Peripheral dreams

Will the world’s last empire succeed in crushing and absorbing the peoples and cultures of its borderlands? Here’s a rousing call for Tibetans, Uighurs, Hongkongers and Taiwanese to resist Chinese Communist colonial oppression.

The pessimistic view is that only Taiwan – still happily independent of Beijing – has a realistic chance of freedom. And indeed, some observers seem to believe Renegade Province will inevitably fall into the Panda’s clutches at some stage. Arunachal Pradesh would be next on the list.

However, China is fast gaining a global reputation as a bully and even a strategic threat. It is getting caught using obnoxious tactics to intimidate Australian broadcasters and infiltrate US campuses. Its ‘Belt and Road’ strategy looks increasingly predatory, as does its wider trade, investment and industrial policy. Its hurried military build-up draws comparisons with pre-WWI Germany. Tsai Ing-wen’s warnings about Xi Jinping’s regime should strike a chord.

If there is any hope for Tibet, Xinjiang or Hong Kong, it must be in the form of a far greater shock to the Communist regime than they themselves can possibly deliver.

There have recently been reported murmurs of doubt from within China about the wisdom of the country’s loud, brash, hyper-hubristic new stance in the last five years. Now come some more, courtesy of Bloomberg. Evidently, some members of China’s elite are worried that the reality about the country’s capabilities does not match the glorious propaganda.

Despite Beijing’s apparent self-confidence and even bluster, the Chinese government is seriously exposed politically as well as economically to US action on trade and investment, let alone other forms of confrontation. Beijing’s policymakers are walking a tightrope trying to keep a property bubble from bursting, preventing capital flight, and otherwise micro-managing a (probably) unsustainably distorted economy. Threats to sell US bonds or devalue the currency are hollow. It would be similarly self-defeating to prove US hawks right through targeted retaliation against American companies in the mainland. Now truck drivers and veterans are protesting in the streets. It would be easy to push China’s paranoid leadership off-balance.

Luckily for the Communist Party, Donald Trump will presumably be bought, flattered, conned or befuddled into a ‘deal’ that lets China off with a promise to buy more soybeans. Tibetans, Uighurs and Hongkongers are on their own.


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12 Responses to Peripheral dreams

  1. Real Fax Paper says:

    That they view the showdown with the US as “premature” is quite telling, and worth paying more attention to.

  2. Not A Political Decision says:

    They can sell their treasury holdings, if there’s a trade war there will be plenty of happy buyers getting out of chinese assets to buy UST !

    No matter how bad the US leadership is, the Panda sees itself much stronger than it really is.

  3. pd says:

    Trump deserves a prize for being the first person in living memory to call China’s bluff and attempt to put a stop to its attempt to take over the world economy.

    His timing is good, as not only presidents have come and gone, while invariably starting by trying to make friends with China, but also because America is, for the moment, powerful enough to halt the one-sided trade balance.

    Let’s hope he shows the same courage in the diplomatic, military and cultural spheres.

  4. Trump will lose the trade war for two reasons. China takes a long-term view, whereas Trump by nature looks for instant results. And as trade restrictions start to hit industries and consumers in the pocket, Beijing has more room to ignore public opinion than Trump does.

    Furthermore, his trade policies are hurting his allies as well as his adversaries. Instead of alienating Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, a smarter president would have talked them into taking a united stand against China’s trade practices, which might have achieved something.

  5. hank morgan says:

    Based on experience, this has to be a poor translation

    “Anti-China views are becoming the consensus among the U.S. public and its ruling party.” – Bloomberg

  6. Stanley Lieber says:

    Yes, Tibetans, Uighurs and Hongkongers are on their own. That’s life in the grown-up world. People have to fight their own battles.

    American companies in China directly employ millions of employees, and indirectly employ tens of millions. Cracking down on them means throwing Chinese people out of high-paying jobs with good benefits. How likely is that?

    Tariffs are only the beginning. If the U.S. cut in half the 400,000 student visas (the recipients of which most of whom must be the offspring of Party members), that’ll hurt the Party bigwigs more than tariffs. Medical visas, research visas, investment visas, even tourist visas could be added to the list.

    Soft power matters and China doesn’t have any.

  7. A Poor Man says:

    Stanley Lieber – Cutting back on student visas will only hurt the US universities that have come to rely on the high tuition fees of foreign students to subsidize the local students. That is basically all public and most smaller private ones. Also soft power goes both ways. Many of the Chinese students come to appreciate the American way of life and either want to stay or they go home and realize how badly China is run. This seems to be a win/win situation for the US. The rich Chinese students will always find a place to study.

    The world is complicated….

  8. Palmer Eldritch says:

    A Poor Man – I totally understand your point and I think it’s the same principle that has guided Western nations’ policy towards developing world nations like China for decades. You go to a place that’s, overall, orders of magnitude nicer to live in than the place you’re from and you either don’t want to go back home or, if you do, you try to chisel and hammer away at the most unpleasant aspects of your own society with the ultimate goal of making it more closely resemble the one you visited. To people reared in Western societies, it all seems as self-evident and logically air-tight as 2+2=4.

    But, alas, the real world doesn’t appear to work that way. Take Hong Kong, for example. Hong Kong’s upper classes have been receiving Western-style educations for generations, sending the children to “international” schools here and, in many cases, even sending them abroad for years on end, totally immersing them in wacky foreign societies with completely different values than Hong Kong Chinese societies. Has it worked? Well, some members of HK’s elite speak passable English (often with ridiculously overblown faux-British-Received-Pronunciation accents), but their actual behaviors and the way in which they view the world, as evidenced when they’re called upon for one reason or the other to explain their actions from time to time, remain mostly Chinese.

    Look at HK’s CEs: Tung, Tsang, Leung, and Lam. We have a pseudo-tycoon, a Brit-trained (and knighted!) civil servant, a surveyor (and alleged commie), and another Brit-trained civil servant. Despite their varied backgrounds, their policies have been pretty much the same and none have licked Mainland boots more or less than the others. And recall that one of the first things that Legco did after the Handover was to remove the rudimentary British-imposed rent control measure that prevented landlords from hiking rent more than 10% on lease renewal. Nobody, not even anyone from the most thoroughly Westernized elements in HK society, the “pro-democratic” folks, has breathed so much as a word about reintroducing it. Which should tell you a lot.

  9. Stanley Lieber says:

    A Poor Man – If I knew what sophistry meant, I’d say you’re practicing it.

  10. Din Gao says:

    @Palmer Eldritch
    It is hardly surprising that all of “our” CEs are equally awful.
    The only qualification they need for the job is a 1st in Boot Licking.

  11. Palmer Eldritch says:

    A Poor Man – Sure. Unfortunately, a readiness to lick the boots of the wealthier-than-me and more-powerful-than-me, in the form of Confucian subservience within a rigidly defined pecking order, no matter how highly dysfunctional that hierarchy may be, is (along with white-hot, grasping greed) one of the defining characteristics of Chinese culture.

    You could replace Carrie Lam with practically any other HKer, from one of the hunchbacked senior citizens who pulls towering cardboard piles around right on up to one of the most superficially-righteous, strident pro-dem LegCo members, and they’d quickly become pretty much identical to what they’d replaced. Remember Christine Lo?

  12. Palmer Eldritch says:

    If Christine Lo’s conversion doesn’t ring any bells, here’s another (and more recent) example: Ronny Tong and his gilded ExCo seat.

    When all of the slots for obsequious pro-Beijing minions are currently occupied, foolish HKers sniff around and try to demonstrate their own minion potential, outdoing each other in shining Mainland turds. A much smaller group of slightly more cunning HKers rouse some of the rabble with ineffectual, poorly-thought-out protests and exhortations (emblazoned on printed-in-5-minutes banners from the local banner printing shop or painted onto bed sheets) to fight “The Man” for [insert just cause]. It’s all an act. They’re merely trying to secure a bigger share of the the remaining wealth-and-power crumbs whilst positioning themselves as the most valuable potential minion to those with the real power. When they receive a lucrative-enough offer, they switch sides.

    And it’s not that HK’s mentally-stunted aristocracy genuinely loves Beijing, either. If hostile ETs from Arcturus landed outside LegCo tomorrow and announced that they were beginning their conquest of Earth with Hong Kong, as soon as it was apparent that Mainland control over HK wasn’t going to be reestablished in the foreseeable future, the pro-Beijing camp and all of their hangers-on would cut deals with the aliens and begin singing the praises of the Arcturans. A faux-stalwart anti-Arcturan faction would spring up simultaneously, angling for the best possible benefits package from the Arcturan in charge of buying human Quislings.

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