It seem the yearning for freedom is starting to spread around the world. A central planner might liken the dreaded desire for self-dominion to Ebola. From Scotland to Hong Kong, people want to determine for themselves the kind of world they want to live in. I predict that many more people in many more places will pick up the banner of freedom as the world changes the way it looks at large central governments. How will this “umbrella movement” change China? Can China really live with a “one country, two system” rule? If this were happening in a western country, the answers would seem obvious.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that China allows Hong Kong the freedom to define its particular brand of democracy. Given the standard of living disparity between the average Hong Konger and Chinese mainlander under the current system, China would have bend to the obvious advantages of a more free market system. They would have to adopt some of the best practices of Hong Kong for the mainland. Eventually, they would have to reconcile the system itself with their own people regarding why the people in Hong Kong seem to be so much better off. This would, of course, be a win win for China. Highly unlikely though.
On the other hand, if China does what China does and imposes a mainland style, authoritarian government on Hong Kong it will get ugly very fast. Umbrellas will soon be replaced with rocks, bats and guns. The problem is that so many people in Hong Kong grew up with a level of personal freedom unknown to the people of the mainland. Where the average Chinese person grew up under strict control, expects to be controlled and doesn’t know anything else, it is quite the opposite in Hong Kong. I believe it will be the people that will make the difference. In this scenario China loses twice. The people will revolt and the businesses, banks and markets that make Hong Kong great will leave. Even with the highly controlled media, word will spread to the Chinese people. You can’t completely stop the power of the internet and the peoples’ desire for freedom. Freedom is contagious.
To westerners this seems like a very easy choice for the Chinese government, but we have to remember they have a completely different mindset. They put order and tradition above all else. Bending to the will of the people, or worse, market forces, is almost unfathomable. They would be forced to admit that the system they love is not perfect. To give up any power to the people being ruled is the beginning of the end and they know it. Communist authoritarianism is not synonymous with bending anything. When given the choice of taking cues from western style democracy, or not taking them, I have no doubt that not only will they not, it will come with large human casualty.
Eventually, China will be forced to adjust to the changing modern climate for freedom, just not this time.