The Protests to Change the World
Currently, many citizens of Hong Kong have put their lives at risk protesting against the all-powerful Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Their actions have the power to affect not just the authority of the Chinese government, but also the world’s economy. Presently, the Hong Kong chief executivecandidates are chosen by members of the CCP before being elected by the people. Although the protesters’ primary goal is to freely elect their leader, the protest is also fueled by Hong Kong’s large wealth gap. The protests are, “dominated by students who worry they may not be able to afford a home or support a family” (Yan). Their problems are entirely dependent on the CCP’s actions. The CCP has showed violence in the form of tear gas, but it is still unknown how the protests will end. There are very few possible outcomes of what is known as the umbrella revolution - the CCP complies with the protesters’ demands, it reacts non-violently, or it reacts violently. By analyzing the consequences of each solution, we can reach the conclusion that the CCP can only react with violence; this hypothesis is supported by China’s international leverage and its powerful censors.
The CCP will not submit to the protestors’ demands due to President Xi Jinping’s previous actions, the effects on Communism, and nationalism. The protests themselves “openly defy not just this authority but the legitimacy of the whole party, state and Leninist political system" (Schell). To the CCP, compromising to any degree would show that Democracy is superior to Communism, a repercussion which no Chinese leader would want. Moreover, Mr. Xi “has almost always taken a hard line in solving problems, especially those related to issues of territorial sovereignty” (Schell) If Mr. Xi has been uncompromising in his ideas in the past, it is unlikely that he will make an exception for this instance. Compromising would also decrease China’s nationalism. Even if the people of Hong Kong gained sovereignty, the rest of the country would not. This would create imagined boundaries between citizens of the same nation. Moreover, the CCP would show weakness. Many of China’s 1.357 billion people already have doubts about the government. If news leaked out that the CCP had let a protest occur without any repercussions, then it could spark a nationwide rebellion.
The CCP will not respond peacefully, because their prior actions have made this route impossible. To look at history as an example, the umbrella revolution might be best compared to the recent protests in Moscow: The protesters are ruled by a farcical democracy, and are challenging this rule. In Russia;“He [Vladimir Putin] waited until the demonstrations turned repetitive and most people stopped coming, then gradually tightened the screws, creating today's smothering regime in a matter of months” (Bershidsky). Protesting is not sustainable as people need to work for a living. If the protestors realize that the government will not change its views, then they will stop rallying. Once that happens, China could slowly increase pressure on the protesters until there were none left. It would not put China at risk, as the government would neither have shown weakness nor sparked outrage from the masses or the media. However, China has simply not started down this path. The government has used relatively minor forms of violence against the protesters but this shows that the CCP is affected by the demonstration. Recently, Hong Kong government representative Carrie Lam announced that the police will begin to arrest protestors. While there is still much energy in the protest, it is unlikely that the protestors will evacuate, and a violent standoff is likely to occur. Moreover, Carrie Lam stated that the protestors should leave “voluntarily and peacefully” (Pomfret). This implies that if the protestors do not leave, then the situation will not be peaceful. At this stage, it is highly unlikely that the CCP will be able to end the protests without at least minor forms of violence.
The CCP will attempt to stop the rebellion early, as it is the only feasible option without consequences. If the CCP will not submit, nor end the protests non-violently, then it must react with force. It is said "the Chinese leadership has the resources to put down the Hong Kong protests even if the city's entire 7 million population joins them"( Bershidsky). Although this scenario is extreme, the CCP clearly has the resources to end the protests. The only possible reason that the CCP would not react violently is the media’s presence in Hong Kong. If the rest of the world is aware of what is going on, then China’s international relations might suffer. China’s two biggest trading partners are the US and the European Union (EU). After negotiating a Chinese trade pact with the EU, Mr. Xi stated “Rocks cannot interrupt the course of a river in its tumultuous voyage to the ocean. I am convinced that no problem or difference can halt the march of Sino-European friendship and co-operation. (The Economist)” If Mr. Xi genuinely believes that no matter the conflict, the EU will never alter its trading partnership with China, then reacting with violence should not cause a problem. In the case of the US, “[Obama] is seeking to develop a relationship with a Chinese leadership that he needs more than it needs him” (Steingart). China, aided by the US’ debt, has clear leverage over the US. China has significant power internationally; even if the media criticizes the government for its use of violence, it will be economically inconsequential. Internally the CCP’s largest fear is a rebellion in the mainland. However, the chance of this would most likely be minimal.
On September 28th, when tear gas was used against the protestors, 16,000 posts were removed from the internet. This gives us two insights; there is a percentage of the population who is aware of the events, and the Chinese censors are relatively effective at deleting information. These censorships are most effective in rural areas where word of mouth communication is lower. In urban areas communication is a lot easier. However; even if news leaked of the occurrences in Hong Kong, the Chinese citizens would not protest after the CCP had shown its brutality. If the CCP is violent, it would face no lasting consequences, while showing its strength and ending the protests quickly.
Even if the protests do end with violence, the CCP will not be victorious. Joshua Wong, a largely respected student leader states; “No matter what happens to the protest movement, we will reclaim the democracy that belongs to us, because time is on our side” (Wong). If the CCP quells the protestors violently, the rest of the world will see the flaws in Chinese rule – thus hopefully inciting a desire for change internally and internationally. The world would then finally hear the protestors’ voice.
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