“There are many Hong Kongers and other smart people writing online who can explain the political context of the protests, the likelihood of intervention, and what this means in a deeper way. I am just a visitor who perhaps thinks too much about fish cakes when being tear gassed.”
Of course Maciej Cegłowski went to #HongKong protests and wrote a brilliant piece, with references to how the ’80s Soviet–American culture shock is as great as the 2010s America–HK one.
You know when you read about momentous events in history. D-Day—but also the Warsaw Uprising: events that the history books ex-post frame as “obviously” earth shattering, but also the ones books only casually mention because nothing really major resulted.
Watching the #HongKong situation these weeks has been a smorgasbord of nerve-racking breath-holding waiting to see whether this goes down as 1991-grade Soviet collapse event, or another of the many non-cigar close calls.
That precipice. 🤤!
Yes: since I learned the dynasty song in the HarvardX #China history course,
Shang Zhou Qin Han…
and studied the longevity and fall of other single-party states (Nazi, Soviet, Cambodia, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, etc.), my secret delight has been wondering what comes after the last verse of the song,
Yuan Ming Qing Republic,
When will Mao’s CCP go the way of the Shang and the Soviets, and what will come after? I’m sure it’ll be just as monumental a black swan 🦢!
"#China wants to eat Hong Kong. That is what these protests are about."
"The [protest] groups disagree on tactics, but are each committed to the principle that they will not allow themselves to be divided. There is immense tolerance of tactical differences that would fracture other movements." 😮
When this son of Soviet Poland says "that's when I understood the Hong Kongers may actually win", I'm like 😮😮😮?!!?
‘“The raptors followed us onto the other train. People were terrified. I saw a mother holding her two little daughters. They were all crying. I saw two young women who probably just came back from shopping or a night out because both were dressed in nice clothes. They were clinging to each other, huddled in a corner, crying. There were old people holding onto their shopping bags, shaking with fear.”’
#HongKong police brutality via Pinboard aka Maciej Cegłowski’s Twitter.
‘Ng saw police hit another young man in a white shirt on the head. Blood was pouring down his neck. “He just fell, and I didn’t see him move again.” They toppled another young man wearing black, beating him with batons and kicking him where he lay.’
@22 sadly, I have practically no hope – my brain is full of Tiananmen imagery and stories of the cultural “revolution” and many other sad aspects of Chinese history. Where do you get your hopes from? Simply the idea that a black swan event is eventually going to happen so every uprising is a possibility?
@kensanata yes, that :) but also how sudden and mostly unforeseen the Soviet collapse was. Classic black swan.
@kensanata recall also the important meta-historical awareness the Chinese themselves have, that every past dynasty is said to have lost the Mandate of Heaven (auto-capitalized on iOS!) through avarice and oppression at the top of the nation’s leadership, so all Chinese historically knew to ask themselves where they were in that cycle. Today, I’m not sure how common it is, but certainly all the courses I’ve taken on Chinese history stress the Mandate of Heaven concept.
@kensanata I have often seen pro-Chinese rhetoric citing how much time and effort the CCP takes in finding and addressing sources of public dissatisfaction (“down to the trash collection schedule!”) in an effort to help the people, and to avoid the appearance of indifference. I’d always parsed that rhetoric as trying to affirm that the party does still deserve the Mandate of Heaven.
If history repeated we could see Xinjiang, Tibet, & Hong Kong becoming their own countries independent of China…
@kensanata of course China is in a very different position today than the Soviet Union was. But!, the Soviet Union appeared extremely powerful right up to when it collapsed, and before the narrative effortlessly switched to how weak and crumbling the Soviet system was after all.
The deliciousness of watching the Hong Kong story unfold comes from wondering how what is totally obvious now will transform into what’s totally obvious (and totally different!) afterwards.
@22 @kensanata That might suggest what's needed. Ireland won independence from Britain not because the British *couldn't* crush another Irish insurrection, but because they had bigger problems elsewhere.
China is facing a trade war, attempting a major economic shift to slower growth, and has an insurrection in Hong Kong. But in terms of resource allocation the insurrection only calls for military suppression. Where's the dilution of military attention? Maybe Tibet and others could join in?
@kensanata see https://www.ted.com/talks/eric_x_li_a_tale_of_two_political_systems/transcript for example (this isn’t the one I remember taking about trash collection—which incidentally ISIS was also praised for in some of the territories it conquered, cf., Caliphate podcast by Rukmini Callimachi/NYT—but in the same vein)
@22 Yeah, the Mandate of Heaven featured a lot in the things I heard. I took it as a shorthand for people believing that a new world order is possible. As soon as they understand the possibility, everything changes. Then they’re just waiting for the revolution. As long as everything seems without alternative, nobody budges.
@22 Yugoslavia....what a great comparison
@a_breakin_glass want to emphasize I’m not comparing anything to anything here!, just giving examples of diverse single-party states I’ve studied in school and on my own, and that inform me of some aspects of their collapse. Few parallels can be drawn! History is a good teacher—but it can only tell you what won’t happen, not what will.
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