As the demonstrations in Hong Kong continue, I get calls and emails from CHINADebate Members, especially hedge funds concerned about what the impact will be on investments, asking what I think will happen. I have had to answer that I don’t know. Any serious impact would come from the actions of China’s leadership, and we don’t have any precedents from the Xi Jinping regime.
That said, insightful China watchers can give us analyses that will at least allow us to weigh expectations. Of these, one of my handful of go-to experts is Tony Saich.
Besides his positions as Daewoo Professor of International Affairs and Director Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School, Tony Saich is, I am honored to say, a frequent speaker at the CHINARoundtable and a member of CHINADebate’s Advisory Council. And I am pleased to say that he will be a speaker at the November 11 CHINARoundtable.
Tony has commented on the demonstrations in Hong Kong in an interview with the Harvard Gazette and in an op-ed in The Boston Globe, ‘Hong Kong Protesters Shouldn’t Push China Too Far.’ From the Harvard Gazette interview…
GAZETTE: Is the protest movement likely to change Beijing’s view, and if not, is there a resolution both sides could live with?
SAICH: I think it’s hard to see what the resolution is. I don’t think Beijing will back down on the decision that was made earlier. The demonstrators say that they have a number of core objectives, one of which is to rescind that decision, but also for [Leung] to step down. I don’t think they’re going to get the first. They may, through some maneuverings, get the second. Because the only tactic for Beijing, short of greater oppression, is to distance themselves and not say their decision was wrong, but to say that [Leung] and the senior Hong Kong leadership have implemented their control around the demonstrations poorly, and that they haven’t explained this sufficiently to the Hong Kong people, that they haven’t allowed sufficient negotiation — that might be one area of wiggle room for them. The only other hope is that if there’s not continued repression of the demonstrations, over time the enthusiasm might just fade away, and that might allow for a calming period where some kind of discussion could take place. But I think it’s very problematic for Beijing. In a sense, they are really losing a generation. You have a group of young people — college students, high school students — who’ve clearly expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the way Hong Kong is being managed. It’s hard to see what Beijing could do that would win back trust from that group, which is not a very promising situation for the future.
And for a fuller analysis, listen to Tony’s 13 minute ‘The Aims and Aftermath of the Hong Kong Protests,’ on the Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast.