The troops in Shenzhen are most likely just a threat - if they do roll into HK it will be the worst miscalculation by Chinese government since 89.
Look, you can call the Chinese govt many things, but stupid is not one of them.
2) In this case, I think it's likely that military action against HK would be a miscalculation. Governments make miscalculations all the time, though. I'd be curious to know what are the different internal groups and their preferred approaches, as factional politics often drive these miscalculations.
well when that's all the news is allowed to cover, it's no surprise they have that sentiment
But this is fundamentally incompatible with the mainland's entire long-term goal for Hong Kong, which is to strip it of all its distinctive characteristics (which are seen as undesirable products of foreign meddling) and turn it into just another Chinese province.
This is why the treaty with the UK that handed over Hong Kong specified that the "one country, two systems" policy would definitively end in 2047. The idea of Hong Kong as a distinct entity with its own political and economic traditions was something the CCP could only swallow if they knew it came with an expiration date.
What? The CCP cares far more about exerting control than about HK's prosperity. Especially now that they have dozens of equally prosperous but politically pacified cities.
There was a time that the CCP felt it benefited from HK's special status, when foreigners were more comfortable doing business there, but those days are in the past.
The CCP would never offer concessions like these, because this is a question of power, not economics. What matters to the CCP is that Hong Kong eventually be in a position where it can no longer defy it.
These days China produces an absolute majority of the world’s steel, many individual products like port cranes are solely manufactured in China, Shenzhen is an indispensable center of economic activity to a probably higher degree than even Silicon Valley, and the Belt-and-Road initiative is establishing Chinese soft power throughout the most rapidly growing parts of the world.
At the same time, this is a regime that deals with ethnic and religious tensions by throwing people into concentration camps and brainwashing them into the majority culture, as they are doing with the Uyghurs today. Has that resulted in any consequences for them?
Let’s face it, the “free world” these days is feckless and divided, China has turned into a superpower even since 1989, and the developing world can tell which direction the wind is blowing. Nobody can tell the CPC what to do anymore. And Hong Kong is a “disharmonious” part of China, much like Xinkiang. The CPC has a history of “solving” these “problems” by any means necessary.
I'm not terribly optimistic about the developed world's response to a hypothetical Tiananmen 2.0, but I also recognize that predicting what will capture the public imagination is an uncertain business. And in the case of actual worldwide widespread outrage (and accompanying economic penalties), you can look to pre-JCPOA Iran to see how that turns out. Even the US would buckle under that sort of pressure.
> At the same time, this is a regime that deals with ethnic and religious tensions by throwing people into concentration camps and brainwashing them into the majority culture, as they are doing with the Uyghurs today. Has that resulted in any consequences for them?
This is why I'm for the trade war, and frankly any action that decouples the Chinese economy from more of the world's. It turns out it was a lie that trade brings liberalization, the truth is trade actually protects authoritarians from being held to account (if they're big enough).
I borrowed a heat gun from a friend once, and he gave me a safety brief that could be summarized as, “The important part of the term ‘heat gun’ is the word ‘gun’. Do not point this at something you’re not serious about using it on. It will melt your eyeballs.”
Analogously, the important part of the term “trade war” is the word “war”. We will damage our own economy and our own standard of living if we continue to carry out this trade war on China. We will pay a heavy price. Even if the Rust Belt is once again capable of producing the steel that we are no longer importing from China, we will come out of this a poorer country than we would otherwise. It’s a price worth paying, but we should be under no illusions about such an endeavor providing any net economic benefit.
This is CHINA we're talking about... bet on the worst.
Beijing wants the message to be ”protests lead to nothing but mayhem and disorder, in the end the CCP lays down the law of the land”.
There's no incentive for the Chinese gov to use military force, period. What the protestors are doing is actually pretty beneficial to the Chinese gov. The protest is destroying HK's economy, yes. But HK's economy is actually not vital to China's economy anymore. Instead, a less economic significant HK would be much easier to govern in the long run. China would rather further develop its Shanghai or Shenzhen, than investing into HK.
What's more, the recent trade dispute with US, and the Hong Kong protest, have made significant negative impact on mainland Chinese attitude toward the western countries and idealogies. If there's any internal conflicts and fights for certain types of freedom before, they certainly become muted now. The rise of nationalism is surely making the higher-ups happy.
Reports conflict on how China is faring on the trade disputes, but Hong Kong, being the only place not affected in these trade conflicts, may be too valuable to give up as a worst-case plan, even if it might not be vital in numbers. Even given the same information, a spectator’s mindset can be drastically different than a player’s, since a spectator has nothing to loose, but a player does.
The current Hong Kong incident is really, really complicated not only because of China itself, but also it happens at a very perculiar time. The fact that China chose this particluar time to assert control on Hong Kong (proposing the Fugitive Offenders Bill and providing the sparking point) is also under-discussed, and no-one AFAIK has a good explaination–it can’t be simply stupity, for sure? I certainly would not jump into the conclusion that China has “no incentive, period” to use military force without first understanding all those nuances and much more.
And honestly I kind of feel they actually might have a chance to pull it off. Prominent countries don’t have a good track record reacting to China’s bullying tactics (except Trump, as much as I dislike him).
If military is involved, economies will crash, hard. Not only HK's economy, a lot of economies will crash. It will be an economic suicide for mainland China. Is there any doubt about that? And that's irrelevant if any western countries intervene or not.
You probably haven't talked to any educated mainland Chinese recently? For the ones who would like to get HK in line and even get Taiwan back, the only feasible way they see is economic dominance over those territories. As a strategy by itself, I kinda agree.
Edit: I dont think PRC depends on HK more economically than emotionally. HK is one of the symbols of western countries invasion 100 years ago. Getting it back has a great deal of emotional value for mainland Chinese. What I see PRC can extract more value out of HK right now is to emphasize the western influence over the protest, making regular Chinese more in line with PRC's world view and values. Anger directed towards other countries rather than introspective is a good thing for the gov if and when there's any hardship inflicted during the trade dispute period.
> It will be an economic suicide for mainland China. Is there any doubt about that?
Why not? I would most definitely doubt it. Again, I do assume it would crash, but there is absolutely no actual proof that is the case. This wouldn’t be the first time CCP uses armed forces against civillian protest, and on every previous occassion they ended up just fine.
Europeans have killed how many American Indians and ended up just fine. But can they do that today? Coerced sterilization of Indigenous women in Canada had been legal for as late as 1970s and do they dare to do that today [1,2]?
What I'm saying is the world has changed quite a bit and so do CCP.
>and on every previous occasion they ended up just fine.
Really? For starters during previous conflicts CCP rarely had an economy to crash.
Again, the legitimacy of CCP within mainland is almost purely lay on its power of economy growth. There are many Chinese people who are not content with it but bear CCP because of the economy growth .
You probably knew the 2014 Hong Kong protest, which had a similar scale? If CCP can wait that one out, why can't it do it again this time? 
Suppress the rights of educated people who value freedom of the press and independent judicial systems and ... what do you expect?
I also see no dilemma, at least not for the "dictator". If the riot doesn't extend to Beijing, and the chance it does is basically 0, the "dictator" is having no trouble at all. HK may rot, but it rots by its own choice.
I agree completely that it's a homemade problem and I have no sympathy for the Chinese government, but that doesn't mean it isn't still very complicated from an international perspective. Of course, the right answer is that China just give the protesters what they want, but what's right and what's going to happen don't always overlap and it's not particularly helpful to end the analysis so quickly.
If I could run guns to HK, I would.
Idealistic, I know. But I can still hope.
Part of the reason for protests in HK is that it's not as important as it once was, and young people growing up in HK who don't remember the British (remember, HK never had democracy under the British) are at once lamenting the lack of lucrative jobs like their parents had/have and idealising a past that never existed in order to maintain a self-identity that isn't simply 'Chinese'.
Unfortunately this also won't unfold the way the protesters want. China can turn HK back into a fishing village by simply opening up Shanghai and Shenzhen even further, and HK has no real path towards independence. There's literally no sympathy for them on the mainland, no foreign power will intervene, they have no real power.
Ever heard of it? Probably the craziest project of the decade. MBS had plans to sell a sizable chunk of Saudi Aramco in order to invest 500 billions (yes, billions) in a prototype of a city of the future. Electricity fully renewable (easy, in the middle of the desert), a special legal status to make a non-sharia law enclave in Saudi Arabia, and, the most interesting: a fully automated production.
Softbank was a close partner, this led to the 100 billions Vision Fund that is a huge player right now. At the time, many companies were circling around that, wondering how to get a share, wondering how they could associate with MBS without appearing to be a dictator's ally. At the time he was cultivating a reformist image, the young guy who tries to make the old monarchy evolve.
But after Kashoggi's murder, MBS himself admitted that it killed the project. That it can't really be talked about for at least a decade. No one wants to be associated with him anymore. Think about it: what company could survive the PR catastrophe it would cause?
I am as cynical as the next guy, but I don't think it is fair to say Kashoggi's murder went unnoticed.
And right now, I am delaying a trip to Shenzhen because of these riots, and I had wanted to explore other providers than Chinese ones for a while, this makes this item go a bit higher in my list of things to be done asap. I doubt I am alone in that case.
I am sure there are a huge amount of hard evidence in the intelligence agencies about this.
It could sway public and companies from buying stuff made in China, not wanting to associate with this real-world dystopia.
A Chinese economic slowdown may result, causing severe internal problems for China.
Recognise and arm Taiwan.
There is only one UN Security Council seat for China.
Taiwan can call itself whatever it wants.
Recognising the island’s right to govern itself would be reasonable. Nobody would recognise Taiwan’s claim on the mainland.
> There is only one UN Security Council seat for China
Out of all the challenges around recognising Taiwan, this is like the nine hundredth most pressing.
Sales and recognition are restrained to avoid inflaming China. The risk of pissing off China doesn’t balance well against the risk of them invading.
If Xi moves on Hong Kong, however, the latter changes. That makes the former risk more palatable.
EDIT: Don't know why I've been downvoted for answering the question. If the U.S. wanted to reply, that's simply the most likely legal mechanism.
I don't know either. People seem to automatically assume that a Western response means military intervention. That's just unrealistic. The US and Europe have significant diplomatic and economic carrots and sticks at their disposal. As you say, asset freezes and travel sanctions are the most likely as would economic sanctions.
I completely agree. I have been thinking that just thwarting the agent provocateurs and hot-headed protestors would be a giant task for protest leadership in itself. It should actually be priority number one. I admit it's easy for me to say that when I'm not being confronted by police and getting caught up in the fever of the crowd.
Say Hong Kong did have something like the 2nd amendment, and more private firearms than citizens just like the USA.
What are the strategies and tactics that these people could use to win a military campaign against the might and weaponry of Chinese People’s Liberation Army?
At least they would have a chance. As things stand, if tanks start rolling in, it'll be over before the US manages to turn a carrier around.
IIRC, one of the reasons the British decided to give it up was that they judged it to be militarily indefensible against China.
Modern warfare hasn’t figured out urban insurgencies. Pot shots and IEDs, sabotage, et cetera would have made China’s occupation of Hong Kong a PITA. It would raise the stakes of invasion from worldwide outrage to having to destroy Hong Kong in a Pyrrhic victory.
Only in a sense of US rules of engagement.
However, look at other less scrupulous countries dealing with urban combat and you will see that while bloody they can pacify quickly.
If you know that resisting means death of your family, you're less likely to resist.
If your neighbour's best way to safeguard his family is to expose every guerilla fighter he knows he will do it.
The thing is, it won't be pyhrric victory, it will be a full and near lossless victory for PLA. Most HKers will lay down their arms because people generally dont want to die in a hopeless struggle and collective punishment will flush out the remaining guerrillas.
If China does that, it goes from "that not-fantastic-country that produces cheap iPhones" to "this-is-where-blood-diamonds-come-from".
The way it will act can have a direct and profund impact on its exports and GDP.
Kashoggi's murder basically killed a 500 billion dollar project.
It had a thousand ways to fail, but it did mostly because of Kashogi's murder.
This is far from universal. Chechnya was bloody. Syria remains bloody. Short of razing a city, we don’t have great tools for fighting urban insurgencies.
1. Chechnya WAS pacified when Russians started using inhumane tactics.
2. Chechnya had an organized military to fight Russians.
3. Chechnya and Syria had rebels use military equipment of similar quality as their adversary.
4. Assad and Yeltzin's armies were very mismanaged/poor quality.
I posit that PLA is
1. Actually professional and not disorganized like russian/Syrian militaries
2. HKers will not be able to capture PLA equipment in any significant amounts
Do you have any examples? I'm not challenging you, I just don't know much about this topic.
Taliban taking over cities in Afghanistan
More "police" actions:
China pacifying Uighur and Tibet regions.
El-Sisi pacifying Muslim brotherhood in Egypt.
Basically, intense indiscriminate violence "solves" some problems.
We’re exploring the hypothetical military suppression of Hong Kong’s system of laws and government. Nothing is good in this scenario. The options are coöperation (and likely concentration camps), escape and resistance.
Hong Kong can’t win a war against China. It’s too vulnerable to blockade. Barring a Berlin airlift, their strategy would be waiting out Xi with urban guerrilla tactics.
It would at least cause a delay big enough for the west to act.
The city is all sky scrapers with tiny winding streets and secret entrances and exits to and from everywhere. Resistance could probably persist for decades unless China were willing to just level the islands and start over.
It'd be quite easy to starve HK.
HKs populace, even armed with best small arms, would not pose any significant challenge to PLA.
Kind of like random Texan militias arent actually capable of resisting the US Marines.
With advent of modern military technologies there is absolutely no power symmetry between militias and professional armies.
When Taliban/ISIS took land they didnt have this trouble pacifying because they were very bloody.
Morale undermining command and control is a real issue in the military and a frequent issue historically.
That's the whole point. The military capabilities are very asymmetric.
I'm living in the UK and I could get a rifle licence if I really wanted to, it's just that the restrictions are far too severe. Must be straight-pull that's manufactured that way, not converted. Makes an AR-15 equivalent worth $5k. That is after you have spent a year on getting the permit and other technicalities.
Instead I just travel to eastern europe or the United States every now and then to shoot some guns as the rules are a lot more lax in say, Poland, Estonia, Czech Republic and Latvia. In those countries you can generally go to a range and they'll accomodate you. Although ammunition costs about 5-10x what it would cost in the States.
1. in reality only a tiny tiny tiny fraction of the population has such permits;
2. the majority of permit holders are probably members of police/ICAC/correctional services;
3. if I remember correctly, you’re supposed to leave your gun at the gun club anyway, not take it home.