The Way Forward for Hong Kong

The Way Forward for Hong Kong

James Jay Carafano

Security, Asia

If Beijing plays its cards correctly, then it can face the world with more confidence, less bullying, and gain the respect and trust of other nations around the world that are increasingly doubtful about the wisdom of doing business with China.

How can the Hong Kong protests end in a way that serves everyone’s best interests? 

How can China take a black-eye and turn it into a positive?

How can both sides build constructive, sustainable models for peace and prosperity?

The answer is: Everybody—Beijing, the Hong Kong government, and the protestors—must put something on the table.

What does that mean for Beijing? First, the regime needs to drop its bully act: no more threats of “crushed bodies and shattered bones” if Hong Kong tries to split off from China. No serious actor is suggesting a split. And this kind of gratuitously provocative rhetoric accomplishes nothing.

Instead, Beijing ought to trumpet its continuing commitment to the “one country, two systems” agreement—explicitly reaffirm what that means in terms of preserving Hong Kong’s freedoms.

Cheering the deal that it made decades ago has a big upside for the Chinese government. By publicly reaffirming the principle behind the Basic Law, Beijing would send the message that it honors its commitments. Certainly, it would be a timely message.

The world is becoming increasingly skeptical about Beijing’s intentions of holding up its end of the international bargains it has made and its desire to treat its partners fairly and with respect. Given its not-so-great reputation for bullying and exploiting others, the Chinese government could do with an act of contrition that says it is serious about treating others well.

The virtue of this proposal is that it is true: China has everything to gain from respecting one country, two systems. Hong Kong plays a unique and important role for China: it helps China grow without lying, cheating and extorting in the global free market.

By respecting Hong Kong’s political and economic freedoms, China retains an important portal of economic freedom to the rest of the world. Reminding the rest of the world how much China values that relationship would not just help deescalate the confrontation in Hong Kong it would burnish China’s tarnished reputation around the world.

What does Hong Kong’s government need to do? It needs to take a side.

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