimately fail in the end. The more brutally a government tries to suppress the people, the stronger their conviction will become. Tibetans. Uyghurs. Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen survivors. 7 million Hong Kongers will soon join the victims of the humanitarian crimes committed by this regime. Tinder can spark inferno.
RR (California)
@S. Lam I agree Mr. Lam. People do not seem to understand the tyranny of the Chinese. Their wrongs are always stated as "human rights violations". I don't see torture, incarceration, harassment, and beatings of any one person, Chinese, Tibetan, Uyghur or Hui Muslims for just being. Xi seems to be emulating past Chinese Communist dictators, if it worked for them, why not me?
ErikW65 (VT)
withdrawing the extradition legislation at this time doesn't feel like a wise avoiding of a needless battle, but rather a lame attempt at resolution that either demonstrates a lack of control or understanding.
Hucklecatt (Hawaii)
It is not a Xi problem, it is a Communist-led China problem. The Chinese people (who are good themselves) live in constant fear of a government that throws your entire family in a gulag for disobedience to The State. Modeled somewhere between Pol Pot and North Korea, nobody really likes China. Arrogant and humorless, they continue to push a governmental model that restricts individual liberties and pushes a bizarre belief that the world must be subsumed into their cultural ideal (yuck!). Like a bad play friend, they are the playground bully with little to offer (ask Hong Kong, Tienanmen survivors, or the ghosts of Mao's purges).
R. R. (NY, USA)
Xi is a brutal dictator who had to back off of massive repression of Hong Kong for various reasons that are well known. However, do not fear for Xi. His Chinese strongman rule will outlast the lives of most of the posters here.
Julie Lam (Hong Konger)
Using the crisis as an excuse, Beijing is vowing to shut down liberal education in Hong Kong. Teachers are pressured to teach government printed material that demonizes democracy—but promote absolute obedience to China’s one-party system. It’s foreseeable that children in Hong Kong will soon be forced to memorize communist lexicons and sing patriotic songs. When the free flow of information is halted and civic engagement is banned in classrooms, the biggest difference between living in Hong Kong and the Mainland will vanish. I think that’s Xi’s biggest overestimation of his power. Though over 1000 Hong Kongers have been arrested, many of them school-age children, Hong Kong youth are undeterred. One widely circulated video shows a hall of students singing “Do you Hear the People Sing” to drown out China’s anthem. To finish their demonstration of defiance, while teachers stood in silence on the stage, they chanted their revolution slogan: Hong Kongers, Add Oil. With freedoms of speech and press, Hong Kong youth are analytical and critical of domestic and global affairs. Teachers engage students in healthy debates about civic duties and world politics. Hong Kong youth are inspired to preserve their precious freedoms. That’s why his military parades and corporal punishment cannot silence them. Xi will not live to see Hong Kongers submit to communism. If he is truly aspired to unite China, respecting diversity and human rights should be his first step.
smith (california)
Giving in to the protesters would create enormous morale hazard with long-term consequences. Two of the demands related to some kind of amnesty to the rioters" 1) not characterizing their violent acts as riots and 2) release everyone arrested at the scenes. Giving in to these demands would send a message that a group of people can get what they want through violence and then secure impunity to the existing law through the threat of continuing and escalating violent acts. Such a temporary bandage might be acceptable to a politician just trying to complete his/her term. But is it a good to maintain the rule of law?
RR (California)
@smith Smith - these protestors have not been violent; its the Chinese Police who have led the "crackdown" with their weapons against the peaceful and persistent protestors. What I am so proud of, is their resilence, and tenacity to fight the evil empire. If Hong Kong people DON'T keep upt the protest, they will never have freedom again.
ErikW65 (VT)
how can enforcement of the rule of law just for its own sake be compatible with any kind of successful governing strategy? Law needs to be a rooted in an acceptable moral pragmatism, not just dictated to the people.
smith (california)
@RR Do you consider biting a finger off a police officer a violent act? How about setting fires on the streets? Breaking into and vandalizing public buildings? More than 200 police officers got injured on duty. I am sure that they all fell on their own.
CK (Christchurch NZ)
The Hong Kong and Chinese police aggravated the situation by beating up innocent people with truncheons; one example is innocent people just standing up in a train. I saw it on NZ news in a video, and was unbelievable, about twenty police officers started beating up about ten people standing up in a train for no reason. The victims kept moving to the back of the train but the police just followed them and kept beating them with their truncheons. They had blood all over them and remained peaceful. What else wasn't caught on video. If the police sprayed the protestors with blue water spray, so they could identify them, then they're using communist tactics to go after the protestors, as it is your right in a Democracy to protest; so really, Hong Kong police are showing their true communist colours. Someone needs to document all this in a book, like they did with, 'the TIANANMEN papers'.
Tysons2019 (Washington, DC)
Hong Kong is the hope and inspiration for all freedom loving people in China and the world. This is the first such large scale demonstration openly against the communist rule and dictators of China mainland. I left China shortly after Mao "liberated" Peking in 1949 and I smelled something was not right under the new communist rule. I was a high school kid but my observation was correct. If I stayed in mainland China, I probably already disappeared with millions of other innocent people and I wouldn't be able to make any comments about Hong Kong demonstrations now. Hong Kongers please continue your fights until your mission is accomplished. Forget about Xi Jinping and just remember you wanted to rescue the 1.4-billion suffering Chinese friends on the mainland China. Your fights will be in the history books of China and will be remembered by the whole world for a long time.
@Tysons2019 "Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land." This is quoted from Mao’s speech made in 1957. No survivor of the Cultural Revolution will forget how politicians, intellectuals, actors, teachers, doctors, workers, farmers, even Xi Jinping's father were purged. We thought Xi would know what's oppression.
Anatomically modern human (At large)
In my view Mr. Xi has only himself to blame for the current upheaval in Hong Kong. Three years ago, five Hong Kong booksellers disappeared, only to reappear in Mainland China. They'd been kidnapped by Mainland security forces and taken across the border. Their "crime" was selling books that purportedly went into some detail about the corruption and wealth of some of Mr. Xi's family members. This rendition of the booksellers was in complete violation of Hong Kong law, and made a total mockery of the "one country, two systems" agreement. I believe that Ms. Lam's introduction of the extradition bill was a response to this illegal act of state. With it, she hoped to provide the Mainland government a legal mechanism for such cases, so that when they wanted to grab someone they could do so without undermining the rule of law as they had previously. That Mr. Xi would be so arrogant and so desperate as to kidnap law abiding Hong Kongers and drag them across the border, compromising the "one country, two systems" agreement and his own country's standing in the world, speaks volumes about who we are dealing with in China. And you can bet this message wasn't missed by the people of Hong Kong.
S (Ottawa, Ontario)
@Anatomically modern human @smith clearly these actions were not upholding the rule of law. A fundamental reason for the protests on the first place. The protesters want the rule of law to be upheld.
albert (virginia)
This is an unforced error by Xi. They had already violated Hong Kong's sovereignty by arresting people and transporting them back to China. By making the policy official, they exposed the truth and their intentions. They could have quietly continued their covert campaign, but read the situation wrong. They thought the people of Hong Kong would be passive. But they neglect the desire for all people to be free and you cannot take away freedom for those who have experienced it.
Kodali (VA)
It is interesting to see the dividends of Trump’s trade war with China in political foreign affairs. Trump should toughen the demands in the upcoming trade negotiations, just like people in Hong Kong expanded their demands.
Mike (Seattle)
Trump toughen up trade demands? I doubt that. I think you're more apt to see him figure a way out of his attempt to intimidate China. President XI has a country that backs him up, not so president Trump. look for Trump's excuses for giving in, before a year is over.
RR (California)
@Kodali We can only hope.
adara614 (North Coast)
Many people felt that Nikita Khrushchev lost his job because of the Cuban Missile Crisis even though it took 2 years.
John Harper (Carlsbad, CA)
@adara614 There's only one way to get rid of a "leader for life."
Owen (San Francisco)
This article is useful for one purpose only, which is to demonstrate the haphazard and contradictory nature of western thinking on Hong Kong. To wit: 1. Xi is noted as the all powerful, imperious, leader for life. But, at the same time, there is all this reporting on open debates and considerable back and forth going on at the highest levels of government. So, which is it? Is it a Stalinist, absolutist system, or is it open committee based decision making process? This article says it's both, which is a self contradictory statement, but don't worry, they're both bad. 2. On the one hand, China is brutal about the protestors. On the other hand, Xi is afraid of world opinion and 'scared' to do anything and has no plans to intervene. So which is it? The article says its both, again self contradictory, but don't worry, either way, it's bad. 3. There are 'hints' of unease in the government (according to 'experts' sitting far outside the gates of Zhongnanhai). Is this supposed to be news? Is there usually unease in a government when a city that represents 3% of national GDP is subject to chaos? It seems like the only government that would NOT be uneasy is one that doesn't care what happens? No? Perhaps best to just stop reporting if you can't figure out what you're really trying to say, unless what you are saying is just that China is bad and that's all there is to it.
ErikW65 (VT)
Awesome rant to point out the operative word, which is, Contradictory. So I'll say something contractors in nature to the Protestors: Since the agreement China signed on to only allows HK temporary autonomy, all China is really guilty of is jumping the gun, taking away what would eventually be taken away anyway; any chance of autonomy. Extradition to China is an inevitability, unless you die first.
Alex Kent (Westchester)
Nonsense. No autocratic system is impervious to internal disagreements. But it’s extremely difficult to discern the contours of the disagreements, much less connect them to the events we can see. The article did a very good job describing what is known. Trolls would like reporters to say nothing that they can’t prove in court. I read the Times for articles like this. Keep it up.
Ramirez (Oregon)
Yes, Mr. Xi has mishandled the situation in Hong Kong. Mr. Xi has never been a man of the people. His background and his authoritarian style has made him unsuitable for handling a situation that required diplomatic skill.
Kris Gonda (North Carolina)
Sooner or later, every People’s Leader, East and West, starts looking for the People’s Enemies, who usually turn out to be the People themselves. Xi Jinping’s forthcoming Little Red Book will clarify all that.
dk (oak park)
I am surprised at the level of surprise. this is a country that shot hundreds at Tiananmen.
RR (California)
@dk Actually, according to people in Academia who read and write Chinese/Mandarin, they shot the best and the brightest in Tianamen Square by the thousands. That massacre was as if the Chinese rounded up all the Ivy League top graduate students and gunned them down.
LiChinglong (New York)
The propaganda is only geared toward the Western English readers. I read both the Chinese and English media, and President Xi is doing fine. Nor would I ever wish for China to have the types of democracy hijack by a profit making, self serving, unelected mass media. I hundred percent support China to wall off the inciteful, disingenuous Democratic activism that cared little for the actual livelihoods of people who actually work for a living. The Western media should help their own governments to do better rather than promote a failed system at home to the border world.
gkrause (British Columbia)
@LiChinglong And yet China boasts a GINI coefficient, a measure of equity and economic equality with 0 being entirely equal and 1 being entirely unequal, of .47. The US GINI is .48, Hong Kong's - .53. It is hard to see what justifies your position but please advise if there is another index that can be used to compare results.
chimanimani (Los Angeles)
@LiChinglong So, it is "propaganda" if it is from the "western english media", but "all-truth" if in the Chinese media? I read the western english media, and surprise, surprise, read both the praise and fault finding of the Chinese political system. Then I decide. That same english media, tells me the Chinese media only reports the positives of the Chinese political system - am I being deceived? Where may I find a Chinese Media outlet that tells the otherside?
ErikW65 (VT)
China might as well start now what it eventually was going to have to do in 2047, right?
Joe (Jackson)
Xi? Few surprises from a dictator.
T (Oz)
The extradition treaty itself was a unwise move unless Xi’s idea is to provoke a Tiananmen 2.0, complete with tanks. HK was never going to accept that sort of law. Let’s hope that provocation isn’t the plan - and that Xi won’t shamble into executing it by accident, either.
W (Minneapolis, MN)
The Hong Kong extradition bill is the symbolic touchstone for a much more complex situation in China. The behavior of the actors on Tuesday, the day before Ms. Lam withdrew the bill, seems to have been orchestrated. On that day the party officials made their statement from Beijing, while Mr. Xi traveled to the 'Communist Party’s Central Party School' to make his. This suggests that ideology will be the paramount criteria on deciding the issue. According to the article: "On Tuesday, officials in Beijing declared there could be no concessions to the protesters’ demands." "Mr. Xi returned on Tuesday to the same venue as his speech in January — the Communist Party’s Central Party School — and reprised the warnings he raised in January without suggesting they were in fact worsening." "In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Xi also gave a possible hint of the government’s pragmatism." "He [Mr. Xi] has said nothing about the protests, even in his passing reference on Tuesday." As for the "...silence from officials...", according to Berman (1986): "...silence may be interpreted as giving rise to inferences concerning the intention of the parties in forming a contract;” (p. 110) Cite: Berman, Harold J. The Religious Sources of General Contract Law: An Historical Perspective. Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 4 No. 1, 1986. p. 103-124 From: (07 AUG 2019)
Ted (NY)
All dictators have an expiration date, and “President for Life” Xi, is no exception. Did he really mishandle the crisis? The fact is that by ignoring the democratic will of the people and effectively hand picking Carrie Lam as Hong Kong’s Chief Executive to begin with, neither Xi nor Lam had any credibility for any form of accommodation from the get go. The key question is, what lesson/s did Xi learn from this experience. Will he next chose a more sanguine, brutal Chief Executive or allow for peaceful democratic transition that can only help China’s economy. Time will tell, though Xi seems to err on isolated grandiosity.
richard cheverton (Portland, OR)
There is a lesson here--for us as well as Hong Kong. The mob, once unleashed, does not willingly go back to its kennel.
mr isaac (berkeley)
The young of Hong Kong are showing Americans the folly of state capitalism. Their message is clear: Westerners in pursuit of profit who ignore China's compromise of human rights do so at their own peril.
Bhaskar (Dallas, TX)
Xi bungled this big time. He didn't send tanks to Hong Kong like the Chinese usually do. You can't be a communist and pretend to be a democratic leader. The ordinary people in Hong Kong are smarter to see through the red curtain.
Chris Rutledge (Toronto)
The article rests on an assumption that there is some clever strategy that the Chinese leadership could have implemented that would have defused the situation. (But this clever strategy is not outlined.) Perhaps the Chinese leadership is keeping options open toward the furball that is Hong Kong. They control perceptions of Hong Kong within China (the wise and competent leadership, no downside there), and they refrain from acting out the West's script of brutal crackdown. Could it be that the Chinese leadership does not expect Mr. Xi to have found a magic solution that does not exist, and in fact do not see the current Hong Kong disruption as a regime shaking event?
B (HK)
The attempt to impose the problematic bill is certainly the wrong move, but the current “crisis” in Hong Kong has pretty much been exacerbated by the protestors. The protestors have been rioting since week 2 (forcefully entering a government legislative building and defaced it) before any police actions started. After the government has suspended the bill indefinitely early Week 3, the violent riots by the protestors only escalated to now throwing things on active MTR train tracks (which can be considered a mass murder attempt). These are facts. If the protestors have committed these acts, at least be responsible for them. Violence stems violence and chaos. HK has had truly peaceful protests since 1997 where the police never had to exercise force. The protestors who have been arrested have committed uncivil acts. They should be responsible for their own actions. If one cannot even take responsibility for their own actions, why are we even speaking of human rights?!
John (New York, NY)
You’re blaming protesters for a tone-deaf response and behavior by leaders? China desperately wants to avoid a democratic process, but they forget that a strength of a democratic response is the instant feedback from the masses. In other times, kings and rulers would go out into crowds in disguise to get a feeler how things “really” are. A mass protest is as obvious a response as things get, and the CCP completely ignored it.
Donald Matson (Orlando)
Nuts! Long, long ago Hong Kong was overshadowed by many much larger, more vibrant Chinese cities rich in Chinese history, culture, arts, languages and education. Hong Kong ranks nowhere near China’s top tier 1 cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Or Chinese cities like Chengdu, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Chongqing, Nanjing, Tianjin, Suzhou, Xi'an, Changsha, Shenyang, Qingdao, Zhengzhou, Dalian, Dongguan, Ningbo. Hong Kong has nothing to offer its citizens except high rents and expensive food and it has nothing to offer the world. Hong Kong is not a tourist attraction. It is not an industrial center. It is not rich in Chinese history. It is not a gateway to or from China. It is not a center for higher education and learning. Hong Kong is just a medium size Chinese city of 7 million people in a country of more than 1.4 billion people.
C. Schwinbarger (California)
@Donald Matson Hong Kong’s overall importance to China’s economy is declining rapidly. At the time of the handover, the city accounted for close to 20% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) !!! -- compared with less than 3% today. But you seem to have wildly underestimated the city's economic importance.
Sean (Hong Kong)
This article just quotes some “China experts” in Hong Kong and of course the conclusion is that “China made the problem worse”, “China has no plans to resolve it” etc. Hong Kong academia has been anti-China for years. No mentions of the socioeconomic issues and how the pan-Dems blocked the many reforms the government proposed. Build 85k affordable housing a year? Blocked. Diversify the economy from finance? Blocked. Improve Mandarin education to compete against Mainland/Taiwan/Singapore? Blocked. I doubt that there are any illusions of Hong Kong democracy after 2016 when the first thing the localist parties did after election victory was some epic China-baiting that got them kicked out of office. If anything chaos in Hong Kong just shows that Deng’s system of tolerance doesn’t work and gives Xi a stronger hand.
James (CA)
@Sean More articulate, truthful, and salient than the article itself. A rarity on this comment boards.
Zhanwen Chen (Nashville, TN)
@Sean However, this article's quality is consistent with the standard of the Times' foreign reporting especially when it comes to China, North Korea, Venezuela, etc. Not only is it opinion-based with scant extraordinary evidence, it also encourages confirmation bias by citing and only citing the opinions of a predictably anti-government crowd. In other words, the newsroom and the editorial board serve as echo chambers which are not separated by a "Chinese wall" when it comes to select countries or topics.
stuart (glen arbor, mi)
@Sean This is about the only accurate representation of what's really happening in Hong Kong in this whole mess of an appallingly bad article and comments of speculation, rumor, innuendo and biased western group-think. The words, "it seems," "it appears," "it remains unclear" etc. indicate that the authors really don't know what they are talking about. Reading the Asian press gives one a much different picture. There are not 7 million people (the entire population) protesting in Hong Kong, as one commentator put it. Nor were there 2 million protesters as some western media have said. That's a total number from numerous demonstrations. The largest were only in the 100 to 200 thousand range, and they are rapidly declining, particularly as the black shirts started fire bombing the police and destroying public property. There are now only a few hundred hard cases out there. If the antifa black shirts in the US had done this, they would have been shot by the local police. The pro-democracy patina is not really what the demonstrations were about except in the broadest sense, and China had little to do with the situation and has not interfered. The fuel is actually the have-nots vs. the haves, particularly with housing, a shortage of which has been maintained and worsened by the real estate interest and their partners in the local government, as Sean points out. The increasing credulousness of the Times foreign reporting is really a big problem that needs addressing.
John (New York, NY)
Hong Kong could have been China’s grand chance to pacify worries in Taiwan, and perhaps lead to something grand. China and Xi achieved the opposite. They definitely bungled things royally.
franz fripplfrappl (madison)
One day the Chinese people will awaken and communism will be relegated to its interesting past. Should the people choose democracy, you can bet that China will become a formidable world power and eventually could replace the US. Human history is replete with all forms of governance and powers. They have come and they have gone away only to be replaced by others. It's happening again and we are in the middle of worldwide changes. If we could only jump ahead a 100 years and look back, then we'd see what's happening.
Owen (San Francisco)
@franz fripplfrappl I fear you assume a bit too much. True democracy, as we know it, has only been around maybe 50 years or so. The jury is very much still out on whether it will end up on the dust heap of history.... (I hope it doesn't, but its not looking very good right now).
rich williams (long island ny)
Old saying " a camel is a horse that was put together by a committee". It appears that Xi is being overridden at times. Trying to keep the house of cards together seems impossible in this era of internet. They may be coming apart. They seem unsure and unreasonable. More worried about their image than their 1.5 billion citizens.
O My (New York, NY)
One trip from vibrant Hong Kong across the border to bland, tightly controlled Shenzhen (the richest city in mainland China) will tell you all you need to know about what the Hong Kong protesters are fighting for. The liberalism and Democratic values and rights of Hong Kong are a beacon to people throughout the region - as evidenced by the tremendous wealth and world class quality of life enjoyed in the city. Mainland China, by contrast, despite its enormous growth is still, even in a city as dynamic as Shenzhen, shabby, authoritarian and decidedly second rate. Despite their media, ordinary mainland Chinese know this, Hong Kongers know it, everyone who's hip knows it. The United States has a real opening here to push our values at a critical time. The Trade War is one of the few things worth supporting the current administration on. While overplaying our own hand with Hong Kong would be unwise, the US and our Western Allies must stand firm with Hong Kong and further promote Democracy in this crucial region of the world.
Lynn Russell (Los Angeles, Ca.)
@O My "Push our values"? Would you care to illuminate that idea?
Peter (HK)
Beijing could have easily acted like the British, who sent in British troops to crush the rioters. Instead, Beijing is showing the utmost restraint . Carrie Lam made a shrew tactical move to withdraw the EB just when students were returning to school. Given some time, this may well become a turning point for the protest movement. While the violent, radical elements continued to vandalise the MTR, rail stations and other public properties indiscriminately, they surely have lost public support for their anarchistic behavior. The HKG may well declare curfew and state of emergency if riotings continued uncontained. Your observations are interesting, but in my opinion the haltings are more tactical , moderating moves.
M. Paire (NYC)
@Peter How are the beatings of two protesters that lead to their untimely deaths "restraint"? Where are their bodies?!? Why beat someone unarmed, down on the ground, incapacitated, unless you're high on some power trip? Most of the protesters are peaceful and prejudice against them as rioters only shows the biased narrative state-run media has successfully spread to those unwilling to read from diverse news sources. If all of them are rioters, then all ethnic Chinese in western countries are spies. See, that's how prejudice works.
JM (Wan Chai)
Wishful thinking. It would make a lot of sense if Hong Kong is still the goose that lays the golden egg. Its economy hasn’t been keeping up with other cities on the mainland. It’s GDP has been surpassed by neighboring Shenzhen and it’ll soon be surpassed by Guangzhou. It’s no longer useful to China. Why would Xi worry? Chinese have a saying “with crisis comes opportunity”. The chaos in Hong Kong actually strengthens Xi’s hand. It proves to his people that democracy under the one country two systems doesn’t work and the police have been too lenient on the rioters. The majority feel that a Tiananmen style crackdown is needed. To say Xi is mishandling the crisis is hardly the case when he’s a thousand miles away in Beijing. For him the rioting is a blessing in disguise. He doesn’t need to do a thing . The rioters are doing it for him.
sam (ngai)
People start disappearing, including their loved ones trying to find them.
Martino (SC)
China, along with most of the world now lacks real heroic figures of long struggle and battles. Most of our world has been at peace far too long now with the exception of the middle east and a handful of small nations for any one figure to be thought of as heroic on the old sense of heroism. Great generals are now mere bureaucrats buried in defense departments and only a handful of front line troops ever rise to the occasion, but the wars they're involved in are always unpopular so their heroics go largely unnoticed. This is by no means a call to arms for another great war. The days of glorifying war for political leaders is over. When they speak of war now they quickly lose popularity as very few people now want to die to keep a border intact or a flag one color or another.
Dr.Pentapati Pullarao.Ph.D (New Delhi, India)
President Xi Jinping:On matters of principle,not an inch will be yielded.On matters of tactics,flexibility”.China completely follows this rule.In”Is Xi mishandling HongKong”,all current issues are considered. In handling HongKong,Xi follows the principle of patience,as he did not want a Tienanmen Square shock,which was perhaps what some people in Hong Kong wanted. In the backdrop was the US Trade war,which is overwhelming China’s leadership.In crises during Mao’s time,every problem was pushed under the carpet of”Revolution”. Then there is anger of the Pacific Rim nations against China’s actions in South China sea.Those issues are still major flash points. China has to navigate international waters very carefully.Too much is at risk if HongKong becomes a major issue of violence. There is also the serious problem of a slow-growth China’s economy. In this backdrop,one must credit Xi Jinping for being cautious about HongKong&he is very mindful that his enemies in Chinese leadership want him to be aggressive&commit mistakes.Xi has to continuously look over his shoulder on what his Communist colleagues are upto! The writers correctly say that caution is the watchword on HongKong.Xi is also right that sometimes problems will go away by seeming inaction,When the options are all bad,not choosing any of them is a good option. By avoiding harsh action in HongKong,China is avoiding Western reactions.Xi receives top marks for facing all issues across the spectrum,without too much damage.
BK (San Francisco)
It just boggles the mind that CCP is becoming more and more like a traditional Chinese dynasty. Historically, these dynasties last 200 to 300 years. When it is in a prosperous and powerful phase, it is stable. The problem is when it starts its long decline, it always ended up with civil war and massive casualties. Historically, when a dynasty enters its declining phase any combination of economic crisis/natural disasters/war will set off uprisings and lead to civil war eventually. Unfortunately, the CPC precludes any political dialog and centralizes power so much so that it is a safe bet that history will repeat itself. Democracy is the only way to break the chain.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
Liberal democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat, even by stepping back to the bourgeoisie capitalist stage of history, are utterly incompatible systems of governance. They are dependent upon conceptions of humanity that are just lacking any common presumptions. Xi is an authoritarian leader of a rigid oligarchical elite body of rulership dedicated to self preservation as guides to a transformation of humans to a species of generous and selflessly heroic beings, the people. Liberal democracy is based upon treating imperfect people as political equals who can work out differences for common interests with reasonable compromising. The Communist Party cannot allow Hong Kong to become an example to the rest of China.
Charles Becker (Perplexed)
@Casual Observer, Remarkable insights from a "Casual Observer." Bravo!
Matt Phil (California)
This is an absolute no brainer - its really about Hong Kong’s independence, not so much about an extradition law Why would any young person who was born and raised in Hong Kong want to be part of China ? Hong Kong has a vibrant democratic, financially successful model that is free from corruption and most importantly, it simply works. The Hong Kong Chinese dont want to be another province. They really want independence, and if they cant get that - then they want complete autonomy from China. The Chinese CCP dictatorship model has zero appeal for any thinking Hong King citizen. Mainland Chinese fooled themselves into thinking that their recent financial success, and China’s move to world power status automatically translates into some sort of sort soft power that can bring Hong Kong and Taiwan back into the fold. The simple fact is this - the Chinese system has zero appeal for any successful democratic society.
Miquel (Texas)
Just as it morphed from being about extradition into freedom and democracy, Hong Kong may well prove to be the beginning of the Resistance against Digital Authoritarianism that China is planning to export to the rest of world through 5G networks and the various Belt and Road schemes (land, sea, Arctic).
Dennis (China)
This is truly "a tempest in a teapot." The extradition treaty has been withdrawn, but demonstrators, wearing gear out of Fortnite, seem to be very much playing with police to gain attention of the western press eager to find troubles in China. What does it mean? Absolutely nothing! As long as the police practice restraint and the CCP lets it play out, mosyly peacefully, there will be nothing to see here, and the western press will eventually move on.
joe (usa)
@Dennis When the ports are "peacefully" blocked and the airports are "peacefully" blocked and Hong Kong grinds to a "peaceful" stop there WILL be something to see and the western press will not move on. When the Chinese population wakes up to the reality of their subjugation there will be a lot more to see.
Tysons2019 (Washington, DC)
We understand the Communist Party school experts on foreign policies advised Xi during his recent meeting with the party cadres that he better not send troops to Hong Kong. It may make things worsened in Hong Kong. Sending troops is not the solution. Let the people and leaders in Hong Kong to decide their future and fate. If Hong Kong trying to declare independence, Xi could handle the crisis differently. Xi agreed. Xi is becoming more cautious now a days because he is getting older.
free range (upstate)
"Humpty Dumpty had a great fall And all the king's horsies And all the king's men Couldn't put Humpty together again" This extraordinary opening, unimaginable by those holding the reins of Chinese power, allows air and light to stream through where by definition it had been impossible. When something is defined as impossible and then comes to pass a new kind of music is in the air and, to quote Plato, "the walls of the city shake." Once air and light find their way into the Empire itself, we may be seeing the first breath of freedom from nationalistic, dictatorial powers worldwide. And a return to sanity and human dignity.
talesofgenji (Asia)
Think of HK as the Wall Street of the PRC Xi political objectives increasingly conflict with the financial interests of the richest of the rich Mainland Chinese families that either have large investments in HK, or whose financial operations run through HK, or both. Think of Putin's Russia. Occasionally, Putin takes on a Oligarch, but on the whole is careful not to offend to oligarch class. Now think of Wall Street: When was the last time you saw a US President take on Wall Street ? Xi is in a bind.
Michael Tyndall (San Francisco)
Trump and Xi are similar in their desires for autocracy. Trump is hemmed in by our surprisingly rickety democratic institutions but now seems to have the full acquiescence of the Party of Lincoln. There’s little doubt he’d happily do away with free elections and presidential term limits. Even weather reality must now bend to his ego. AG Barr fawns and lies on Trump’s behalf while offering up baseless investigations of Trump’s enemies. And there are recent reports suggesting Trump is withholding Ukrainian military aid until they produce anti-Biden political oppo. Xi has near full authority over China but currently operates a strong trading economy in an interconnected world. He wants to be adored and show a strong but civilized face to world. Public displays of brutality would be bad for business. But there are also a strong strains of nationalism and militarism driving Chinese dominance over its region. Technology is being used to limit information and track its citizenry. Xi can afford to wait out protesters in Hong Kong, so long as their protests and demands don’t escalate (far from guaranteed). He can probably wait out Trump as well, or force Trump to take some lesser deal in order to claim a win in time for the 2020 campaign. But two autocrats can probably do best by helping out each other, which opens up lots of nefarious possibilities.
Mark (Cheyenne WY)
Given this trade boondoggle, trump’s seat of the pants foreign policy, and the overall unease in Southeast Asia, this is a very tricky, dangerous period. I remain worried about global conflict.
ClydeS (NorCal)
Britain has its Irish border. China has its Hong Kong. See any similarities? Another wrongheaded British calculation taking centuries to fully metastasize. Human desire for freedom cannot be suppressed forever.
Dan (St. Louis)
Is Xi mishandling Hong Kong crisis? The question raised by the article seems to suggest that there is proper way for a dictator to subjugate a population. There is no proper way - whether by Stalin or Xi - autocratic communist leaders are not guided by proper behavior other than appearances in the short term. The sooner that Trump policies force immoral companies that utilize the effectively enslaved and very low paid labor in China, the better for our own democracy and long term economy.
Jsailor (California)
Don't hold your breath waiting for Xi to fall. Even if he does, it is more likely he will be replaced with a hard liner that will move the troops in. Also as the article points out, the "contagion" is not spreading to the mainland in part because the mainland media does not report on the disturbances. And don't forget that Trump has Xi's back with his impotent pieties.
W.N (New York)
Xi's best move here is to push put carrie lam and make a few removals at the HK police force. Show sympathy to the people. Get new faces down there, a new cast of characters on the TV screens. Concede a few minor things and retreat for now. Now that xi knows the red line of the HK people and there general demands, he should listem and act in their interests for now and later will adjust his authoritarian approach accordingly for long term. Hes lucky there have no fatalities and few martyrs thus far. That speaks to his restraint. Eventually in 20 years HK will be under the same control and Xinjiang and the Uighurs, because it's ultimately gearing up to be the same system of governance in the future.
Julie Lam (Hong Konger)
Is Xi mishandling Hong Kong’s crisis? Let’s simply compare the differences between withdrawing the extradition bill on June 9 versus September 4. Over one million marched in protest on June 9. If Xi has allowed the proxy government to respond then, instead of leaving the city to rot in turmoil for 87 days, here’s what could have been avoided: 2 hands crippled by baton. Three eyes blinded by bullets. Over 1000 citizens including school-age children handcuffed. Coalescence of police and white-clad triads on raiding a subway station. Mainland Police being sent to terrorize citizens. People disappearing mysteriously and found floating on the river or lying on the ground dead from being thrown off buildings. The death toll would be open knowledge. Hong Kongers wouldn’t have given up on law enforcement. If Xi remembers Hong Kong’s contribution to China’s rise in global economy, he would have respected the Sino-British Declaration that guaranteed its autonomy. Hong Kong youth might not have become so united and motivated to defy Beijing. Fearful parents might not be supporting their precious children, risk losing them.
waldo (Canada)
HK up until now was a benign tumour, feeding off the juices of its host. Should it turn malignant, let alone spread, it will be removed.
ErikW65 (VT)
Hong Kong should be considered its own entity, not some cancer feeding off a host, for God's sake.
Frunobulax (Chicago)
The dilemma will persist and will eventually worsen. There was a fifty-year grace period written into the 1997 transfer of sovereignty, allowing for the so-called one country-two-system policy. So the current problems are merely a prelude to a much more powerful explosion waiting to go off. Integrating the legal systems, which this bill was the beginning of, looks like a very difficult problem that won't easily be solved.
campus95 (palo alto)
@Frunobulax Tear gas production will save the Chinese economy
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
Those who fear Xi acting in Hong Kong now also criticize Xi for failure to act in Hong Kong. Meanwhile Xi himself is taking a page from the American playbook -- it is all outsiders, not Putin but the Americans, but the reasoning is the same. The flaw in the reasoning is also the same. It isn't handling the protests that is the problem, it is the accumulation of things that finally led to protests that was Xi's mistake. It isn't that a match set off the powder magazine, it is that the place was steadily filled with powder just awaiting a match. This might die down, but it won't really end until there is some new settlement of the underlying issues that have outraged Hong Kong residents. That new settlement could also be a model that could be offered to Taiwan. If Xi finds something that is liked in Hong Kong, he could sell it to Taiwan. That development would shock the US and the containment it is trying to arrange. That is a big potential payoff for Xi.
Peabody (CA)
Many commenters seem to think the domino effect is in play and that once Hong Kong topples the the whole of China will collapse. Perhaps, perhaps not. Churchill had a great quote about WWII that applies here “the terrible ifs accumulate”. Events could go in many different directions from here so I pray both sides weigh their options carefully before deciding to escalate using history as a guide. And the US should do everything it can not to aggravate the situation like selling arms to Taiwan.
Michael (Ecuador)
Wouldn't it be a wonderful irony if the protestors of HK complete the hob their equally heroic counterparts in Tiananmen started 30 years ago and China follows the path toward a more open society predicted long ago? As a retired specialist in Asian society and economics, it's been a continuing puzzlement how China has continued to successfully maintain state control over so much of society (without rebellion) and the economy (without Soviet-style problems). Has the tail finally wagged the dog, and the failures of Xi's of centralization of power been exposed? Too soon to say, but one can hope -- it means at least one of the world's two superpowers is moving in the right direction.
Gary (WI)
Attempting to build on the success of his predecessors, Xi probably assumed the CCP had figured out how to produce economic growth and prosperity. He sought to consolidate his control over the party and the future of China and impose an increasingly intrusive surveillance state that would control all behavior and tolerate no dissent. His followers have been moving toward another cultural revolution. But, these attempts to further consolidate the power of the CCP over society have come at a time when the U.S. and much of the rest of the developed world has grown leery of China's trade practices, currency manipulations, and demands for technology transfer. Hong Kong is a hinge on which the relations between China's economy and political cultural relates to the rest of the world. But, it cannot function as a conduit for foreign investment if the rights of individuals in Hong Kong is compromised. The protesters seek to protect those rights and to bolster the independence of Hong Kong's autonomous government by making it more representative of the people and applying laws through an independent judicial system. Xi's ambitions endanger the viability of Hong Kong as a separate system and depart from the pragmatic path charted by Deng Xiao Ping. If he continues down an ideological and increasingly totalitarian path, China will suffer as Hong Kong loses its financial allure and the world decides it cannot do business with a government bent on taking away property and freedom
Michael Cohen (Boston ma)
What would be useful if it exists is a clear statement of the protesters demands and the mainland Chinese government's position on these demands. What options other than invasion do the mainland Chinese have to use to compel Hong Kong to act in accordance with its wishes? Other than feet on the ground and the withdrawn extradition law there is little discussion in the Press of what the Protests are about.
tamtom (Bay Area, CA)
@Michael Cohen The 5 demands have been widely reported. 1. Complete withdrawal of extradition bill - this has been accomplished. 2. The government should admit the protests are not a "riot." 3. Free the arrested protesters and clear them of wrongdoing. 4. Independent investigation of excessive force by the police. 5. Resignation of Lam and her replacement by a free election. Only number 5 on this list is a real issue for the Mainland. They want a hand-picked government.
ESC (SoCal)
I read the news articles in South China Morning Post and YouTube broadcasts to get some understanding of the protest. Of course there’s are many conspiracy theories too. There are five demands from the people from the onset: the withdrawal of the extradition bill, to set an independent investigation into police brutality, and the other three...
Beau (Canada)
@Michael Cohen At this point, they're about the other four demands: An independent inquiry into police conduct, amnesty for protesters, re-categorization of 'riot', and universal suffrage. The press is discussing this ad nauseum.
Elizabeth (Cincinnati)
I am not sure that the fear of Hong Kong demonstrations might also lead to demonstrations in China is a major internal concern. The Trade war dispute, on the other hand, are of greater concern. But every time Trump plays hardball, it help Xi stirs up memories of mistreatment China has suffered in the past 150 years. In the case of HK, there is really little that the PRC government can and would do to "end" the demonstrations. No Chinese official hoping to stay in a position of power is going to come out and suggest letting HK become independent, or additional concessions be granted. Just as the Chinese government is ready to wait out Donald Trump, its officials may also have decided that the best option for Hong Kong is to let its residents realize their demonstrations are generating self inflicted wounds that hurt themselves more than China, and have made Hong Kong even more dependent on China as foreign firms decide to "move" their operations to "safer" locales.
Richard Hannay (Hong Kong)
The protest movement is made up of all ordinary HK people. HK is united against the extradition bill and continued encroachment from the Mainland.
Elizabeth (Cincinnati)
@Richard Hannay So?
Alex Watt (NYC)
This article feels like the same wishful thinking that undermined so much of the 2016 election coverage. Instead of focusing on the actual forces shaping and limiting Xi and the Communist Party's response, it seeks out and amplified possible clues of a new liberalization. 1989 and the ferocious suppression of Uighurs weren't outliers. They reflect a ruling faction that will not ultimately forego violent repression if they feel their alternatives are exhausted. We are watching those alternatives fail one by one in Hong Kong. No one should doubt the resolve of the ruling party once cornered. They will take the hit to their "China" brand to stay in power.
Linda D (New Jersey)
@Alex Watt It is perhaps a stretch to compare the GOP to the current CCP response to protests in Hong Kong, but it as you said the ruling party in China is will to take a hit to brand to stay in power, and so is the GOP.
Back Up (Black Mount)
Mr Ji's status as China's "paramount leader" for life is in serious jeopardy. He has grossly under estimated the fierce tenacity of the people of Hong Kong...and of Donald Trump. Hong Kong was free for many, many decades, it has been well known since the British turnover in 1997 that the first move of autocracy by the Beijing gov't would provoke resistance. They have had a long taste of freedom and the people of Hong Kong have been waiting for this moment, they wont be going away soon. Beijing will have to concede to their demands or send in the military...a lose/lose situation. China sells to America ten times more than they buy - China is suffering and will continue to suffer economically from the tariff war with the US. Economic hardship due to the tariffs in the US is a bug bite compared to what's happening in China. Mr Ji knows this, Trump knows this and Trump knows Mr Ji knows this. Trump, like the people of Hong Kong, is not going to go away. The Chinese already have blinked - Trump will get what he wants, perhaps all of what he wants, in this trade battle with China. Mr Ji could be gone very soon. It is China after all, they don't have an election every four years to choose a new leader, instead a group of a dozen or so military and political bigs get together and decide "He's gotta go".
NorthernVirginia (Falls Church, VA)
@Back Up wrote: “Mr Ji's status as China's "paramount leader" for life is in serious jeopardy.” Not necessarily. He may well remain leader for the duration of his life . . . just as Nicolae Ceaușescu ruled until his life ended. Suddenly.
Anderson O’Mealy (Hinolulu)
@backup. And who is “Mr Ji?”
William Fang (Alhambra, CA)
I sincerely hope for a non-violent resolution. Even if the CCP does not budge at all and just waits for months or years till the protests die down, that would be infinitely better than a Tiananmen-style ending. I'd like to think what is described as "mishandling" by this article is a "trial-and-error" approach the CCP is taking to find that non-violent resolution. The Hong Kong protest is ominous. Many cities in China share similarities to Hong Kong: a prosperous skyline from afar, but costly living and vast inequality close up. Also most of these cities, including Shanghai, have at least a few hundred years of their own history, their own culture, and their own language. So similar "identity" forces are at work. Hopefully the CCP keeps all these in mind and find a sustainable approach. I think the old "economic betterment in return for political submission" still has some mileage left, if only the CCP can make it broad-based and stamp out the worst cases of corruption.
terry brady (new jersey)
Mr. Xi's control is not in question nor is the sovern circumstances of Hong Kong. The Bejing political gambit is to watch and wait. There is little the protestors might accomplish as they have no institutional claim to sovereignty or mandate to govern. They have zip and are now just beating the drums of "where are our British rulers". They (UK) left Hong Kong forever and today are in a bigger mess than Hong Kong. Bejing and Hong Kong are joined in contiguous soil and sovereignty. The protester are ultimately governed by the excellent Hong Kong economy as a golden goose. If the feathers of the goose begins to loose luster the personal wellbeing of individual protesters will suffer as well. Again, Bejing can wait and watch as the citizenry, at large, feels the economic pinch and attitudes will moderate. This is now a nothing burger regardless of right or wrong or sensibilities of independence and principality. Hong Kong is not Singapore. China is governed by political experts with a distant horizon as the guide and the remainder of the world is chewing bubblegum and eating their dust.
mpound (USA)
China has a population of 1.5 billion people from very diverse backgrounds spread out over an enormous territory - does anybody really think the Beijing government could withstand even a fraction of its citizens taking to the streets in protest over the economy, or food prices or anything else they found upsetting? No, it would collapse overnight just like the communist governments in eastern Europe 30 years ago. Xi knows this, but Hong Kong has revealed him to be a paper tiger. He's got no answer for ending the protests and fear of a bad ending for his regime is why he sits on his hands. It's that simple.
C. Schwinbarger (California)
@mpound I really don't agree with you. Xi is not frightened by protests in China. He is frightened by the world's reaction to a violent crack down in Hong Kong and the endangerment of Hong Kong's ability to be the New York of the South China Sea. It is a golden goose he must have been told a hundred times. You don't kill the golden goose. But I think he has created a top down system that mirrors the emperor system of pre-1910 with modern albeit still Communist trappings. He is to be commended for being cautious. But as time passes it looks more and more that like some Chinese emperors he is just out of his depth. And he isn't getting advice from anybody smarter than he is. Of whom there must be many.
james willis (bloomfield hills mi)
Xi Jinping is caught in a box not entirely of his own making. How can he give in the Hong Kong protesters while continuing, and furthering, restrictions on the Chinese mainland's peoples? If he cracks down hard, what happens to the Hong Kong economy - with reverberations in China and the world? What happens to his plans for more influence in the Pacific region?
Machiavelli (Firenze)
There is no reason to not let Hong Kong be what it has been. It's no threat to stability in the rest of China. It is a HUGE international business hub. It is a valuable tool connecting Beijing to the rest of the world. Very useful. Best policy for China? Leave it alone.
ShenBowen (New York)
@Machiavelli: From the perspective of Beijing, there IS a reason. ANY form of separatism is unacceptable to Beijing. HK is a province of China. China is a country of 1.4 billion people. The one thing that China will not tolerate is provinces like Tibet, Xinjiang, or now Hong Kong making noises that sound like a desire for independence. Shanghai is a much larger financial center than Hong Kong. China doesn't need Hong Kong. China will leave Hong Kong alone as long as they don't press for 'freedom' and accept the rule of Beijing. Beijing is always concerned that unrest in one province will spread to others. We, in the West, may not like it, but Beijing believes that unrest in Hong Kong IS a threat to stability in the rest of China. Keep in mind that the US fought a very bloody civil war over this issue. The Union could have simply granted independence to the Confederacy and many lives would have been saved. But, people felt strongly that the Union should be preserved. In a totalitarian country, that feeling is even stronger.
Maurie Beck (Reseda California)
@Machiavelli China and Xi probably view freedom of speech, democracy, and popular unrest in Hong Kong as an existential threat to continued one-party rule. The Chinese Communist Party would probably view Hong Kong as an existential threat even without Xi, who is especially authoritarian. But remember, Deng Xiaoping was the great Chinese reformer who ushered in modern China, and Tiananmen Square happened under his watch. In some regards Xi and China have shown great restraint in not cracking down. Perhaps they realize a crackdown might make things significantly worse, even if all demonstrations cease. Furthermore, there has been little international criticism, especially from Great Britain or the US. Either the governments of both countries are too concerned with domestic affairs or just don’t care, or they are putting diplomatic pressure on China behind the scenes outside the glare of the media’s negative publicity, allowing China to save face, something the Chinese leadership is obsessed with.
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@Machiavelli Hong Kong is a threat to China, not because its status as financial hub but as a base for anti-China activity. HK might be part of China but UK and US still exert influence there and is actively preventing integration of HK with the surrounding region. The belt of roads, tunnels and bridges around Pearl River Delta have been completely as is the high speed rail to Hong Kong but traffics have been light due to political opposition in HK. The US backed opposition party have so far blocked any attempts to have HK universities collaborate with high tech firms across the border, allow HK residents to live in cheaper Shenzhen and commute to HK and learn mandarin in school
Don Q (NYC)
And people think China dominating the future economy is not a problem? Thank goodness for the trade war, better late than too late.
AACNY (New York)
@Don Q Wouldn't be surprised if China's holding back because it doesn't want to do anything to strengthen Trump's hand. Hoping for a democratic president.
Agostini (Toronto)
It is no secret that there are deep divisions in Hong Kong with regard to China's increasing influence there. I think it is fair to say that the rest of the world, including Beijing, has been surprised by the ferocity of the riots in a normally peaceful and lawful society. Carrie Lam has accepted full responsibilty for mishandling the event. Beijing has no choice but to assist Lam to put out the fire. It is too early to pass judgement on Xi Jinping on this file. At a minimum, he did not make the mistake to sending in the PLA. Things are still quite fluid. The silent majority is beginning to speak up. Do not forget the rioters are mainly high school kids urged on by their teachers. Hong Kong police has a high standard of professional, respectful, and restraint operations. They are the true heroes of this unfortunate incident.
C. Schwinbarger (California)
@Agostini Hum. I would have agreed until recently. Xi should have backed down back in June. Today it seems to be too late. A grand concession like allowing Hong Kong to elect its government might be very counter productive to Peking's (yeah I know and I don't care) Peking's rule over the mainland. And it would create an alternative source of legitimacy in China to Xi. That is very dangerous to Xi et al. So I think that if the protests continue there will come a time when shutting them down makes sense to Xi. If not to us. But who knows really how that would play out and how dangerous that might prove to China. But really allowing Hong Kong to prefer English over Chinese, to fly American flags in protests, to talk about collapsing the Hong Kong stock market and to appeal directly to foreign heads of government is pushing things further than any government anywhere would allow. This is not to blame Hong Kong. They should be praised. But I think they are headed for a mighty fall. In the short term anyway.
campus95 (palo alto)
@Agostini There are always a small minority of rioters anywhere. How can you ignore the fact there were almost 2 million peaceful marchers in a population of 8 million?? It was also in the mainland's interest to stir up violence, in several ways such as 1. leaving gangsters to occupy streets, 2. planting provocateurs (see photo of molotov cocktail thrower with police issue glock) , 3. vast disinformation with comments like yours
ACT (Washington, DC)
Steven Lee Myers, Chris Buckley and Keith Bradsher write that "China’s recovery of sovereignty over the former British colony is a matter of national pride that reversed a century and a half of colonial humiliation." Calling it colonial humiliation echos the view of many Chinese, but you could just as easily call it a period of incompetent leadership. After all, the leaders of China who saw in the period of humiliation could hardly be said to be wise or effective. The century of humiliation has at least two parents, one Wester and the other Chinese.
Bradley Bleck (Spokane, WA)
@ACT Given that the humiliation was often at the point of a gun, such as the Opium Wars, where China was seriously out gunned, I don't know that more competent leadership could have done anything about it. Maybe the problem now is leadership, and to some degree I'd say it is, but not when we look back to how the west forced their way into China in ways that were not at all in China's best interests.
Michael (Toronto)
China operates it seems on the principle that there are few if any principles to abide by. It is becoming a threat to the rest of the world and to itself. I hope that Canada starts to take an arms length approach with China and looks to develop new markets and partners. The world nor it would seem the Chinese need more China at the moment. Perhaps when XI has moved things might improve but for now time to say good bye
JB (Washington)
@Michael. Same can be said of Trump - “there are few if any principles to abide by”.
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@Michael You own Trudeau doesn’t seems to abide by his own words either so if Canadian cannot even elect an honest leader what hope is there for Canada leading the world?
Robert Bott (Calgary)
This article doesn't directly mention Taiwan. It seems to me that a key reason for relative restraint is that a Tienanmen reprise would rule out a peaceful reunion with the "other China" for a generation.
Johnny Postmore (El Raton, NM)
Regardless of how things play out in HK, the people of Taiwan will not accept the Qing dynasty era reunification with China you speak of.
Tom Mariner (Long Island, New York)
Xi Jinping doesn't have to be brutally authoritarian, he doesn't need to sleaze rules to be a great, honored leader. His vision of technology and manufacturing excellence has rocketed his country's economy upward economically, to within fifteen minutes of streaking past the US. Yes, the colonial attitude of Europe, particularly the UK, was horrific for the Chinese people, but that era is so over, never to return. But it is troubling that Xi seems to need to twerk the nose of everyone in Hong Kong to prove China is as great as he has helped make it. Proving the greatness that a permanent leadership position suggests would be magnanimously extending the 50-year "turnover" period and make Hong Kong a permanent reverse "China Town" that mocks the colonial insanity as a comparison with the techie-great "Mainland". And while he is at it, if he bent over backwards with internal rules against unfair grabbing intellectual property with an "in your face" declaration that China no longer needs the "emerging nation" cheating, it would cement his image as THE permanent and competent leader of a great and growing people.
EDT (New York)
@Tom Mariner As a former student of Chinese history since Mao was still alive, and a follower of the situation there since, I believe the credit you are extending to Xi, who only came into power in 2012 and then needed a few years to consolidate, is misplaced. Credit goes first to Deng Xiaoping and then to former Premier Zhu Rongji who worked to get China into the WTC. Credit also goes to some (far from all) honest and competent officials and to much hard work of many PRC citizens. Credit also goes to the US led global economy that allowed China access to US and other markets, without which it would not have had the current success. Xi is actually undermining China's future and trying to turn back the clock and reversing policies put in place by Deng to ensure that the type of cult of personality Mao had that cost China millions of lives and years of progress would not repeat itself. Xi is more of a "cult of no personality." I find no reason to applaud a global power led by the likes of Xi.
JoeFed (Illinois)
The real issue complicating Hong Kong is Taiwan. Xi’s goal is the its reunification with China - and rest assured that they are watching these protests, and Chinas response very closely.
Bob Burns (The Oregon Cascades)
The CPC has had a field day with its endless supply of cheap labor and starting from virtually zero to where China, by virtue of its industriousness, is now the 2nd largest economy on the planet and soon to be *the* largest. It is, though, a command economy rife with corruption, and appears to be going through some kind of transition. This Hong Kong problem may be the tip of a much larger iceberg. As the mainland Chinese people gain in affluence and a degree of economic freedom, exposure to Western ideas of freedom and action both from travel abroad as well as having a wide open city-state like Hong Kong on its southern border will—no, must—have an impact on China's future. ' Another Tiananmen-like incident in Hong Kong would be disastrous for China, particularly in the eyes of the world; and "waiting it out" is no solution, either. Festering sores only get worse. The CPC must democratize. Xi really isn't the answer.
Barbara (Nashvile)
Mr. Xi has a charming, benevolent demeanor. A man who's read many books, and for a time, looked like a winner. Then he goes and declares himself "President for Life". Huh? Personally, I believe the United States should have a permanent peace treaty with China. We are interlinked both economically and educationally - 300,000 were studying in the U.S. annually. Both countries need to recognize the obvious: they both need each other, and the last thing each country wants is a war. The things that could be done with the billions/trillions spent on military posturing could be better spent on American and Chinese people and economies. America's main enemy is Russia and Putin. No peace treaty there. No sirree. They (Putin) have too much payback coming. Election interference and the Trump installed presidency is enough justification for a war - period.
@Barbara. This very American need to have a 'main enemy' to overly obsess upon should by now be ruled obsolete and counterproductive. It warps our view of the world, biases our judgement, and distorts our policies. Time to stop thinking this way.
At least since Mao took power, China has been a country run by a government that is scared of its own people. There were signs that with modernization and economic growth, there would be positive changes but Tiananmen took care of that. Now with the megalomaniac Xi Jinping at the helm, things are even worse. I had the hope that with rising incomes, a more highly educated citizenry, and greater exposure through media and travel to the rest of the world, the Mainland Chinese people, like countless other peoples before them who experienced the same growth, would demand the political and social freedoms that are the hallmark of advanced industrialized nations. It boils down to a demand as simple as being treated by the government as mature grown ups rather than children who need suffocating guidance and direction from the authorities. More and more, I feel I am sadly mistaken. Maybe it is not an intrinsic part of human nature to want to have the power to determine one's own actions and fate. Or maybe that instinct can be snuffed out by a cradle-to-grade government program geared towards nipping any such longings in the bud.
Richard Hannay (Hong Kong)
It’s called brainwashing. And the Chinese have perfected it with modern technologies in a terrifying way that will be very hard to undo without extreme forces like war or natural disaster. The scariest part is to think that China may export these systems to other “free” countries.
Mike Edwards (Providence, RI)
@RH Since Mao, China has been run by a Government that is scared of its people. Mao certainly wasn't scared of the Chinese people. He slaughtered over a million of them during his mid 60s Cultural Revolution. And that was after his leftist policies had caused a famine that had led to the loss of 30 million Chinese lives.
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@RH Did you votes for the Iraqi war, the Syrian war, the Libyan war because if you didn’t, I don’t think your political and social freedom counts much. Chinese government are much more attune to the people’s demand then you can imagine.
Ockham9 (Norman, OK)
Xi is the most powerful since Mao, with one important difference: However authoritarian Mao was, the cult of personality was driven by ideology. Xi is every bit as authoritarian, but with the demise of pure Chinese communism, the ideological basis for power has been replaced by naked lust for control. It’s debatable whether this has improved things. What will be the 21st-century Cultural Revolution?
laolaohu (oregon)
@Ockham9 What? You haven't read Xi Jinping Thought? (Sorry, I just couldn't resist. That was meant tongue in cheek. Although in truth, " Xi Jinping Thought," whatever that might be, is now written into the China's constitution).
NNI (Peekskill)
I may sound very nationalistic. I'm not. But let's get real. Instead of carping about China's President, Xi Jinping's fiasco with Hong Kong, let's concentrate on our own President Trump. He has bungled and attacked everything that is American - it's citizens and it's core values. After all Xi is an authoritarian but our President was elected in our Democracy. Or what's left of it. What is our excuse?
Rick (Fraser, CO)
Silly argument @NNI. We've got an election coming up in 14 months, at which time the people can choose to replace Trump. How long until the next election in mainland China? Would President-for-Life Xi ever permit himself to be replaced?
RetiredGuy (Georgia)
"Is Xi Mishandling Hong Kong Crisis? Hints of Unease in China’s Leadership Beijing’s halting response to the protests in Hong Kong has raised questions about President Xi Jinping’s imperious style and authoritarian policies." With his mis-handling of the Hong Kong crisis, it seems that Xi's acting much like Trump when his action is challenged. Trump and Xi both have an inability to learn from their mistakes and instead, try to stumble through using lies or force or both.
Carlos Matos (San Juan)
Contrast the turmoil in HK with the relatively smooth resolution of last July's political crisis in Puerto Rico. Wondering if those that sought a different approach to the HK crisis at Beidaihe longed for the ease and swiftness with which the crisis on the other side of the world was resolved.
Jack (Boston)
Xi Jinping has handled everything badly: 1) Pushed an extradition bill forcefully in HK and is now pretending to back off. Hong Kongers have not forgotten that leading figures behind the 2004 protests later disappeared from the streets. No one is naive to think it's over today. 2) Mass detention in Xinjiang province. After sending a million Uyghurs to detention camps, there is an inevitable backlash in Xinjiang. Xi is paranoid and thinks harsher measures are the way forward. 3) Coercing other countries and now facing a backlash. - Chinese air intrusions into Japanese airspace increased year-on-year after Xi came to power. Guess what? Japan has now revised its constitution to use lethal force. There is talk it may one day develop nukes to offset the conventional imbalance. It has stationed 2000 marines in the Senkakus whose waters China was attempting to trespass frequently at one point. - The People's Liberation engaged in a standoff with Indian troops at Doklam in 2017. When India didn't back down, there were fears of a wider conflict. Sadly, China had far less troops in that theatre. Xi agreed to a mutual withdrawal because the five-year communist party meeting was approaching in Beijing and he didn't want to look weak against the backdrop of a border standoff. - Chinese infrastructure projects which plunged smaller countries into debt traps are facing backlash. The Maldives, Sri Lanka and Malaysia have all pulled the plug on billions of Chinese investments.
AlRo (Venezuela)
China applies death sentences to drug dealers and deals very harshly with internal corruption. However, in a contradictory and very shortsighted policy Xi Jinping supports the Venezuelan tyranny in which drug dealing and corruption are the lifeblood of the regime. A foreign policy coherent with China’s principles would be important to influence regime change in Venezuela.
Siwanoy (Connecticut)
Some nice color on recent events but terrible interpretation. There is no evidence Xi is a meandering hardliner. To the contrary, it is more likely, consistent with the facts, that he is in the process of trying to adopt a political organization built on thuggery to modern respectability. He is not likely to abandon a system that put him on top, especially because the system brought China progress. However, bringing the next great stage of prosperity requires that the “thuggiest” of the thugs need to be neutralized and those in the military removed. Trump and Xi are very likely to both get what they want.
Predictable ChiCom response. This is a conflagration that has mushroomed out of control. Beijing is embarrassed. And, there is no end because this blaze for freedom and speech will not burn out. If I am a power house in the party, I am looking for a new direction. What is the most cogent method to effect that? Let’s play baseball now, change the manager. Xi could be on the road. Wouldn’t that shock our autocrat loving president.
Rich Murphy (Palm City)
I thought he was doing a great job. Not too much force, let the HK Police handle it. Let it play out.
Quentin (Toronto)
As I recalled, there were protests all over the US after DT won the election. It certainly was more than those in the HK protest. But I don't remember any Molotov cocktails being thrown at the police or destruction of legislature buildings. Imagine if those protests in the US became as violent as those of HK. There would be thousands of dead bodies on the streets when the US policemen used their guns on those that threatened their lives. HK Police should be commended for not littering the streets of HK with dead bodies.
Eddie (Hong Kong)
This article focuses on how China is not able to "control" the situation in Hong Kong and yet complain that China is eroding the one country two system for Hong Kong. Please people - you cannot have the cake and eat it too. This article also did not mention how protestors splattered black paint in China's emblem, insist that Hong Kong is not China, spray painted Chinazi, calling mainlanders are cockcroaches and ask them to go back home and other derogatory remarks of China which makes Trump look like a saint. The protestors evolved this extradition into an anti China campaign, a classic populist move to rev up people. Of course China is upset and doing its best to stop it getting into China, the got a one party system to maintain which is why "one country two system" is living and breathing. The widespread vandalism of the protestors in the MTR recently, again either unreported or quickly swiped through by the Western media, raises the question if these people are destroying HongKong's rule of law in the name of protecting it.
Hunter S. (USA)
It’s becoming increasingly clear that CCP style politics is only palatable to mainland Han who have been marinated in regime propaganda. Do’s looking weaker than ever.
nomad (Japan)
Naive question: is there any form of communication between the protestors in HK and the Uyghurs in Xinjiang? It seems like that would be a problem for Xi.
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@nomad Not so much. Hong Kong protesters’ backer are the US and Taiwan. Uyghurs nationalists also hate (all kinds of) Chinese so there is also that.
Me Too (Georgia, USA)
I'm surprised not to read thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are not in jail. Does one really think Xi will jeopardize China's economy and political gov't on a few thousand jobs in Hong Kong. The financial worth of Hong Kong is important, but is there any doubt this function could be relocated to Shanghai? Don't kid yourself. Once there was an automobile empire in Michigan, and today it tries to stay out of the guttter. Once there was a financial empire in London, and it is struggling to stay out of the gutter. The protesters in Hong Kong need to remember they do not want to wake up some morning and say, "we had a wonderful thing going, and now we are unemployed, and live in the gutter."
Tim (Chicago)
If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly.
jb (ok)
@Tim, I don't think that's really so. Experiments were actually done over a century ago to test that useful metaphor--but it turned out that frogs only stay to boil if you remove their brains first.
James R Dupak (New York, New York)
@jb The science may be lacking, but the metaphor continues to linger because it makes a salient point. This point is certainly true for the mainland Chinese.
Randy Hanson (Provo utah)
It seems that hong Kong has reached the poient of self rule and when it comes to that of Beijing it is trying to state when does an emperor ccease to be an emperor and become a tyrant. The cooling off period has just began for Xi to hold to peace instead of war where possible as the solution once toughting the even tawan will move to maniland china by peace forces that of Xi to move very solwly to military power over rule in the provicences. Change is slow for sure in Beijing How long will he stay the course of possible change becasue of a demond for more local freedom is waite and see matter. Peace among the people over all is something that needs to be followed.
Marc Grobman (Fanwood NJ)
From the article: “Hong Kong’s unique status, with its own laws and freedoms, has long created a political dilemma for China’s leaders...” “Unique”? Doesn’t Taiwan have similar status?
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@Marc Grobman Yes. The “one country two system” system in place in Hong Kong was originally intended as example for the eventually unification of China. That experiment have proven to be a failure and will not be applicable to Taiwan. A much more hands on approach will be used in the unification.
Paul (Virginia)
The sustaining power of the Hong Kong protesters, and it is evolving in to a movement, is the great inequality of wealth and income between the tiny minority of the wealthiest and the rest of the population of Hong Kong. The governments in Hong Kong and in Beijing are playing the long game of waiting for the energy of the protest to fade, but the seeds of discontent have been sowed since it's nearly impossible to narrow the gap of wealth and income inequality in the short terms. The parallels of the economic discontent can be drawn between the rise of white nationalism in many European countries and the US and the protesters in Hong Kong. Just like in the West, the Hong Kong protesters will not be satisfied until the current power elites are swept aside.
bill (overland park, ks)
yes. the pervasive scope of discontent in Hong Kong. That kind of sums it up. China get out of the way and let hong kong go its own way.
Doug (California)
The article makes only a passing reference that the Chinese leadership cares about "one country, two systems" without stating why. This is about Taiwan. Since the end of the civil war in 1949, Beijing's overall ambition has been to reunify with Taiwan. A failure to make the one country, two systems work in HK until 2047 undermines a peaceful strategy to reunify with Taiwan, and tragically, makes an attempted military takeover of the island more likely sometime this century.
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@Doug Thank you. I tried to explain to my best friend Taiwan’s presidential election is a major factor behind the continuing protest in Hong Kong but she doesn’t get it. She reads the Times and prescribes to the simple “democracy vs police state” narratives Western press frames this issue.
New World (NYC)
China has 34 provincial-level administrative units: 23 provinces, 4 municipalities (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing), 5 autonomous regions (Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Ningxia, Xinjiang) and 2 special administrative regions (Hong Kong, Macau). I can’t even remember how many languages are spoken in China. Eventually China will break apart, much like the Ottoman Empire or the Soviet Union. Hong Kong has decided that they will not barter freedom for happiness. As Hong Kong goes, so does the other people’s of China.
Darth Vader (Cyberspace)
@New World: NYC has 800 languages - not a problem. Similarly with the number of provinces, etc. The issue is the number of ethnic groups that want autonomy - how many, and how strongly. HK, Tibet, and Xianjiang are trouble spots, but also have special histories. How many others are there?
@New World. China was China well before the Ottoman Empire and the Soviet Union were constituted and then disintegrated. Yes, eventually China may break apart. Eventually this planet will come to an end too. I am hardly a supporter of the dictatorship in China or anywhere else in the world but I fear your analogy doesn't apply.
Marx (China)
@New World That sounds ridiculous. There are much more languages in USA, and India, will they also collapse?
Matthew Lyon (Rutland, Vermont)
The extent of Hong Kong's autonomy from China is being decided on Hong Kong streets. As long as the government of Hong Kong remains in control of the population, China will acquiesce to current Hong Kong politics and culture. Support for the Hong Kong protesters within mainland China isn't evident.
Richard (Wynnewood PA)
There's only one reason China hasn't cracked down hard on Hong Kong protests as it has in provinces with ethnic minorities seeking to preserve their culture: Hong Kong is a major global business center that generates a lot of wealth and jobs. But laws and treaties don't matter to China. They can be changed or re-interpreted whenever the authoritarian dictatorship decides. Sort of like Trump's way of governing -- but without the tweets.
Thomas Smith (Texas)
@Richard. No, contrary to your comment, this is nothing at all like Mr. Trump. Too many people seem to be unable to take an objective view of Trump. I don’t like the way he conducts himself, but is is not a dictator in a one party state.
John (NH NH)
Historically, the way to deal with this sort of issue in a province is for the CPC and the center to act against the local leadership who have erred in carrying out the directives from the center and who have caused conflict with the people. Then once a change is made and the people calm down, the center will aggressively cull the people of anti-party cliques. That path is certainly open with HK. The real risk is to treat HK'ers as if they were outside the Han Chinese core and attempt to annihilate the differences with the center by brute force, like the Uighurs have been treated. That would be a colossal mistake for the CPC and the PRC.
Jack Toner (Oakland, CA)
@John "anti-party cliques"? A propaganda cliche.
PMIGuy (Virginia)
To me the most fascinating part of this Hong Kong drama is that it is being led and peopled by youngsters who have only known the current system It has been 22 years since the hand-over to China by the British thus, the bulk of the protesters weren't even or had just been born. This challenge to China is totally homegrown by young Hongkongers not content with the status quo of "grow rich and be politically placid" promulgated as the party's quid pro quo for retaining power. What does this augur for other young Chinese across China and how they view the Party's status quo position which cannot be sustained yet appears inflexible to adaptation?
Big Red (California)
Insightful. Yes...I agree; this is a detente in which we viewed the Chinese population being politically submissive in exchange for wealth.
@PMIGuy. Unlike their mainland counterparts, the young Chinese in Hong Kong have not been fed a lifetime diet of "These are the humiliations the West has inflicted upon us and personal liberties and democracy need to take a back seat to the effort to right these insults and to make sure they never happen again." China is a permanent member of the Security Council, is one of the world's three hyper powers, is an economic power that rivals the US, and yet the government, as a means of preventing any threat to its total control, brainwashes its citizens into surrendering all political power to the Party by drilling into their heads that 'humiliation by the West' is just around the corner.
Chian (Hong Kong)
@PMIGuy this is a reaction from the Hong Kong youths and Hong Kong people about being marginalized and therefore economically disadvantaged. Hong Kong is a gateway for many international financial companies to China. They want employees that are fluent in Mandarin and / English etc. With Hong Kong's focus on Cantonese and contempt for mainlanders, you will find that most HK people speak bad Mandarin, if at all. With the increasing dynamic and well educated mainlanders getting jobs and opportunities away from the Hong Kong people, this in part is what is causing the anger with the government, establishment and ultimately, mainland China
Jack (Boston)
The main problem isn't so much Hong Kong. I've seen Hong Kongers and they tend to be more docile in demeanour than people from the mainland. The main problem is when problems from HK boil over to the rest of China. Although Hong Kongers' demands don't resonate with the rest of China, the populace in the mainland could be stirred to vocalise their grievances following a successful protest movement in HK. Historically, China has been volatile as a country. There was long a precedent for fierce rebellions against the ruling dynasties. 7 of the 10 bloodiest conflicts were fought in China. The Taiping Rebellion in the mid-19th century against the Qing dynasty spread like wildfire across the countryside. It took years to put down and claimed the lives of millions. During Mao's Cultural Revolution, violence engulfed the whole country, killing millions as well but the man skilfully channeled the wrath of the populace against political opponents. Without the right to free speech and the ability to convey their grievances, the resentment of a populace builds up. It resorts to bold actions from time to time. At the height of the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square, there were over a million demonstrators. I don't recall a million people ever descending upon New Delhi to protest even though India is a democracy. They can just wait till the next election to choose another party. But Chinese don't have this privilege. Consequently, I would be very scared if I were Xi Jinping.
@Jack There was no reason for Xi Jinping to pick a fight with Hong Kong. Seems to me the islanders were perfectly happy to stay under China's umbrella as long as they could just keep making money the way they always did, and enjoy the simple non-threatening liberties that they enjoyed since 1997. But the megalomaniac named Xi lives in constant fear and worry that someone, somewhere does not think the way Xi wants him or her to think and thus the unmediated and unlimited urge to Control Everything. And that paranoia has always been the totalitarian's undoing.
Rob K (Brooklyn)
I’m not going to add much more to this because it is wonderfully stated but you are very correct. The Chinese have a vast history of rebellion against ruling parties. The control over the population in regard to media consumption is done to inhibit the ability of the populace to rebel against the PRC. I watched a documentary called “Sky Ladder” about a famous Chinese artist who uses fireworks to create artistic displays. He was charged with creating a visual display at the Beijing Olympics. He had to go through a PRC panel that critiqued every aspect of his display. All of this was done because the PRC didn’t want to overly excite the public. By the end of all of the meetings, they mutated the artist’s vision to something he didn’t quite recognize. You could see the defeat in his face. That is just a small dose of the control over to Chinese population.
Chuck (CA)
@Jack Issues and tensions in Hong Kong are unlikely to boil over into mainland China. Why? Most mainland Chinese have little to no respect for the people of Hong Kong. They see them as pretentious money grubbing self interested people..... not that there are not many of those also in mainland China... but it goes more to long standing frictions between major provinces and cities inside China. And.. you are very mistaken regarding the long term outcomes you are professing here. I encourage you to actually read and explore Chinese history if you want to understand the culture and the people, because trying to look at them and judge them from the point of view of a Bostonian is a very misinformed approach on your part.
Jay (Florida)
Mr. Xi is in deep trouble and he is acutely aware of how precarious his position truly is. Seven million people protesting is not a flash in the pan. Furthermore that seven million is well educated, worldly and keenly aware of the former freedoms that existed before the Communists and also cognizant of the great freedoms of the West. Hong Kong is a world financial and economic hub. It is critical to the financial stability of China. When the young people of Hong Kong and China hear the propaganda pablum that touts “The People’s Leader loves the people,” they know that he is serving up cold soup. Propaganda slogans may have worked during the reign of Mao when he was trying to gather a huge peasant class to support him. But, the people of China and Hong Kong are no longer uneducated, poor, and easily manipulated peasants. Xi is dealing with a wealth, successful and educated middle class that has enjoyed both prosperity and freedom. Xi doesn't get. The statement that the Chinese "government's deepest fear now appears to be that the demands for greater political accountability and even universal suffrage heard on the streets in Hong Kong could spread like a contagion through the mainland." is only partially correct. Their biggest fear is that a great city of seven million has come together and they are standing fast against a Communist dictator...and so far the seven million are winning. Carrie Lam will soon find herself being replaced or forced to resign. Freedom wins.
beauhom (Canada)
@Jay Yes, Hong Kong has been a critical piece to the success of China lifting itself to where it is today. However, China has been making sure that Hong Kong doesn't need to be relied upon as a financial and economic hub. Shanghai is their real goal. I am very worried about the future of Hong Kong, and their younger generation. For many reasons, they have little to look forward to.
Chian (Hong Kong)
@Jay 7 million people did Not protest. Please check your facts. There is a silent 5 million majority that are afraid to publicly voice any opinion that is contrary to the protestors.
Ockham9 (Norman, OK)
@Jay. “When the young people of Hong Kong and China hear the propaganda pablum that touts ‘The People’s Leader loves the people,’ they know that he is serving up cold soup.“ They might like Gazpacho, but definitely not cold egg drop. Losing Hong Kong would be a national and personal blow to China and Xi, but I would not discount the Party’s concerns about the effects on domestic internal perception. Consider the effect of a Hong Kong secession on the already contested regions of Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Wu (and the Wuyue people), Xinjiang (and the Uyghurs), to say nothing about the PRC’s hopes for Taiwan. Those peoples would be energized to demand similar concessions. And those are just the regions with a history of separatist movements. Would similar sentiments spring up in previously subdued regions? The PRC may have thought recovery of Hong Kong was a victory 20 years ago, but it is turning into a massive headache.
Phil Bean (Utica, NY)
Perhaps it’s overly optimistic to suggest as much, but could it be, thanks partly to the courage of protesters in Hong Kong and the growing difficulties Putin faces in Russia, that the age of authoritarianism that has been slowly taking shape after years of post-Cold War liberal democratic upsurge might be undermined? Economic instability undermined faith in western democracies in the 1930s, but prospect of economic downturn might tarnish today’s strongmen and would-be strongmen who promised prosperity precisely because they had full rein. Just a thought from someone who isn’t usually an optimist.
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@Phil Bean If strongman type of government is inherently unstable, why is it necessary for the US to impose sanctions and start trade war? It is liberal democracy that’s fading and I challenge you to find a “democratic” leader in a major country with higher approval rating than Putin, Xi and Modi
Richard Marcley (albany)
@Phil Bean From your lips to the ears of the Buddha; from an observer who's a "controlled" cynic!
EDT (New York)
The question is not just if and how Xi is mishandling the current crisis, but if and how the authoritarian direction in which Xi has been taking China has created dread in HK over the creeping control the mainland has been asserting. I suspect the extradition law was simply the "straw that broke the camels back" and unleashed this pent up opposition to mainland control. There was concern about the mainland prior to Xi but Xi's imperious authoritarianism has magnified the opposition exponentially. Its true that HK never had a full democracy under British rule, but they did have a sense of personal freedom and self government that Xi clearly wants to take away.
J. Grant (Pacifica, CA)
Xi will ultimately fail to control Hong Kong. It has too many older residents who lived there (and remember life) before it fell under China’s control, and too many younger residents who are tech savvy and unwilling to be swayed by state-run media...
Jason (Chicago, IL)
@J. Grant The old residents remember being treated as second-class not-citizen colonial subjects in their own city, with a governor appointed in London and no votes whatsoever. It is insulting to call British rule freedom.
nf (New York, NY)
Xi is no easy leader to trifle with. His patience and willingness to wait out the storm in both cases, US tariffs and HK protestors, could be his strongest and perhaps his most astute strategy. In HK he may hope a financial toll on the economy could force the demonstrators to backdown. However should this fail , in addition to denouncement from Western countries, it could embolden mainland residence who have tacitly oppose him to protest and demand his removal from leadership.
xeroid47 (Queens, NY)
Delaying making a decision is just a tactic similar to the trade meeting delaying until after Oct 1 celebration. The strategy has already been set except the implementing date. I expect the trading talk after Oct 1 will be fruitless and Trump will double down again and the decoupling will be on the way. If Hong Kong fail to break the protest by then expect mainland Chinese laws will be applied to Hong Kong and praised in China and condemned in the West. Those with passports to West in Hong Kong will start a giant flow and Trump will stop them from coming to U.S., but expect peace will return to Hong Kong either way.
Toby Finn (Flatiron)
Please when did China consider Human Rights? The Leaders in China detain Political dissidents or Business Individual who are out of step. The Chinese Government has rarely been call out for these practices because of the United States Companies economic interests.
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@Toby Finn When did the US ever considered human rights? Huawei’s founder’s daughter are still being hold by Canada pending outcome of Trump’s trade war not to mention all the liberal talk points you see on this paper daily.
J111111 (Toronto)
The fifty year reunification process originated in the giddy spirit of Western democratic triumph, under which the mainland would inevitably evolve toward Hong Kong's socio-economic model and values - even Tienanmen was a first step skyward rather than an effective lid on the dungeon. Instead it looks like it's the other way around - authoritarian communist surveillance states are ascendant and HK is being dragged clawing and screaming to its fate, ahead of schedule.
Jack Toner (Oakland, CA)
@J111111 You assert that "authoritarian communist surveillance states are ascendant". But you give us no reasons to believe this. On what basis do you make this assertion?
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@J111111 The era of widespread liberal democracy is ending. In 50 years, pockets of Europe will still be true direct democracy or representative democracy for the larger nations but most of the world will found their own forms of government. No political system is permanent or inevitable as no system can ever be perfect so it will always change based on the situation and needs of the people.
Jon Yee (NYC)
Its rather laughable to expect 1.4 billion people to adopt to 7 millions, especially when the 7 millions treat the 1.4 billion like cockroaches. Hongkong people need to grow up and face the reality. They need to treat mainlanders with proper respect (yes, mainlanders' ego is fragile) and accept the fact that the city is a Chinese territory (that China can cede again should they lose another war). They need to make good use of the next 28 years to better prepare for life after 2046. The average apartment in Hongkong is worth well over $1million dollars. If they can't see the future working out for them, it maybe a good time to cash out and immigrate to other places.
Lanie (San Antonio)
What do you mean? Of course he did. People are getting tear-gassed and beat up in the street. What about this indicates he's not mishandling it?
John J. (Oakland, CA)
The Hong Kong crisis strikes at the hollow core of the Mainland leadership revealing that it is largely just a public relations machine bolted on to a surveillance apparatus bolted on to an army that has been gussied up with some Maoist nostalgia. With no true leadership in Beijing, the Mainland government has no idea how to respond to moral/ethical challenges and people who might actually put their bodies in the streets to defend their lives. This is a dangerous situation because it actually matters.
Eddie (Hong Kong)
Yes, and this the apparatus that pulled 500m out of poverty and opened sweat shops to keep all goods in America cheap for the last thirty years.
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@John J. Moral and ethical by whose standards?
Hajimewaji (Seattle)
Like I pointed out a few years ago, it was a bad move to remove his term limits.
X (Wild West)
That isn’t exactly a far out or controversial position to hold.
Chuck (CA)
@Hajimewaji People really need to stop viewing and judging all things China through western eyes. From a Chinese cultural perspective, and in context of it's long and rich history..... Xi removing term limits is actually more of a liability to him then if he had simply passed the presidency to another person after his second term. It positions him to have some similarities to the old imperial rulers in some ways, something that most Chinese if you were to discuss it with them, would tell you that they detest and never want to see again in Chinese history. But let's be real here for a moment.. why would he work to remove term limits on the presidency in China? Simple... China plays a long game on just about everything and Xi has worked hard to dismantle old established corrupt provincial and city-state corruptions which is largely institutionalized. And this is something that cannot be done in a year or few.. it will require an entire generation to realize. Xi began with the biggest and baddest corrupt network in China when he became president ---> the communist party apparatus in Shanghai. It took him the better part of two terms as president to fully destroy it.. and now he is moving on to other provinces and cities in his quest to fight corruption. A lot of westerners think the Chinese hate Xi and Beijing. But what the average Chinese citizen hates and wants addressed is local corruption.. and in this regard.. Xi is actually for the people here.
Schumer Zheng (Hong Kong)
According to the article, Xi’s only choice is to wait out the problems he created, namely, the trade war with US and the volatile situation in Hong Kong. But time waits for no one. China itself will be dragged down along the way and meanwhile Beijing’s efforts to eliminate the “leveraged debts” at home and to project its “soft power” worldwide have all gone down the drain. Xi is getting no young either. Unlike the other standing politburo members, he obviously has a weight problem that he can’t control. It’s time to think about the post-Xi era. Either health or power struggle will bring him down sooner or later.
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@Schumer Zheng I think you should worry more about your city’s youth first. Cannot speak Mandarin, cannot speak English, cannot afford a place of their own, cannot operate in a high pressure corporate environmental and cannot compete with youths from mainland, Singapore, Japan and Korea.
Chinakaili (Chicago, Ill)
This only causes more loss of face for Xi. In my opinion they did the right thing for the moment.....please don't make things more difficult for when it becomes "One country, One system".
Ralph Averill (New Preston, Ct)
"The government’s deepest fear now appears to be that the demands for greater political accountability and even universal suffrage heard on the streets in Hong Kong could spread like a contagion through the mainland." It is unlikely that the Chinese government has been able to keep news of events in Hong Kong from spreading throughout China, especially in the cities where workers enjoying new economic freedom will be anxious for social/political freedom as well. Chinese leadership might have been better off acceding to Hong Kong's demands in the beginning and allowing the protests to quietly evaporate. It may be past the point now where Xi can put the genie back in the bottle. The world may well be looking at the beginning of the end of communist rule in China.
Sean (Hong Kong)
@Ralph Averill This article is so out of touch with the reality on the ground that it is is borderline comedic. Beijing is playing down Carrie Lam's concession because the Chinese public want a hard line response to Hong Kong. The idea that the Chinese public will suddenly side with the HKers is ridiculous.
AmateurHistorian (NYC)
@Ralph Averill I’ve told westerners I met not to form an opinion on this HK protest because they have no idea what’s going on. The protest have more to do with “keep the lowly Chinese out” than it have to do with “democracy”. You really absorbed a lot of propaganda if you believe mainland Chinese will rise up and follow a group that waves the US/colonial flag and call mainlanders locusts and worse.
Paul McGlasson (Athens, GA)
Xi--"The People's Leader"--is not only mishandling Hong Kong. He is mishandling China. Styling himself as a latter-day Mao, with his own "Xi-Thought", is an aggressive attempt to control the minds, hearts, bodies, in short the lives, of China's vast and wondrous citizenry. Mao failed, as during the Cultural Revolution. Xi will fail, as the uprising of democratic protest in Hong Kong shows. People are not sheep, despite what Maoism thinks. In the end, democratic ideals will spread from Hong Kong to China, not communism from China to Hong Kong. That is more a hope than a prediction, but it is a solid and grounded hope.
stan continople (brooklyn)
@Paul McGlasson It's quite sad, but propaganda does work on a large percentage of a population, to the point where a cult of personality is possible almost anywhere; even now in Russia there are people who pine for the good old days of Stalin. We in the West like to think we're immune, but instead of politicians, we confer divine status on two-bit celebrities. Which is worse?
jb (ok)
@Paul McGlasson, I can't see how you can live in the US, where the president orders American business to obey him, where his mood changes lift and crash the markets day to day, where even the weather forecasts must not contradict him, and then ascribe dictatorial behavior to "Maoism." Trump himself boasts how he could kill someone on the street and his followers would be fine with it. They're fine with four-year-olds in cages like dogs. Why not try to free Georgia of Trumpism before you instruct people on the other side of the world?
James (UK)
@stan continople Politicians, as well. How many people deify Trump as the "God-Emperor"? We are not as wise and enlightened as we think.
See also