Wednesday 25 September 2019

China and Hong Kong, the flashpoint of west vs west

Hong Kong matters to the rest of the world, says Derwin Pereira

Hong Kong and China is the latest world flashpoint. Between the liberal West and the authoritarian East.  Hong Kong vs Beijing. West vs East.
I prefer to call it West vs West.  
Hong Kong has indeed imbibed the liberal airs of its British colonial masters.  The Rule of law, fair process, free press and so on.  For at least thirty years after 1949, Hong Kong was hermetically sealed from China until the late seventies. I well remember the early seventies.  It was tough to get to China.  Even from Hong Kong it took a couple of days, an overnight in Guangzhou, long train trips and only few could get visas. So when I lived in China in those days, it was called a hardship post by the Australian government (I was with the Oz Embassy in Beijing) and when we went to Hong Kong it was such a relief, even the air felt free.  You could get all the things you couldn’t then in China. And the colony, as it was, operated completely independently of China (though some of its water supplies came from the mainland).  That was a long time, which had begun in the nineteenth century, to become westernised.
Thus it is represented by the West, under which Hong Kong flourished economically. Of course, China, too, has achieved prosperity under its autocratic system. However, having enjoyed a degree of liberal freedom under British rule, Hongkongers do not wish to trade their prosperous freedom for prosperous servitude.
Meantime China is not so much Confucian as it it Leninist and isn’t Lenin a man of the  West, inspired by Marx, a man of the West. It is the "imperial Leninism of the Chinese state. Mandarins, whether Confucian or Communist, have presided over a system where citizens have been subjects of the state: the state did not belong to them. Centuries of imperial rule continued in the Leninist absolutism of Mao Zedong and his successors. The monarchy was reincarnated as the party, but the people remained subjects. 
Leninism has played a much greater role in China than the original theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, for the Russian leader’s interpretation of Marxism inspired Mao to launch the peasant uprising and agrarian revolution. His dogma on the organisation of a revolutionary vanguard party, the revolutionary mobilisation of the masses against “exploiters” and “oppressors”, as well as on the dictatorship of the proletariat, helped shape Mao’s philosophy of rule and transform China. The wholesale execution of enemies inspired Mao’s brutal dictatorship and his launch of the Cultural Revolution under the theory of “continuous revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat”.
While Hong Kong-China is a flash point, the end game is nowhere near clear.  The likelihood is that in time Hong Kong becomes just another Chinese city.  But maybe not.  China does appreciate the Common Law of Hong Kong and would like to see it kept in place. Thats a pretty strong incentive to keep things as they are in Hong Kong.  And in time, they may come to realise in Beijing that Hong Kong going on with one country two systems” after 2047 is no skin off their nose and may in fact gain kudos, for what... for nothing other than allowing it to go on.
But nobody here is going to give up their overseas passport on that hope...