The Hong Kong Effect
"The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."
-Princess Leia, Star Wars Ep. IV
A little over a year ago I posted an article about Xi's apparent "New Years Resolution" for 2019: to bring Taiwan under the control of the PRC. In the year since then, however, far from expanding their control over one troublesome island, Beijing has found themselves struggling to hold onto one they already (sort of) had: Hong Kong. I've barely commented on the Hong Kong protests in this blog except for a brief entry in July because I wanted to wait and see how they played out in the long run. As it turns out, these protests have had more enduring effects than I could have imagined.
For one thing, Beijing's precious image as a "responsible Great Power" has taken such a beating from these protests that even the partially CPC-controlled media in Hong Kong has been unable to ignore it (Smith & Fallon, Pei). The protests have sullied Xi's reputation (or in many eyes including mine, the entire nation of China's reputation) (NY Post Editorial Board) by giving the world a reminder of Beijing's unwillingness to honor treaties (and contrary to Beijing's insistence, the 1997 handover agreement is, in fact, a treaty (Wu)). But for China, the protests (and Beijing's response to them) have produced a ripple effect that has hit the Beijing regime right where they were the most vulnerable.
First, Hong Kong
Predictably enough, China tried to blame the protests on the same bogeyman they blame for all their other problems: the United States, which they claimed had "brainwashed" the protesters (Global Times Staff). Given that they have attempted to blame the CIA for everything from the Tiananmen Square Protests to the Dalai Lama's break with Beijing to the year 2019's twin agricultural crises to China's current economic woes (Nakazawa), this comes as little surprise. What was surprising was the fact that they even went to the trouble to publish a timeline of absolutely circumstantial events which they swear is evidence of these utterly unsubstantiated claims (China Daily Staff).
When this "evidence" proved unsatisfactory for the international community, China's Foreign Ministry, in a rare moment of creativity, tried to say the lack of evidence of US involvement was proof of US involvement, insisting "as you all know, they are somehow the work of the US (Westscott)." Never mind the financial inconceivability of the US conjuring up the money to fund a movement of this scale (Huang). Just as predictable as the "blame the US" routine was China's internal response to the crisis: censorship (Mosher), violence (Palmer), and the threat of both judicial reprisal (Myers) and military action (Feng).
Nobody except Beijing (whose leaders are accustomed to 2,200 years of a spineless, cowardly population cringing at even a hint of rebuke from the Head of State) was surprised when Hong Kong's response to this crackdown was to push even harder, not only in protests but at the polls. Hong Kong's 2019 election, which was viewed in Hong Kong and Beijing as a litmus test of the HK population's support or non-support of the protesters, saw a record voter turnout (Sun (1)), and this record crowd of voters cast their ballots overwhelmingly in favor of Pro-Democracy (and anti-Beijing) candidates who sided with the protesters (Sun (2)).
This backlash against Beijing spread to another troublesome "China-but-not-China" area: the Nation of Taiwan.
Taiwan and Hong Kong share similar problems with Beijing, and Taiwan views Hong Kong as a fine example of why their way of life depends upon resisting the Mainland's incursions. Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-Wen has been diligent in pointing out that Beijing's crackdown on the HK protests proves this view (Lin). Indeed, the crackdown has forged a tight bond between the HKSAR and the self-ruled island (Horton). More importantly, Beijing's slap in the face during Hong Kong's election had an echo in Taiwan, where anti-Mainland candidate won an uncontested victory (Wye). It should come as little surprise that Taiwanese voters openly stated that the events in Hong Kong were the primary catalyst for this defiant middle finger erected in Beijing's direction (Strong). What makes this more noteworthy is that her running mate was openly pro-independence, which is a red line for the Mainland which Taiwan has never flirted with until now (Everington (1)).
This has prompted a predictable response from Beijing's puppet-media: insistences that such a bond has no future, with zero explanation of why this is supposedly the case other than insistences that Beijing "must" have its way (SCMP Editorial Board), coupled with a petulant reiteration of Beijing's insistence that the island -whose government was established in 1911- is a rebel province of the PRC -whose government was not established until 1949 (Hadano).
Here's where it gets interesting though.
Not only did Tsai and her pro-independence running-mate carry Taiwan's election by a staggering margin, but more than 60 countries called to congratulate her for it (Cheng), while China pouted impotently from the sidelines and muttered "she must have cheated (Everington (2))." For most of the past few decades, most of the world has kept their support for Taiwan's independence rather hushed, for fear of provoking the oversensitive Beijing regime into one of its characteristic hissy fits. Now though? The world seems to have gotten so sick of China's nonsense that they are willing to openly applaud when Taiwan sticks their finger in China's eye (Yang). And it is not difficult to see that the world's disapproval of Beijing's handling of the Hong Kong protests has been part of the reason.
It is normally bad form to end a research article by editorializing, but this is a blog, not a Master's Thesis. I, for one, am thrilled to see this. As I have repeatedly pointed out, the purpose of my blog here on Steemit has been to show the world three main points:
- China is evil to its core and always has been.
- China is weak.
- The illusion of strength is giving China a level of influence that it normally could not have from being so weak.
Ergo, it is with no small amount of personal satisfaction that I look at this state of affairs, watching the world brush China off like the unimportant throwback state they truly are, and smile. My work has not been in vain. China-watchers and "dragonslayers" like me are finally getting the world's attention, and the world is realizing Emperor Xi has no clothes. China's propaganda offensive is collapsing, and it goes well beyond the Chinese diaspora...
...But that is for another article.
Cheng, Ching-Tse. "60 Countries Have Congratulated Taiwan's President Tsai on Re-Election: MOFA." Taiwan News. 13 Jan, 2020. Web. 16 Jan, 2020. https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3856092
China Daily Staff. "Timeline: External Interference in Hong Kong." https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201911/20/WS5dd4adbfa310cf3e35578b02.html
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Feng, Emily. "As Hong Kong Protests Continue, China's Response Is Increasingly Ominous." NPR. 13 Aug, 2019. Web. 15 Jan, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2019/08/13/750695968/as-hong-kong-protests-continue-chinas-response-is-increasingly-ominous
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Lin Chia-Nan. "HK Proves ‘Two Systems’ Model a Failure, Tsai says." Taipei Times 21 Aug, 2019. Web. 16 Jan, 2020. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/08/21/2003720849
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Palmer, James. "Hong Kong’s Violence Will Get Worse." Foreign Policy. 11 Nov, 2019. Web. 15 Jan, 2020. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/11/11/police-killing-protests-beijing-lam-xi-hong-kong-violence-will-get-worse/
Pei, Minxin. "Xi Jinping Can Blame His Centralisation of Power for a Rotten 2019 – and Maybe an Even Worse 2020." 17 Dec, 2019. Web, 15 Jan, 2020. https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3042392/xi-jinping-can-blame-his-centralisation-power-rotten-2019-and-maybe
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Smith, Nicholas Ross & Fallon, Tracey. "China Cannot Just Rely on its Economic Might to Silence the Growing Army of Critics." South China Morning Post. 27 Dec, 2019. Web. 15 Jan, 2020. https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3043543/china-cannot-just-rely-its-economic-might-silence-growing-army
Strong, Matthew. "Hong Kong Protests Biggest Influence on Taiwan Elections: Poll." Taiwan News. 16 Jan, 2020. Web. 16 Jan, 2020. https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3858673
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Westscott, Ben. "China is Blaming the US for the Hong Kong Protests. Can That Really Be True?" CNN. 1 Aug, 2019. Web. 15 Jan, 2020. https://edition.cnn.com/2019/07/31/asia/us-china-hong-kong-interference-intl-hnk/index.html
Wu, Venus. "China Says Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong No Longer has Meaning." Reuters. 30 Jun, 2017. Web. 15 Jan, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-anniversary-china/china-says-sino-british-joint-declaration-on-hong-kong-no-longer-has-meaning-idUSKBN19L1J1
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Yang, Sophia. "European Parliament Passes Pro-Taiwan Resolutions." 16 Jan, 2020. Web. 16 Jan, 2020. https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3858428