Last week, two articles regarding our relationship with China came to my attention in the opinion pages of The Globe and Mail.
The first piece, by Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California, was titled: “Hong Kong must not take a Tiananmen Turn.” The second was by the Globe’s economics reporter David Parkinson and titled: “The US is on a collision course with China – Canada could get hit.” In both cases the writers implied that whether we live in Hong Kong, Canada, or the United States, we need to be very cautious about challenging the Beijing regime, especially with regard to reactions that might disrupt trade and lead to an economic downturn.
Pei pointed out that, despite Beijing’s shelving of its controversial extradition bill, the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong is continuing to demonstrate and disrupt daily life. Their actions, he said, are likely to incite Chinese leaders to restore the government’s authority by force. A Tiananmen -style crackdown, he asserts, would have dire economic consequences. “Hong Kong’s economy—a critical bridge between China and the rest of the world—would almost instantly collapse,” he wrote.
Parkinson spoke about a clear and present danger in U.S. President Donald Trump’s resistance to Chinese trade practices. He mocked the Trump administration’s view of China as an “economic enemy.” “This fear of China, and a determination to rein it in, have led us to this high stakes game of chicken,” he wrote. “The stability of the global economy hangs in the balance.”
Forgotten in all the attention to short-term business concerns and troubling economic prognostications is China’s very real history of revolutionary violence and totalitarian communism.
From the goodwill visit by Richard Nixon in 1972, to the British handover of Hong Kong in1997, and the acceptance of China into the World Trade Organization in 2001, western intellectuals have been bending over backwards to overlook the Chinese communist regime’s clear penchant for global hegemony. Our illusions about “moral equivalency” and “convergence” are as misplaced now as they were during our struggle with the former Soviet Union. Generous, unconditional concessions have always served to confirm tyrants in their pursuit of power.
Earlier this summer I received a letter from a former colleague who has been working in Hong Kong for some 15 years. He referred to “literally teeming millions” passing his door on their way from a rallying point in Victoria Park to demonstrate in front of government offices less than half a mile away. These were, he said, the biggest demonstrations he had ever seen.
The same correspondent wrote that the arrests and imprisonments that are the norm in mainland China have now become a permanent feature of the regime’s approach in Hong Kong.
No one is suggesting we go to war with the People’s Republic of China or take actions that will bring on a global recession. But perhaps op-ed writers and news analysts might extend a little more credit to those who are resisting tyranny on the ground and in the political arena. The Trump administration appears willing to risk political capital to bring China around to fairer trade practices. The citizens of Hong Kong appear willing to risk their lives for the kind of freedom they once knew under British protection.
It is time we reminded ourselves that moral as well as economic positions carry enormous weight among people of goodwill. Moral arguments and actions in defence of human freedom have penetrated the borders of even the most despotic regimes. We witnessed this during our long and ultimately successful struggle against the Soviet Empire.
Allowing ourselves to be convinced that we are our own worst enemy or fretting about who might be hit next by China is not a viable way forward for the forces of liberty. There may be short-term costs attached to taming a tyrannical regime, but resistance is worth the risk for a more secure future.
William Brooks is a writer and educator based in Montreal. He currently serves as editor of “The Civil Conversation” for Canada’s Civitas Society and is an Epoch Times contributor.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.