The Hong Kong protests are as much a test for the West as they are for Beijing
Updated: Feb 18
The last century centred around a clash of two broad ideologies. On one side were the forces of economic and social freedom represented by the western democracies and led by the USA. On the other side, those of totalitarianism who stood firmly against economic and social liberty. These were the communist nations led by the USSR.
At the close of 1999 a triumphalism rippled through the West. Market democracy had decisively brought down the communist governments of the USSR and the Warsaw pact nations of eastern Europe.
Asia also looked to be liberalising. Dictatorships in Taiwan and South Korea had ended and both nations had bloomed into flourishing democracies. Economic reforms instituted by Deng Xiaoping had brought a market economy to China and social liberalisation seemed likely.
Many in the West believed the dragon of totalitarianism was dead, and could never threaten the democratic world again. They were wrong. The dragon was sleeping, and now it has awakened in China, and threatens global democracy once more.
The erosion of freedom in Hong Kong is certainly not the first time China has sought to impose totalitarian control over autonomous people and their land, and it certainly won’t be the last. In fact, China has a long history of exactly this, and the West has an equally long history of doing nothing to stop it. We can no longer stand by and watch.
In 1950 China violently invaded and occupied the independent Buddhist nation of Tibet, and the West did virtually nothing about it. In 1962 China took control of Aksai Chin, a region of Indian territory, during which the West, again, did nothing. More recently China began constructing artificial islands within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. When the Philippines challenged the actions in the International Court of Justice, and won, China ignored the ruling and continued to militarise the area.
Most recently China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has threatened to incorporate the democratic and independent nation of Taiwan into China by any means necessary. As most Taiwanese are avid supporters of democracy and self-governance, incorporation by China would invariable involve a violent, bloody invasion.
China clearly has an insatiable thirst for aggressive, imperialistic, expansionism and the Hong Kong protests may be where the West needs to draw a line in the sand. The people of Hong Kong are calling for the basic rights most of us take for granted: democracy and universal suffrage. Though if the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre tells us anything, it’s that Beijing will not tolerate such calls and will suppress them with deadly force if deemed necessary.
Too long has the West stood idly by as the shadow of totalitarianism grew in China. President Trump has shown that he’s not afraid to apply pressure to countries engaged in unfair trade practices.
If China repeats the atrocities of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Hong Kong, perhaps it will be time for President Trump to use America’s economic influence to stand against China for the cause freedom and democracy.