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Beijing’s Costly Lesson in Hong Kong

November 28, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Hong Kong’s people used local elections to make their preferences clear. They want to live in a free society. No propaganda and threats from Beijing will change that. Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have decisively lost the battle for Hong Kongers’ hearts and minds.

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Founded in 1949, the People’s Republic of China cast itself as a revolutionary force around the world. Some in the West found Mao Zedong’s rhetoric appealing — while in high school I bought a copy of Mao’s little red book in London’s legendary Hyde Park. But the PRC’s disastrous experience of mass repression, poverty, and starvation dimmed enthusiasm for the experiment.

After Mao’s death in 1976, a more measured and moderate leadership took control. Desperate to promote his nation’s economic rejuvenation, “paramount leader” Deng Xiaoping emphasized China’s “peaceful rise.” Beijing was assertive — no doubt a British refusal to negotiate Hong Kong’s return to the PRC would have triggered an international crisis — but issued few threats. The country’s stunning economic growth allowed Chinese officials to use commerce to expand their influence. In suppressing the Tiananmen Square demonstrations Deng bloodily rejected political reform, but the authoritarian system was loose enough to encourage expanding international ties.

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Everything changed with Xi Jinping’s ascension to the top of the party and government in 2013. Xi embarked upon a brutal domestic campaign to suppress dissent, strengthen the CCP, purge potential adversaries, and seize personal control. The result is an ongoing, systematic campaign to destroy religious liberty, close independent NGOs, greatly tighten censorship, round up Muslims, create a surveillance state, and impose true totalitarianism with a “social credit” system that monitors almost every aspect of individual behavior, both personal and official.

It is a striking return to Maoism and well beyond. The original Mao had little ability to enforce his wild rhetoric. Beijing had manpower in abundance but could not project power much beyond its land borders, as in North Korea.

That limitation has disappeared as Xi, essentially Mao reincarnated, has hardened China’s international approach. No more squishy …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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