Hong Kong Protests: China’s Kobayashi Maru

China is facing a no-win situation—of its own making. On it’s face, the protests currently disrupting government operations in Hong Kong would seem to be a single issue event—extradition of “Hong Kongers,” to Mainland China for trials. There’s a lot more to it than that. The BBC has produced a nicely done explainer for those of us unfamiliar or not up to date on Hong Kong and its relationship with the People’s Republic of China. I highly recommend a quick scan before proceeding further.

By many accounts, it appears the local government in Hong Kong is losing or has outright lost control. Several days of protests, some violent have forced the legislature to temporarily stay proposed legislation that would allow the PRC government on the mainland extradition power over Hong Kongers. An online acquaintance and Red State plank owner gives some interesting perspective

Undergirding it all is real citizen and civil-society resistance.

The array of Hong Kong institutions giving ordinary citizens time and inspiration to take to the streets are the small businesses, the local bureaucracies, and the unions. The teachers union is supporting a strike. The transit union is supporting bus drivers who deliberately slow service in protest. The municipal subway is operating for free, allowing protesting citizens to shuttle away from arrest and toward confrontation with power as needed. Shopkeepers are giving out free water and aid to protestors and the injured. Local entrepreneurs are turning out with their employees and staff to defend their rights. 

The Communist Mandarins in Beijing can’t allow this to go on for long.

It will give the tottering authority of Carrie Lam and her government a short while longer to act. Then, when they fail, it will be time for the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong to execute the core mission of the PLA since its founding: attacking its fellow Chinese.

Like aspiring the aspiring Star Fleet Officers undergoing “the Kobayashi Maru,” no win simulation, the PRC leadership really has no good options. Hong Kong is a huge economic driver for them. The island is supposed to by treaty, have limited autonomy. Treaties are nice, but the real reason Beijing allows any autonomy at all, is to keep that revenue flowing. On one hand, allowing too much autonomy abdicates government control.

On the other hand, if tanks show up in the streets, there will be an unintended consequence for the PRC government. Americans who are currently on the fence about tariffs will likely now come down on the President’s side. Even staunch opponents will likely stand mute on the issue to avoid the appearance of siding with a Government busily engaged in running its citizens over with tanks.

I have no doubt that this will accelerate the current trickle of business moves away from China. If it goes too far, President Trump will in all likelihood, direct punitive sanctions. If China’s Most Favored Nation trade status goes away, it’s game over for them.

Mike Ford is a retired Infantry Officer who writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters.

Follow him on Twitter: @MikeFor10394583

You can find his other Red State work here.