Ol’ Blind Joe
Art of strategic restraint
By Stirling Hamilton
AMERICAN novelist Pearl Buck grew up in China, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938 and said “If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday”.
Hong Kong became part of China during the Qin Dynasty in 220 BC.
It served from the 1500s as an international maritime trading centre between China and European colonial powers.
The East India Tea Company started operations in 1711 and trade flourished in tea, porcelain, and silk.
The British began smuggling opium as a means of exchange, proudly becoming the world’s first and foremost drug pushers.Read more
The Qin dynasty sought to ban opium after the drug addicted millions of people and corrupted the administrative state.
The first European-Chinese conflict, known as the Opium War in 1841, ended with a defeated China forced to cede Hong Kong island to the Britain as part of the Treaty of Nanjing.
Britain installed a capitalist economic system but had to transfer sovereignty back to China when its lease over Hong Kong expired in 1997.
A departure agreement was negotiated that prevents China from changing Hong Kong’s political and economic systems for 50 years.
Since then the island territory’s Basic Law has been ‘one country, two systems’ and is one of the most extreme examples of big finance, neoliberal capitalism in the world.
Half the seats in Hong Kong’s legislature are required to represent business interests, meaning corporate interests vote on legislation.
Hong Kong has 1200 US companies doing business there and is a centre for big finance and financial crimes with 100,000 suspicious transactions and only 100 prosecutions.
It is the most unequal of all developed economies in the world with 93 billionaires, the second highest of any city.
It’s the second-most expensive city in the world after London but 21 per cent of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million people live below the poverty line and another 20 per cent live on the verge of poverty.
Compared with its developed world peers, the Hong Kong government spends among the least on health care, education, housing, and other social programs.
Far from a uniquely Chinese problem, however, the current chaos should be viewed as a bell wether for capitalist systems that fail to address inequality.
As one of the world’s richest cities, it has for months been engulfed by anti-government protests that have blocked roads, paralysed the airport, and descended into violence.
The need for Hong Kong to introduce new extradition laws became obvious when a young man took his pregnant girlfriend from Hong Kong to Taiwan, murdered her, buried her dismembered remains there and returned to Hong Kong knowing that he couldn’t be extradited back to Taiwan to face justice.
Lady Justice is an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems.
She has a blindfold, scales and a sword – in a scene in which a deceased person’s heart is weighed against the feather of truth.
Not even ABC News has mentioned this fact and sure, there are the old China elites – people who fled former Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s revolution in 1949 and corrupt Chinese officials who have fled justice.
Local billionaire media tycoon Jimmy Lai – widely described as the Rupert Murdoch of Asia – and protest leaders have been in Washington, hanging out with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former National Security Advisor John Bolton.
A total of $29 million from US regime-change outfits such as the National Endowment for Democracy have flowed into civil society and political organisations that form the backbone of Hong Kong’s anti-government mobilisation.
Lai has supplemented it with his own fortune while instructing protesters on tactics through his various media outlets.
They embrace a strategy called Marginal Violence Theory which uses ‘mild force’ to provoke security services into attacking protesters with the aim of shifting international sympathy away from the state.
Protesters have thrown molotov cocktails into intersections to block traffic, attacked vehicles and their drivers at roadblocks, beaten opponents with truncheons, attacked a wounded man with a US flag, menaced a reporter into deleting her photos, kidnapped and beat a journalist senseless, beat a mainland traveller unconscious and prevented paramedics from reaching the victim, and hurled petrol bombs at police officers and stations.
The Hong Kong economy has ground to a halt as the media praises rioters as freedom fighters.
China’s government is well aware that if Hong Kong becomes a political or ideological battleground, peace and prosperity will suffer in both the city and on the mainland.
Outnumbered Hong Kong police have for months faced millions of protesters and, with great restraint, have made only 420 arrests.
Those who think that China’s government will resort to a military-led crackdown in Hong Kong forget Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu’s dictum that winning wars without fighting is the “acme of skill”.
The Chinese model of state-controlled capitalism has lifted 800 million people out of poverty and built a middle class of more than 420 million people, growing from four per cent in 2002, to 31 per cent today.
China is led by engineers and scientists, not by lawyers and business people.
Of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China is the only one among them that has not fired a single shot across its border in the 30 years since a brief naval battle with Vietnam in 1988.
By contrast, even during former US president Barack Obama’s relatively peaceful eight years in office, America’s military dropped 26,000 bombs on seven countries in a single year.
Evidently, the Chinese understand well the art of strategic restraint.
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” – Helen Keller (1880-1968), blind and deaf American author, political activist and lecturer.