China, Communism, and Chaos
Cover image source: Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/00/Cellphones_in_Hong_Kong_during_2014_Hong_Kong_protests.jpg/800px-Cellphones_in_Hong_Kong_during_2014_Hong_Kong_protests.jpg
While the international media has put time and effort into deciphering the origins, motives, and rationale behind the 2019 Hong Kong protests, the implications and symbolism of the Hong Kong movement has not received enough attention. Beginning in October 2019, China will enter its 70th year of a communist regime, outliving the legacy of the Soviet Union. However, while China has successfully made it to year 70, the preservation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has faced many obstacles in the past year. In that vein, the Hong Kong protests as well as their parallel sympathizers in Taiwan pose an eminent threat to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its continuing succession of communism.
Before unpacking why these protests have created a topical threat to communist China, it is imperative to understand the root cause of the Hong Kong protests. Beginning in the summer 2019, Hongkongers began speaking out against a controversial extradition bill (now suspended) that would allow criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be sent to mainland China for trial. Honouring the “one country, two systems” agreement for the past 50 years, many citizens saw this bill as a direct encroachment of the PRC on the government of Hong Kong. This proposed bill ignited an already pertinent fear that mainland China was attempting to take away some of the autonomy of Hong Kong. The extradition bill served as a springboard for a larger social justice movement, united under a pro-democracy agenda. Talia Maggs-Rapport, a 4th year student at the University of St Andrews, spent the summer in Hong Kong living in the centre of the protests. She recounts,
“I think the extradition protests have exemplified the changing nature of social unrest. During my time in Hong Kong, they evolved from a peaceful march regarding policy to a larger movement centered around police brutality, the role of youth within society, and the search for Hongkongers’ identity, in the framework of larger national conflict.”
It should be noted that these protests, overwhelmingly dominated by citizens 20-35 years old, are some of the only protests throughout the course of history that go against a communist regime rather than protesting in support or to implement a communist regime. While this assertion seems compelling, it is important to note that supporters of the communist party and avid Marxists reject the PRC as a true communist regime. It has been argued that the PRC has run a party entirely controlled by those on the inside of the government, thus excluding the general public and effectively operating as an oligarchy. While China does not exemplify the communist society Marx proposed in his manifesto, it would be deficient to not point out the uniqueness of having a younger generation reject a so called ‘communist regime.’
The Hong Kong protests have sparked a wave of resistance in Beijing, making President Xi Jinping nervous. Complementarily, many of the young Chinese protesting the PRC are faced with an internal struggle for identity. While some Chinese youth have reported to ‘feel Chinese’, they do not feel a connection or association with the PRC. There seems to be a dangerous disconnect between the rising generation and the mainland government in China. As these sentiments have been brewing for years, Hong Kong can be categorized as the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’; the tipping point for many charged citizens.
Protests in Hong Kong and sympathies in Beijing shows that not everyone sees eye to eye with President Xi Jinping’s vision for China. For the past 70 years, the PRC has relied on obedience, commitment, and compliance of their citizens. If the youth start to question the system, the 70th year of the PRC may face notable obstacles. Questions merit answers, answers fuel controversy and controversy births passion. Every revolution is fuelled by passion, thus the Hong Kong youth are merely preparing for battle.
The natural follow-up inquiry is, “what does this mean for the future of the PRC communist regime in China?” With a new movement of politically charged, passionate, and determined youth, it appears the communist party is headed into chaos. If the PRC does not regain control, adequately supressing and coming to a lasting agreement with the protesters in Hong Kong, the PRC could very well collapse. Taiwan has already given their support to Hong Kong, as demonstrated by many protesters screaming enthusiastically, “Taiwan cheng Hong Kong”, using the Mandarin phrase cheng, meaning together. Additionally, unrest is moving into mainland China, where new protests could commence in the coming months. However, even being charitable and assuming the PRC does manage to supress these protests, the PRC still have many internal issues facing them in the upcoming year.
With the race to capitalize on technology and intellectual property, China is slowly moving to control the “means of production” in Marx’s own words. Assuming the China does in fact qualify as a communist regime, the party may be in serious jeopardy. If the PRC is successful and begins to dominate and control manufacturing, they will by definition leave its identity as a communist regime. China will be at the centre of the world-stage, controlling all means of production and capital. This then becomes a capitalist venture, not a communist venture. Thus, the PRC and the communist regime they take so much pride in preserving might be headed into turbulent terrain.
To this end, the world must keep an eye on China. Though the protests in Hong Kong have gained traction by means of flamboyant rhetoric and the violent aftermath to attract international attention, the symbolism of these movements and the political implications they have created should not go unnoticed. The critical questions referenced in this article are not exhaustive, but should be used as a starting point for larger conversation and debates regarding the future of the PRC and communist China