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A Walk in Hong Kong (idlewords.com)
748 points by haasted 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 371 comments



This piece is quite accurate - it really makes you feel like you're in Hong Kong during the protests.

References aside, as a US citizen in Hong Kong there are some things that I respect immensely and some things that really get on my nerves about HK.

I greatly respect the people and the cause. It reminds me of that one poem -

> Do not go gentle into that good night.

> Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The people here have a heart to fight for their own identity and for their well-being. It's actually really amazing especially with the immense challenges facing them and the great risks they have as a people.

At the same time, when two parties disagree in Asian culture, it rarely turns towards resolution. Most of the time it turns towards silence (separating, parting ways, or just pretending it never happened), violence (intense arguments, passive aggressive pay back, hatred and villainfication of both sides leading to all out war), or just a lot of stiffness / unwillingness to compromise, understand the other side or reach a deal.

This reflection is not just about the protests, although the escalation is due to the culture being this way. It happens everywhere, the biggest pet peeve of mine is that it's a normal, accepted practice. For instance, if you don't like your boss, you don't say anything, you just hold it in and then you send in your resignation. I wish the culture would be more willing to engage in conflict resolution type conversation and learn how to do it. It takes a lot of practice on both sides to do it.


I don't want to change my original post, so I'll add to it here:

When you're on the streets with the protests, it feels extremely primeval. The micro-scale interactions of the protest movement is like looking into a microscope at microorganisms, blobs of life that just kind of move around and sometimes eat others but most of the time just float there.

It's a decentralized, rather polite mob. Angry, yes. Scary, sometimes. But otherwise, just a lot of yelling, a lot of "tactics" - like retreat, advance, wall off here, go here, go there, run. It feels like there's no real goal or direction of the protest except to exist, and I think the author captures that feeling very, very well.

The police also have that same feeling on a micro-level, not much thought or control, just an instinctual reaction or set of rules to follow.

One party existing to express concerns and vent anger. The other party existing to restrain and disperse.

Of course, on the real level, the two parties have deeply rooted goals and feelings. The police want the protestors to stop protesting. The political party wants the people to be absorbed into China. And the protestors want to preserve the unique individuality of HK and to allow it to grow and thrive.


> It feels like there's no real goal or direction of the protest except to exist

Reading this makes me think a very little bit of the Paris Commune [0], well in its early days perhaps.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Commune


In the last 2000 years, much of human progress came in the form of freedom.

In recent times it seems there is a pushback towards less.


This is absolutely not true, only this decade we've been in a momentum for worldwide progress for LGBT rights, many states now have more liberal drug laws. Moreover, I cannot think of one thing that we were free to do a few decades ago and we're restricted to do now. There is an alarmist rhetoric in libertarian community (especially r/libertarian et al) that the West is keep getting more authoritarian, whereas the fact is it's always getting more and more liberal. Do you have an concrete examples maybe?


>Moreover, I cannot think of one thing that we were free to do a few decades ago and we're restricted to do now.

Fly abroad without getting our crotches checked?

Walk around the city without companies/governments tracking our location?

Less surveillance in everything?

Don't have corporations police what we can and cannot say on this era's popular platforms (doesn't matter if we can still open a personal blog in 2019, since those are not where the discussion is today - whereas they were in the early 00s, and they did matter back then).

Have a mainstream without moral panics? We used to have the easily triggered persons of the right back in the day, now we have the same of the left, but there was a point (late 60s/early 70s) where people could be more radical than today.

Buy a program without a subscription and use it for the next 10 years or so the same price you know pay for 1 to 3 years of use! (Like people are still using ancient Photoshop in Windows today, or how people like RR Martin still use something like Wordstar 20+ years after its last release -- with subscriptions it would be impossible).

Widespread free sharing of commercial music, films etc like in late 90s/early 00s without all major outlets being crushed like they are being now?

Tons of government regulations (from building codes, to "food safety" BS meant to crush smaller producers) that affect every aspect of business and everyday life, for things that people could freely do 20-30-50 years ago...


Here are some that I think are getting worse.

Tracking of your data and recording of what you have done. It seems many governments have access to this data.

Recording of biometric data by governments

Common methods of communication are less private now than previously and a a record is kept. Obviously communication is now way easier, but that has had a price.

Media is more concentrated in the hands of fewer companies and their independence is questionable. There are dark patterns here with state actors involved.

The perverse way adverts are tracking and recording. This isn’t fitting with a traditional definition of ‘authoritarian’, but it’s somewhere bad on that continuum.

A larger portion of money is held by a very small controlling group.

National firewalls and restriction of access to certain data is becoming increasingly acceptable.


Airports are one great example. So are government regulations, which with a few exceptions tend to get more expansive over time.


Regarding the grow and thrive part, some of my Chinese friends mention that they feel China is unjustly cast as the villain as many of the economic issues in HK like the super small living spaces are a result of unchecked and corrupt capitalism. With China rising and HK having lost it’s monopoly as the doorway to China they don’t have anything to really drive the economy anymore. the gist is “Why don’t they go make themselves useful instead of blaming China for everything.”

Not commenting on its validity but thought it was an interesting perspective to share.


Growing up in the suburbs of California, I never really understood just how central the concept of face was in Asian society until visiting China and seeing it for myself.

Over time I’ve come to realize that many of these social concepts exists in some form or another across all cultures, likely implicit in some part to the human condition, but it still surprises me to this day just how entrenched it still is in certain areas.

I’ve always been personally curious as to what the causes of these divergences in culture between different societies are. There must be some inciting reason that such a stark difference in communication exists.


FWIW, I've encountered several times that German or Russian directness was considered impolite or even offensive in the US, for example when you'd point out that there was a mistake or something not conforming to spec without prefacing it with "Thanks for the awesome work! This is real progress. A minor issue we could still improve might be this:", etc.

So, as you point out, these conventions exist everywhere, and (like the proverbial young fish asking "what's water?"), they're hard to see when you're in the middle of them, and consequently much easier to see when you observe them in a different culture.


We could use a little German-ness in that case.


Face is important because it came from a family oriented culture. If you were made to look bad, you'd feel even worse when the rest of your family finds out (Grandparents, relatives would talk negatively about this aka gossip). This morphed into businesses that build on relationships, the Chinese term for that is 'guanxi'.

For China, they would 'lose face' if Hong Kong became independent (or Xinjiang or Tibet for that matter).


If by "lose face" you mean display of weakness, then you probably right. The government don't actually care about face here, they only care about outcome.

In mainland, people sees the government as the ruler. They are not there to serve you, they are there to manage you. They never make mistake, and you must follow their lead.

The government needs Hongkong, and hey need Hongkong under control, just like the rest of China. If they failed, their public image of power will be damaged.

However, if they can turn Hongkong into "the rest of China" alike, then that's a success showcase of power for them.


At the same time, PRC government doesn't want to turn HK instead exactly another Chinese city... (the closest one would be Shanghai, I guess.)

There are interesting historical issues, economical issues, geopolitics (especially Taiwan) and international politics at play.

But yes, in a certain sense the PRC want to turn HK into "the rest of China" alike, in the sense that you can have economic freedom and many other things, however politically one must submit to the supreme rule of the party.


I am not sure how true it is thst the govt doesn’t want to turn HK into just another Chinese city.

The belief was that HK’s economic value to China would protect the one country 2 systems status.

However, the Chinese govt appears to have convinced itself with the rise of its major cities (such as Shenzhen) and general economy that HK isn’t unique, and any economic benefits the political autonomy provides is far outweighed by the political risk and control. The protests, ironically, strengthen this thinking. And they feel they can compensate for the economic losses by simply creating SEZs.

I think the Chinese govt now believes that HK is not really special anymore, and if anything, is probably falling behind other Chinese cities.



> In mainland, people sees the government as the ruler. They are not there to serve you, they are there to manage you. They never make mistake, and you must follow their lead.

Mostly right, but there is no sentiment on the mainland that the government never makes mistakes. Quite the opposite.


Well, that "never make mistake" is in a sense, like "I'm right, you're the one who did it wrong", or "Yes it's bad, but it's necessary, there is no other way".

I personally believe it's the root of China's domestic problem.

Our government never fully apologize for their own mistakes (Sometime they did a little, but they always trying to shift their responsibility away. The word here is "Damage control"), possibly because they don't want to show their weakness and handle the consequence. And that gives them a hypocrite vibe.

If somebody never going to take responsibility, then that somebody will not be trusted. Because people is clever, they will eventually figure out who is honest, and who is not.


I would be interested to hear more on this topic. What kind of things do mainland chinese think is bad about their government. What would they change?


From talking to my friends, pretty much what you'd expect:

- The government can't act quickly, and the things it does are often stupid.

- It also can't be trusted.

My favorite remark on this general topic actually came when I asked someone how Chinese generally thought of the US. Her response was along the lines of "Some people view it as the promised land, where everything is better. Some people are more cynical. There's one guy at my company who always has something negative to say about America. But even he says they did one thing we should thank them for: they published the air pollution numbers."

She was shocked when I told her, in another conversation, that there is a contingency in the US that is very vocally envious of how quickly the Chinese government can get things done.


This idea that "saving face" is uniquely central to Asian cultures is complete nonsense. It's a common metaphor in Asian languages, that's it -- the desire to avoid embarrassment is an absolutely universal human trait.


"face" is the word one uses when one wants to put a negative spin on it. It, along with "kowtow", are very much dog-whistles for a certain crowd.

Have you ever laughed at a joke even though you don't find it funny, because the teller made a great effort telling it and you shudders to think how you would feel if your interlocutor exhibited completely no reaction? If the answer is yes, the concept is as much operative for you as it is in Chinese culture.


You are correct that "face" isn't an idea that is unique to Asia. But on the other hand, if you don't think there is an extra emphasis on it in certain Asian cultures (can't speak for China, but I have lots of experience with Japan), you are simply wrong. The lengths Japanese people go to avoid bucking a trend, or staying within the cultural boundaries is, on average, much further than most Western cultures would.

For what its worth, I don't think this is a good or a bad thing. While it can certainly have its problems, I also think its a key ingredient in why many macro-scale societal issues in Japan (mega cities, public transportation, crime, etc.) simply seem to work better, more efficiently, and with less friction than Western counterparts (particularly the US).


Saving your own face is as common in Asian culture as in western. I mean, just look at Boeing doing everything to avoid taking responsibility (you still cannot name an individual in Boeing who has taken responsibility). How is that any different than Japanese “face saving”.

Being conservative about your culture, or not wanting to buck the trend probably has a lot more to do with appetite for risk (which in turn likely has more to do with poverty, and the lack of immigrants) than it has to do with a notion of “face saving”.

Let me clarify. I’m not saying additional “face saving” isn’t a thing in Asian cultures. My point is that it’s a lazy and easy fallback in Western discourse to explain a variety of differences.


How is that any different than Japanese “face saving”.

Very different.

I assume Boeing is arguing because they either believe they did nothing wrong (sense of justice) or they will get in trouble for admitting they were wrong (sense of security). There are probably other possibilities.

Those are very different than saving face. That has more to do with maintaining your own personal standing with your community (sense of pride and self-worth).

I don't think Boeing is refusing to take blame because they are worried that their standing within their community is at risk.


So face saving is defined as not accepting responsibility when the negative consequence has something to do with your standing in society. As opposed to not accepting responsibility because say it may cause legal liability. Am I understanding that right?

In that case I think it’s a meaningless distinction. Because it doesn’t say anything about the individual behavior, but rather, how the 2 societies handle wrongdoing. Japanese society handles wrongdoing by “shunning” the wrongdoer from police company. American society handles it by suing the person.

But either way, face saving has been redefined not by the action, but rather by the consequence of the action, which makes it a fairly meaningless difference in my opinion.


"Strong sense of pride" perhaps, characterizing it as "face saving" seems to imply that a loss has already occurred.


Asian cultures take it far further than western cultures.


Embarrassment may be universal, but the internalization of guilt and shame varies dependent on the culture both in degree and manner. See, e.g.:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276464615_A_Cultura...


A clear example is the political discussion around the US China tariff war.

Most commentators will present the reason why China cannot back down as the government not wanting to lose face, while presenting the reasons Trump does not want to back down in very different language (not wanting a loss, for example), although they’re the same thing. The former is presented as a cultural trait, while the latter as an objective outcome.

The reality is that Xi can not afford to “lose face” not because of cultural reasons, but because it would greatly undermine his strength and power.


One would expect Trump has more reason to "save face" in this trade war, with an election coming up.


Actually I don't think so.

It is much more than losing face. Losing sovereignity in East Asian countries, where nationalism is hyper active, is an attack directly on national identity.

The Chinese government now will cease to exist if it yields to independence demands from any of the separationist region. The nationalistic education has been ingrained into society at large, something nobody dares to question.


Yes I agree with you nationalism is ingrained from childhood and this makes it harder for minority who are against blind nationalism. This has been true for all the 70+ countries I lived and traveled. But I still believe in this quote:

"Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live."

By a Noble Laureate.


patriotism != nationalism


Actually this is another such explanation to justify one over the other. I am a believer that world should be built and bound by human to human connections and love, not by some utilitarian construct like nationalism. You can read the book of that noble laureate who influenced me, on this subject from Gutenberg press:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/40766


obviously he just gave a quote explaining that


Losing sovreignity is the country scale version of losing face.


In my view it's not losing face, but loss of identity and dignity given nationalistic education. If one wants to conflat the meaning of face to identity and dignity then it can apply to any country or individual.


Like what happened when HK was stolen by invaders. The over-correction in response is to be expected, regardless of how delayed it might seem.


It is very sad to compare an iron fist of holding power with a more subtle aspect in Chinese culture. The violence committed is incomparable. Though you might argue the face and guanxi culture is more subtle brutality.


This has also been observed about Southern (i.e. Southeastern US) culture - it has an emphasis on "honor" and "face" that is much-reduced in other American regional cultures. These probably generally go back to historical social structures where reputation was important on a day-to-day level. (e.g. where personal relations took over some economic or legal functions that would be handled through more distant institutions in e.g. Northeastern US culture).


I'm inclined to believe it is driven by the economic situation and how power is consolidated. Where power and prestige creates strong economic advantages is where this kind of behavior wins out. And where innovation speed creates strong economic advantages is where you find more cooperative and negotiative cultures.


If you lose a major war, all you have is your pride. That's probably at the core of this observation.


"Face" is also tied into shame and handling feelings of shame.

Shame is a major emotion (or idea) and one which is often internalised. Shame is the negative feeling about yourself. "The definition of shame is a discrete, basic emotion, described as a moral or social emotion that drives people to hide or deny their wrongdoings" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shame

Much of western street violence is about shame at it's core. One basic over simplified version is that if I ask for respect I'm asking you not to reveal my own shame. The idea that violent criminals are shameless is wrong - they have deep shame about themselves - and violence is often one reaction to this internal feeling.

Of course there are different types of shame. Sometimes what we think as wrong isn't wrong and sometimes it's not our fault. Society and shame is entwined - and because of this being able to talk about and manage shame is almost impossible.

I'm not sure how this relates to Asian society but I thought it could be a useful avenue into investigating face.


The main negative driver in asian societies is shame, while the main one in "western" societies is guilt.

And yes, both emotions are often at the root of street violence.


What would you say is the difference? Isn't guilt just a form of shame that is consciously acknowledged?


I could be splitting hairs, but to me, guilt is established by another party, and something you may or may not recognize, whereas shame is mostly sourced internally. Someone, including the government, my employer, and other people, can declare me guilty of something. I also can admit guilt, but its not required. Shame on the other hand is something that only exists if I personally feel it.

I do agree with the notion that this may be somewhere close to one of the major differences between Western and some Asian societies (I'm thinking of Japan primarily, as that is what I have experience with, so this may not extrapolate to other Asian cultures). In Japan, I was shocked at the low crime rates. I could leave my bike unlocked pretty much anywhere and not worry about it being stolen. They leave vending machines on random alleyways everywhere with no fear that someone will break into them. Crime in general is just so much lower, despite opportunity potentially being much higher. Additionally, streets are so much cleaner than American cities. People don't defecate on the sidewalk. They clean up after their animals. Public transportation is clean and reliable and you aren't going to be screamed at by a homeless person. I think a lot of this comes from the fact that Japanese culture has a strong element of shame attached to people who transgress societal rules. In Western countries, the emphasis is more on guilt, which leads more to a culture of "getting away with what I can", and "its only a problem when I get caught". We litter more. We steal more. We are more violent. We tend to put less effort into our jobs.

Of course there are flip sides. I think the strong sense of shame and societal responsibility in cultures like Japan's also leads to more mental health issues, higher suicide rates and societal isolation. Tougher work environments and cultures. Sometimes a stronger apprehension towards challenging the status quo. I'm not sure if one is more ideal than the other. I'm personally a big fan of the societal cohesion that seems to exist in Japanese culture, but I have friends who found it stifling and sterile.




This is a silly analysis because the conflict is fundamental. China wants to integrate Hong Kong. The protestors want independence. Neither side really wants an indefinite half-hearted autonomy, although the protestors are pushing to preserve it for as long as possible.

Your very reaction shows where your sympathies lie, which is very laudable, but are you willing to engage in 'conflict resolution' over your own core values, e.g. to give up some amount of democracy or independence? If not, then talk is simply window dressing, or an opportunity to spread your message.

Both sides here realize there is no true basis for negotiating, hence why they don't.

In fact, negotiation at all by Beijing would be a concession: it would legitimize the protests and give protestors a formal seat at the table. You may disagree with that starting point, but let's admit that negotiations themselves are not a neutral act devoid of consequence, hence why actual diplomats spend enormous amounts of time discussing the agenda to be discussed in formal settings: what gets talked about and by whom matters.


This is just plainly inaccurate. There is a spectrum of desired outcome among protesters, from a China that simply better honors the One Country, Two Systems mantra, to outright Independence, and I'd say that most protesters align with the former, but include true free and fair elections, as opposed to the CCP's version in which they have pick the handful of candidates from which Hong Kongers can freely and fairly choose. Many of those that advocate for Independence seem to be called offs from that camp, who have lost all hope that Beijing might actually honor its agreement.

The problem here is that the CCP has created its own interpretation of vocabulary that is otherwise universally accepted and Britain (and the US) failed to account for that and put in place the protections that would have forestalled such aggressive dismantling of Hong Kong's civic framework pre-handover.


The protesters are not calling for independence. They have five specific demands, which boil down to "uphold the law as written", including the right (guaranteed in the Basic Law) to elect their government.


It seems that the Basic Law is more subtle than that (Article 45):

" The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People's Government.

The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures."

Regarding "independence", when some protesters attack symbols of the Chinese state (inc. flag) and fly foreign flags they are sending a muddled message...


By definition, at a mass protest you're going to get all kinds of people. The five demands represent a broad consensus across a very large slice of Hong Kong society.

You can get a lot of attention bringing a foreign flag to a protest, but as Hong Kongers know it is a very small contingent of people who do it. One of them is a well-known, tiny, sweet old lady who got attacked by police last weekend.


They've effectively won on the extradition bill, which realistically is the most they could get.

Violence, disruption, and foreign flags might be from a minority but they have destroyed any sympathy the mainland opinion may have had towards the movement (and there was sympathy) and I think that they actually help the hardliners in Beijing.


The bill was not withdrawn. It is likely that some of the violence was from undercover cops. But yes, optics matter, that's why they apologised after the airport.


Many foreigners are perplexed about why people are still obsessed with the wording of the bill's situation.

Well, Carrie Lam the current chief executive of HKG, has a notorious nickname - Habitual liar.

She's been caught breaking promises again and again and cheating her way out of difficult situations in the past. That's why many people do not trust her.

Well, politicians and people cheat all the time, but when you keep cheating publicly without remorse, it's gonna bite you back, hard. And that's what's happening now.

FWIW, she's said during in one of the election forums, that she would resign if the majority of HK people think she's not fit for the office. Her rating stands at 27.9 points in the last survey.

Of course, there are other things at play here, specifically, CCP/Xi is not willing to let her go for now.

Hope this can give people some perspective on this issue.


> The bill was not withdrawn.

Same difference, really...


Then why not withdraw it?


To avoid total humiliation?

Even if they withdraw it completely nothing prevent them from introducing another similar bill at a later time anyway, so protesters would not gain anything apart from having humiliated the executive even more.


Not exactly. The govt can still proceed with the second and third readings and pass the law in a day. If withdrawn, the bill will need to go through the whole process. https://www.legco.gov.hk/general/english/bills/bill_1620.htm


Isn't that what I wrote? Than they can bring it back no matter what?

The protesters have also now made sure that the government will not bulge. Because that would send the message that they cave in to violence.


You wrote:

> so protesters would not gain anything apart from having humiliated the executive even more.

But that's wrong, if the bill is totally withdrawn the protesters would gain time if something similar was ever re-introduced. Time they can use to organize protests to fight it again, if need be. It sounds like the current "suspended" bill is fairly far along in the legislative process, and could be passed quickly.


If the only thing gained is the time to organise more protests it rather proves my point...


No, it doesn't. I'm having a hard time putting my finger on your misconception, but you seem to assume all time periods are equivalent and practically meaningless.

Withdrawal of the bill and gaining enough time to mount a response in the future, if necessary, is an absolutely important achievement. It means the protests can stop without the risk of fly-by-night passage. It means the potential of future protests can be a deterrent to future introduction of the bill.


Then why not withdraw it?


Who is to say what they can get. No sense giving up before you’ve started fighting.


Right, because they are smart about what sells, both to the international community and to China. But let's not kid ourselves that wants === demands


> They are smart about what sells

Alternatively, they are being influenced by people who have ulterior motives.

History says, if you get in a trade war with the US and we don't end up funding your opposition, an error has probably occurred or you are not very important.


And the five demands are not treated equally among the people:

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1384380751713433...

Some of the core protesters (I don't have any objective figure) consider them a take it or leave it deal though.


Specific demands which amount to independence rather than integration.


No, there is an important distinction between independence and autonomy. A majority of the protesters support "one country, two system", they just want the two systems to be preserved.


They want autonomy which is functionally equivalent to independence.


Not really. And they are asking for the terms of an agreement made in 1997 to actually be honored. It's not like they are coming out of nowhere with original demands here. The demands boil down to something akin to: stop trying to fuck us over on the promises you made to us and the world!


It has nothing to do independence or not, but demanding CCP to keep its promises to Hong Kong people and using the usual legal framework now in Hong Kong to bring justice and peace back to the society


In fact the first chapter of From Dictatorship To Democracy warns against negotiations too early in the process. You have to be in position of power first, then negotiate.


This is a great point. Also thanks for being neutral on this topic, especially given how hard it is to do so on Hacker News these days on this topic.

I'm typically highly critical of America but I think Asian cultures have a lot to learn from the US resolution of the civil war and general conflict resolution between parties of unequal power. One can easily reference the uneasy outcomes of Asian civil wars that didn't end in re-homogenization (such as Japan).

My running theory is still that the millennia-steeped culture is rooted in geographic dispositions and historical modes of production. In derivatives of mediterranean trading cultures like minoans, pheonicians, greeks etc, local production is not self-sufficient and equality, contracts, conflict resolution is your 'means of production' and, to put in a controversial idea, what social darwinism selects for. In continental/big plains/big rivers agrarian societies like sinocentric societies or even Egypt, unity, mass labor, hierarchy is their means of production for flood control, irrigation and other agrarian projects. Questioning traditional wisdom/methodology, parents and trying to get creative with how you plant your crops is an easy way to get yourself starved and what social darwinism selects against.


I really like this kind of thinking, it's where my brain is heading currently.

Unfortunately, I don't have the time or skill in weeding through historical facts and theory/storytelling to know if the "agricultural economy informs cultural values" hypothesis is true.

My theory right now is more on income being a much stronger determining factor of culture than realized. A lot of specifically "Asian", "Indian" or "Western" values are actually just a reflection of income levels more than anything else, and many cultural norms will disappear when income levels equalized (like, the Asian attitude towards luxury goods or smoking).


> when two parties disagree in Asian culture, it rarely turns towards resolution.

This is not a fair or accurate representation of any group of Asians, especially not democratically governed areas. There have been plenty of win-win resolutions. China today is much more connected with the world than it was 50 years ago, and it's better off for it.

edit please explain your downvotes, thanks.


> when two parties disagree in Asian culture, it rarely turns towards resolution

This sounds a lot like politics in the UK and USA to me ...


No one is talking about politics, this is about two people unable to resolve a conflict.


What exactly is Asian culture?


The idea that "the other culture" is some sort of inscrutable, mysterious entity that's completely alien to any kind of understanding or bridging by foreigners is a common talking point of authoritarian, nationalistic and/or warmongering rhetoric. It allows to make a number of points, such that foreign country X is the enemy, immigrants from country Y could never integrate, critics from foreign country Z should shut up because they can't possibly understand OUR culture, etc.

This kind of mentality goes beyond countries or cultures, but also affects differences between generations, genders, sexuality, etc. It is far more convenient to explain away different behaviors as "It should be expected, she's X" (or the flipped "I can't help it, I'm X") than trying to work out and overcome differences on an individual level. We're all guilty of it to some extent as it helps build a sense of identity (notably among minority groups) but the normative aspect of it is very harmful.


Unbridgeable cultural gaps, as a general matter, are very real. I recently read Record of the Listener ( https://www.amazon.com/dp/1624666841/ ), which is a collection of stories published in China in the 12th century. And far and away my most common takeaway from any of the stories was "wow, I have no idea what I'm supposed to think about this". And these stories were published for their entertainment value!

Similarly, immigrant groups tend not to integrate, critics from foreign countries really are usually misunderstanding a large number of important points, and so on.

Between any two cultures, there is a huge amount of overlap. But nothing quite coincides, and the differences end up mattering a lot.


They are real but greatly exaggerated by people using the aforementioned rhetoric and completely surmountable. People who claim they aren't are either trying to push an agenda (usually on authoritarian, nationalistic, and/or warmongering grounds), or not very well-traveled or have very narrow social circles not involving foreigners at all.

Your 12th century stories are interesting and all but do not reflect the reality of the world we currently live in. If you live in a large city and have a medium-to-high salary, which is a reasonable assumption to make given HN's demographics, it is in fact easy to get acquainted to other cultures by traveling often (possibly living abroad), learning other languages and/or befriending (or dating) foreigners. Much easier than used to be a couple centuries ago, in any case. If you do, you will find that deep down beneath the veneer of culture humans are very much the same. I don't have data to back this up, this is only from my mere experience.

Pretending that cultural differences don't exist is harmful and condescending; acting as though they were insurmountable and irreconcilable is downright dangerous and leads to disaster.


They are surmountable if one of the cultures changes. There are cultures that think things we find deplorable are okay.


> The idea that "the other culture" is some sort of inscrutable, mysterious entity that's completely alien to any kind of understanding or bridging by foreigners is a common talking point of authoritarian, nationalistic and/or warmongering rhetoric.

Damn straight! Beijing just wants to rile up Hong Kong into defeating themselves, presumably so someplace closer to Beijing becomes a more powerful trading post. No other party has a motive to turn HK against itself like this.


HK youth getting Cambridge Analytica'd for the sake of the trade war by the usual actors.


Quite. Cynically it feels more like it describes the internal European and American image of the those people east of Europe. Asia is far more diverse than either America or Europe.

Sarcastically speaking, such stereotyping is typical of arrogant Westerners.


It is inscrutable!


> I wish the culture would be more willing to engage in conflict resolution type conversation and learn how to do it.

It's rather difficult to engage in conflict resolution when the other side refused to listen for at least the past 22 years...

I do agree with you, but it takes two to tango.


Yes it does take two to tango. When both sides come from the underlying culture hard to blame one side or the other or even suggest solutions.

roboys 30 days ago [flagged]

Am I the only person that believes international crime will see a significant drop if China controls HK?

I'm actually glad this glorified money laundering/financial crime haven is being shut down. The sooner China gets extradition powers, the sooner we can close the criminal enterprises operating in/through HK for the past 1-2 centuries.

Running drugs/drug money through HK is something that has been going on for a very long time (thanks to the UK/US/etc), time to put an end to it.

Lot of big money manipulating kids that can't see through the haze neo-colonialism.


I'm sure you'll be shocked! shocked! when it turns out the CCP has an interest in running those enterprises, rather than shutting them down.

roboys 30 days ago [flagged]

Quite a claim to make, have extraordinary evidence that this would be the outcome?


One of Maciej's best IMO. Informative and very entertaining.

I was struck in particular by: "I can’t get over the oddness of the situation. In one direction is bedlam, in the other complete normalcy, separated by a few hundred meters."

In 2003, I was walking in Madrid one evening with my girlfriend when war protesters became engaged in some sort of battle with riot police. We had wandered amongst protesters up one street, just taking it all in (up to exciting but short of dangerous!), when suddenly masked protesters came running towards us, gas clouds and popping sounds behind them. We ducked first into the alcove doorway of a restaurant and then sheltered inside at the bar for the evening eating tapas. Within the restaurant, fairly normal dining. Across the road, police with shields dealing with rioters and damaged property.


I'm from Belfast. This is exactly the case. There is almost never total constant omnipresent conflict. Nor does it spread randomly. Almost all conflict is highly localised at any given moment.

I imagine even during the war in Afghanistan there were plenty of farmers and families going about their busines while Taliban, local and international forces were live firing mere miles away.

Even soldiers cannot sustain a continuous battle. Wars are a collection of separate battles with a shared end goal.


People went out to picnic on the hills to watch one of the first battles of the Civil War in Virginia.


It didn't work out all that great for them.


> were live firing mere miles away

More like metres away.


I live in HK, and frankly, it's quite strange. I remember having a drink with a friend, while watching the violence unfold live on TV, it felt quite surreal.

I live close to Victoria Park, where most of the large demonstrations have started from, I've seen them pass right down my street as well. All of this happening while I just go on with my life.


I live in Washington DC. Even during the most intense protests (Iraq war, Occupy, Trump inauguration), the city carries on as usual.


A few years ago a Chinese man on the BART tried asking me for directions. His english was poor. With the aid of google translate we were able to do some basic communication. Over the course of 10 minutes I learned he was trying to visit the Wikipedia headquarters. I mentioned I was surprised he could access Wikipedia in the mainland. He told me that many know how to access Wikipedia.

Let's be clear. Authoritarianism is not culture; it is an evil political ideology that the people of China are subjected to.


There's honestly quite a lot of misinformation about how people live their lives in China. Many of my friends are perfectly capable of accessing blocked websites, and they're by no means computer experts. They all have been able to travel because of their increase in wealth, and most of them are in contact with foreigners from all over the world. To them, they live in a society with restrictions, but they've all benefited immensely from it in the past decades.


This is such an absurd reasoning. Just because people have circumvented the Great Fire Wall has no bearing on what the parent comment is talking about - GFW is the consequence of the evil things an authoritarian government is capable of doing (amongst other freedom of speech and press issues such as banning books, independent journalism, etc.) - whether people circumvent it using potentially illegal means (VPN in this case) is irrelevant. The government can arrest you for this reason alone.


You're missing the point of my comment, and the parent comment. The parent comment isn't talking about how the GFW is a consequence of an authoritarian government, it's talking about how he wasn't aware people could get around it.

Where I'm pointing out that this kind of unawareness is quite common, and until you've actually been to China, or have lived there, you'll have a totally different picture painted by the media. (This really goes for all countries)


It is downplaying authoritarian rule by saying that they've made is easy for people to bypass it and as you said, many people live their lives "normally" in China. The parent clarifies this by reaffirming the core subject, i.e. quoting - "Let's be clear. Authoritarianism is not culture; it is an evil political ideology that the people of China are subjected to."


You're turning this into a political discussion for the sake of discussing politics and pushing your opinion. Nobody is downplaying authoritarian rule, merely pointing out how unaware people are about other people living in different countries. You could take the exact same comment, change Wikipedia and China to something else, and I could make the same argument that I've made before; that until you actually live in a country, and talk to the people, you'll never be fully aware of how things are. Wether it be government imposed restrictions (which, let's be honest, all of us are subject to), or cultural differences, if you only use the media to build your view of a country, you'll almost always be wrong.


it is not absurd reasoning. Source: being Chinese


What you are agreeing to is that it is OK for a government to arbitrarily censor information to the public as long as it is possible for the people to bypass it - this is absolutely and utterly absurd. Please provide some additional color as to why you think otherwise.


You are putting words to my mouth. I was referring to words: 'To them, they live in a society with restrictions, but they've all benefited immensely from it in the past decades.' I think this is ok reasoning in my opinion. I think it is OK for a government to arbitrarily censor information to the public as long as they are serving the public good in other areas. governments are not perfect. If you ask my opinion, I think it is stupid to censor information. From what I observe, having access to censored information will not make public against government, sometimes it can make them more pro-China. Government is really thinking more about stability, they don't want to people to be either nationalists nor rebels. Information cannot be censored, it works because people don't really care.


And to be clear, I don't support a government restricting and putting limitations on people. But I'm also not a big fan of pushing your Western views on other countries if you've never visited them.


The tragedy is things like sanctions against authoritarian regimes do nothing but to hurt the average citizen. The we'll connected in such regimes have the means to evade sanction, the lower classes don't. Look at Iran, North Korea, and other countries the US has sanctioned to kingdom come - there isn't nearly as much pressure as there would be in a western state.


I am in Verona (Italy) at this time, and I'm in a hotel where some tourists from Shanghai happen to be as well. I'm alone, so I hang out in the lobby a lot. I just engaged in some small talk with some of those tourists, and the discussion somehow shifted to the Hong Kong protests.

Basically what they sad is that western culture in Hong Kong clashes with the chinese culture. They don't seem to say that the chinese way is the right way, or that the western culture is the one to accept. They just say that they are different, and that of course a shift in culture is difficult for Hong Kongers. They think it will all pan out somehow: Hong Kong has to accept that they are Chinese now, and accept all the consequences that come with that.

I understand that the viewpoint of hn, a very USA oriented site, is different, and that most people here think that the libery of HK people should not be taken away from them because democracy is the only way, but I think the chinese point of view should be heard as well, and should be taken into consideration to get a better understanding of everything that is happening.

My personal opinion on this is that China should just let them keep their autonomy, and let them be Hong Kong: a state by it's own with it's own rules and laws.


Let’s replace China with X so there is no xenophobic rebuttals.

X is an authoritarian regime that has no rule of law, president has self declared perpetual status in the office, piracy is rampant, no respect for privacy of others, there is an app called ourchat that is effectively owned by the government and is increasing becoming a necessity, no media let alone any kind of investigative journalism especially against the government, your social score goes down if you buy a particular book, you cannot sue the government or even think about it, punishment can include selling your organs for arbitrary reasons, the list goes on and on.

If X were an impoverished country like Somalia, the tune would change and most people would condemn such a society. I want to do so fearlessly but sometimes people see it as an attack against the Chinese people. I’ve been to China and have spent many months there, made lifelong relations, etc. I have no room for any concession or bargain for the argument that authoritarian rule has benefits - yes it does but at aforementioned costs. China has risen above due to government’s iron grip over every aspect of the country. It is doing so at a cost. Fundamentals don’t change even if one sees the strategy panning out. An eagle in the world of doves can kill a lot of doves and have short term evolutionary imbalance. But soon, the marginal cost of turning into an eagle is so small so there are new eagles popping up in the population all of a sudden. This balance oscillates in the short term, but evolutionary pressure returns it back to an equilibrium. Fundamentals of eagle and dove dynamics don’t change even though the state of this system shows “success”.

I’m in the position to criticize any authoritarian regimes in the strongest way possible - be it China or any other country, it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to die seeing this world turn into a power grab for a few with a consequence of a dystopian society. I wish the next superpower would be a country such as Norway or Sweden, it would set such a utopian example for the world to move into the right direction.


I think you can take one more step backwards and still have an argument.

X is a huge country. Y is a small island/peninsula nearby, with shared cultural roots, but very different recent history (decades to centuries) and different government & economic structure. People living in Y are free to leave Y and move to X. Then I think it's better if Y continues to exist.

Even if Y is worse on some measures, e.g. if it were Y that had an "authoritarian regime that has no rule of law, president has self declared perpetual status ", then I'd like it to continue. It's good to have a diversity of approaches to problems. Even if Y gets 90% wrong, maybe it discovers something in the 10% right, or maybe it's just an interesting study in what not to do. Its people are (by assumption!) free to leave, and have a culturally similar neighbor that will take them.


> An eagle in the world of doves can kill a lot of doves and have short term evolutionary imbalance. But soon, the marginal cost of turning into an eagle is so small so there are new eagles popping up in the population all of a sudden.

This looks like a reference to the Hawk-Dove game. For those who haven't heard of it:

You have a population of two groups, hawks and doves. When they come into conflict (say, over a source of food), two doves will spend a lot of time staring each other down (each incurring a minor fitness penalty), and two hawks will fight (each incurring a major fitness penalty), but a dove facing a hawk will immediately surrender, incurring no penalty at all.

Depending on the amounts involved, there is a percentage of hawks which maximizes the total benefit enjoyed by the population, and that percentage is more than zero. A few hawks save a lot of doves time they could spend doing more productive things.

What I find interesting about this game is how it interacts with some popular notions of government. A traditional utilitarian perspective is that the purpose of government is to maximize the welfare of society. As applied to the hawk-dove game, that would mean the government should anoint some people "hawks" and set rules that mean a hawk in conflict with a dove automatically wins, regardless of the merits of the conflict. This is a pretty traditional aristocracy setup. It would then be the business of the government to make sure the number of nobles stayed within an appropriate margin relative to the number of commoners.

But another very popular model of the government says that it should make sure everything is fair. ("All men are equal before the law.") That would mean abolishing the concept of the nobility's inherent superiority to commoners, ensuring that everyone is a dove. It sounds better, but in terms of societal welfare, it's worse.


>It sounds better, but in terms of societal welfare, it's worse.

Within the very contrived confines of the hawk-dove model sure, but I highly doubt that the hawk-dove game is a particularly useful model for society as a whole.


Thanks for the additional insight, I learned about this type of strategy in "The Selfish Gene", by Richard Dawkins. Although, I personally don't think that the analogy alone can describe an incredibly complex structure such as the global society.


Norway is a petro-economy. That doesn't really work as a role model for countries that don't have vast easily-exploited natural resources.

Lucky for Norway that they've transitioned out of petroleum before the climate disaster comes due.


They have?


Yeah OK, it's declining, but they aren't out of it yet. https://www.norskpetroleum.no/en/production-and-exports/expo...


And wait until islands (and Florida) start sinking under the sea and there is this big Norwegian oil fund there sitting like a target...


Norway just happens to have a ton of oil money and a tiny population, whenever they get mentioned as an example for the rest of the world I can't help but laugh.


You're responding to the words "Norway or Sweden". Sweden doesn't have a ton of oil money.


It's still small and affluent, and therefore not a good place to make an x to y comparison.


And Sweden is nowhere near as well off either.


> I wish the next superpower would be a country such as Norway or Sweden, it would set such a utopian example for the world to move into the right direction.

The counter-argument is that ANY nation that becomes powerful will try to exert the same type of imperialism, no matter the era / technology / culture: Italians did it with the Roman Empire (10-15 centuries ago), Spanish did it with the Spanish Empire (5 centuries ago), etc, etc.


>If X were an impoverished country like Somalia, the tune would change and most people would condemn such a society

I've actually found that the larger a country is the more criticized it is on human rights violations. If a small country was genociding its own people or anything that X was doing, then the media would simply ignore it as it isn't a large enough story to talk about.

All the examples you give of X are taking place right now across the world in most developing nations yet the focus is placed on the largest ones.


//Basically what they sad is that western culture in Hong Kong clashes with the Chinese culture.

This is exactly a regurgitation of the propaganda by CCP. They blamed western influence, education and cultural whitewashing of HK Chinese as the reason for the current protests and their citizens believe it sincerely. They conveniently overlook the crux of the protest, which is to ask for universal suffrage.

Even for a well educated, widely traveled main-lander, it is difficult to come out of this conditioning. I have some friends from mainland, currently staying in HK, who sincerely believe the general public is too naive to be allowed to make any decision. With the right amount of conditioning, people can be led to believe in anything even if it is contrarian to their well-being.


> I have some friends from mainland, currently staying in HK, who sincerely believe the general public is too naive to be allowed to make any decision. With the right amount of conditioning, people can be led to believe in anything even if it is contrarian to their well-being.

One can see grounds for arguing this in recent history, and not just in Hong Kong. But, to paraphrase C. S. Lewis: "Some say that the public is too naive to be allowed to decide. I do not contradict them. But I am still a democrat, because I see nobody wise enough to decide for others."


It's also a rather disingenuous to treat this like some sort of novel idea or some authoritarian ploy.

Plato has been arguing that if you don't select your surgeon or carpenter based on that person's popularity in making public promises, why do you do so for statecraft?


> Plato has been arguing that if you don't select your surgeon or carpenter based on that person's popularity in making public promises, why do you do so for statecraft?

Politicians are elected by their promises, reelected by their performance. Also, there is no objective "skill" a politician can hold to be "good" like a surgeon or carpenter, your analogy breaks down completely.


Of course, your friends living in HK probably come from the “upper” middle class from China (depends on how old they are, ironically the younger the less likely they arise from lower class). For them it’s dreadful to imagine allowing the vast larger rural and under-educated population to make a decision. I agree though HK people should have a choice Since the scale is too small and people are mostly highly educated


> allowing the vast larger rural and under-educated population to make a decision.

Culture Revolution PTSD?


After the 2016 election I almost feel the same about letting the public vote.


Truly one election not going your way is proof we should go back to serfdom. The proles must learn their place!


2016 went the way it did because of the electoral college - the winner of the election actually lost the popular vote.


If the US system was more democratic, not less, it would have avoided the current regime. (no electoral college)


Go Hong Kong visit sometime. You will find British has managed to build Hong Kong into a prosperous and peaceful society with all the elements of so-called Chinese culture and Western culture. There is a church next to a mosque next to a temple in Tsim Sha Tsui district. People enjoy yum cha in their lunch and America rib-eye steak in their dinner.

I wonder whether the Chinese viewpoint stands. It is purely bad governance of HKSAR and CCP.


If anyone else is open to the other point of view, I could use some help. I'm struggling a lot at the moment with how little relevance seems to be given to how significant HK was in defining China's modern identity.

How many people actually know how HK came into being? That the supposedly democratic state of Britain who had already violently colonised India, used Indian land and serfs to grow 1000s of tons of Opium to keep Chinese people addicted and thus in sustainable trade. Queen Victoria ignored a letter from China exhorting her to stop. When Britain didn't stop, China took it into their own hands, destroying all the imported Opium they could find. Britain took this as destroying their "property" and thus went to war with them, easily winning and requiring the handing over of the port of Hong Kong so the trade would not be impeded again.

I know that was over 150 years ago now, but surely that has to be taken into account? If you don't think that's relevant to today's innocent HK'ers, then at least we have to realise that the handing over of HK was a defining factor in the ultimate end of the Qing dynasty, the closing of over 2000 years of China's political tradition and precipitating the radical changes that thrust China onto the world stage as we see it today.

I support the rights of all people to self determination. But HK is not Taiwan, it didn't naturally come to its anti-CCP ideology through an organic, internal and independent process. In fact, somewhat ironically, it came to it precisely because of an unaccountable, authoritarian regime, with no other agenda but self interest.


Hong Kong and the greater area around it has its own identify as well. That is, they are mainly Cantonese Chinese, a sub-culture, complete with their own dialect and variation of the writing system, plus their own takes on Chinese culture. Especially in Hong Kong where it's been better preserved because they skipped the Cultural Revolution and other influences from the CCP, taking the good parts from the British instead. The cultural differences are quite visible.

Perhaps it's luck that the British carved out Hong Kong, because if they didn't, the Cantonese would have probably been assimilated in to Mandarin by now.


I'm troubled to disagree with your comment, because I usually get so little feedback to such opinions and also it makes it look like I'm CCP stooge. So I should add that I'm British, I just lived in China for a year.

Your comment really worries me though, because it seems to me you're conflating the subculture of Guangdong with the culture of Honk Kong, perhaps in an attempt to make a tenuous argument that it is in fact Guangdong, like Taiwan, of which HK is but a tiny part, that desires independence. I think that's dangerously disingenuous to suggest that HK's current political consensus is but a facet of the wider Guangdong region's political sensibilities. I don't see any evidence whatsoever to suggest that what has happened in HK would not have also happened to any other port on the cost of China. HK wants independence because it took on the subculture of Britain not Guangdong.


There is a lot of evidence, historical and recent, that shows that the CCP is pushing for the assimilation of the Cantonese subculture.

A sample of some recent articles

"China Is Forcing Its Biggest Cantonese-Speaking Region To Speak Mandarin" https://www.businessinsider.com/china-is-forcing-its-biggest...

"Hong Kong education chief forced to clarify controversial comments about teaching Chinese language in Cantonese" https://amp.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education/article/216738...

"Guangzhou Television Cantonese controversy" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guangzhou_Television_Cantonese...

And there's also evidence of the CCP re-writing history https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/05/opinion/ching-cheong-hong...

You've also ignored the point about how HK did not succumb to the Cultural Revolution. I think that this is an important point on the timeline where the culture of HK diverged from the remaining Guangdong region, which is one of the things that give Hongkongese their unique Chinese identity. For example, Hongkongese retained their religious freedom, as well as freedom of the arts, and language.


Wow, that's really interesting, I didn't know that, thanks.

So are you indeed saying HK identifies more with the plight of Guangdong than the principles of British democracy? To me it still would seem that Guangdong's resistance to Beijing is fundamentally different from HK's, so that it's merely coincidence that both Guangdong and HK have reason to feel tension with Beijing.

I completely appreciate that HK further differentiated itself from the mainland, in the same way Taiwan did, during the Cultural Revolution. And I see how that must fuel HK's desire for autonomy. But I don't see how that gives any more insight into Beijing's view, which is what I'm trying to bring more awareness to. How do we get beyond the black and white perspective that "China Bad, Honk Kong Good"? Or are you just saying that Beijing is indeed acting completely without reason, as if in a deranged authoritarian vacuum? What doesn't anybody want to understand the nuances of the CCP's motives, no matter how much we might disagree with them?


I do agree that Hong Kong has its own sub-culture, though I think you would be better off arguing the civil/political aspect of it rather than the cultural part of it.

The language seems like a confirmation bias. If you turned the corporate press standard around, you could also have a headline saying the English deepens their imperial domination of Scotland brainwashing the youth with the Queen's English rather than Gaelic. Also, if what China does makes you uncomfortable, you should be out on the street burning police cars for what the Canadians do in the 'Indian' residency schools.


I have a coworker whose background is from Hong Kong and he HATES the mainland government. Reading some of those articles, I can see why.


I think that is a disingenuous take on their comment. They said it is culturally and linguistically distinct from the mainland ruling class. I think it's pretty easy to see how that arose from the historical separation. They specifically mention how it came from years of British rule, and skipping the cultural revolution. They didn't even mention Guangdong.


I think you've misunderstood both them and the geography of South China. They're clearly referring to the Cantonese speaking region, which is called Guangdong (which the British never owned), of which HK is a very small part (perhaps 1/30th of the size). It sounds like you think they were just talking about HK or that the British owned GUangdong. And even more confusingly attributing HK's linguistic distinctiveness to its historical separation by the British?


To add to the confusion, there are plenty of people whose families have lived in Guangdong for generations that are not ethnically Cantonese at all.

Linguistically, Southern China has many different groups. In Guangdong alone there are plenty of Hakka and Teochew speakers, both of which are languages quite different to Cantonese. Even within the Cantonese topolect there are a significant number of different groups, for example Taishanese, whose speech is not mutually intelligible with Guangzhou Cantonese. Add Guangxi and Hainan and there are even more different languages and ethnic groups.

I think what the original poster was trying to point out is that due to British rule, Hong Kong did not take part in the advancements (and catastrophes) that happened on the mainland over the past century. That is undeniable fact. The implication was that this was a good thing, but i disagree.

Nowadays in the mainland people who grew up in villages hundreds or thousands of miles apart can communicate using their second language - the lingua franca of Mandarin... meanwhile many Hongkongers are stuck only knowing the language of their local town. Perhaps they preserved their local language better than people in Jiangmen (Taishanese) or Huizhou (Hakka) or Chaozhou and Shantou (Teochew), but a downside is they also can't really talk to people from those cities the way the younger generations of mainlanders can.


> ethnically Cantonese

You gave an argument that is factually wrong.

Cantonese is not a seperate ethnic group. They are still Han Chinese.

Also, the Cantonese and Mandarin speakers can still understand eachother without study (although their speech may sound funny to eachother).

The language differences are enough to give both groups their own identity, but certainly not a new ethnicity.


I think we've interpreted their post in different ways, but I don't see how my interpretation is incorrect. I know the history and geography both fairly well. The post said the difference is "especially in HK", and referenced the British influences on their culture. It also said HK is distinct partly due to language (Cantonese same as Guangdong, no mandarin unlike Guangdong, with English unlike Guangdong), partly due to history (was under British rule for 150 years).


> it didn't naturally come to its anti-CCP ideology through an organic, internal and independent process.

I think you give Hong Kongers too little credit here. In fact, by 1997 many of those who hated China already voted with their feet and emigrated elsewhere; most of those who remained had high hopes that China will uphold its end of the bargain and become a well-behaved superpower.

The real irony is that the much more frequent interactions with mainland China since the handover have shown HKers the true colours of the CCP -- a thuggish regime, with zero regard to anything other than their hold to power. You can look up the number of HK people who identify as "Chinese" over the years for some hints.


> But HK is not Taiwan, it didn't naturally come to its anti-CCP ideology through an organic, internal and independent process.

Taiwan is anti-CCP because the anti-CCP forces (or rather I should say "government forces") fled there during the Chinese civil war...

This is somewhat also the case for Hongkong although I think many in Hongkong migrated there for simple economic reasons.


Taiwan is anti-CCP because the anti-CCP forces (or rather I should say "government forces") fled there during the Chinese civil war...

It's 2019, not 1949. Taiwan is anti-CCP because the PRC claims its territory and Taiwan overwhelmingly rejects the notion of being ruled by them. Which is fairly natural, I can't think of many people in developed, democratic countries who want to be ruled by a neighbouring, developing dictatorship.


Taiwan is still the Republic of China. A major party, whose previous President belonged to, is still the KMT.

Taiwan is thus still formally a province of China in the general sense of 'China' and is claimed by the PRC because of the civil war and because the PRC claimed to have superseded the ROC (which obviously the ROC/Taiwan does not agree with)

This is unfinished business since 1949.


I don't understand what your point is. The people of Taiwan (or the Free Area of the Republic of China, or whatever you want to call it) today, in 2019, don't use a Civil war from 70 years ago as their main reason for not wanting to be administered by a communist dictatorship.


why do you think they went to civil war in the first place? I don't understand your point for drawing this distinction at all


Because that's simply not the lens in which it's viewed in Taiwan in 2019. Mainland soldiers and refugees were well under half of the population of the whole island- and that was 70 years ago.


Yes, so I think you're supporting my point right?

Of course HK would be a haven for anti-CCP refugees and in in the last few decades that has come to be an important part of HK's identity. But that doesn't change the facts surrounding the inception of HK as merely a British-held asset to ensure the continued extraction of financial wealth from an Opium-addicted mainland China.

Of course I'm not trying to justify the Chinese aggression, I'm just trying to understand why so few people seem interested in going beyond the "China Bad" stereotype and really actually try to understand the context of China's motivations.


I'm from Guangdong. I find it refreshing to see a comment such as yours, that states that you want to look beyond stereotypes and into deeper truths (including historical backgrounds). Like you, I'm also baffled why so few people are uninterested in going beyond stereotypes, and I would also like to know more about the whole thing.

Not sure whether I personally have any insights to give you, but I've found that Quora has many posters that provide information about China's POV, i.e. POVs that are different from what you will typically find on HN. I cannot vouch for how accurate those posts are, but I've found that many of such posts seem to contain quite some detail. Also feel free to contact me for discussions.


多谢!我会联系你。 Thanks a lot! I'll contact you.


That seems like a pretext. It’s hard to understand why China would be motivated oppress the almost entirely Chinese population of Hong Kong because the British were jerks a hundred years ago.


I sometimes like to have a little thought experiment like this: I'm British, so what if, during the 1800s, China had, through unprovoked war, forced the handing over of the port city of Liverpool because we didn't let them sell us heroin? Or if you're American, think of San Francisco being a sovereign state of the CCP.

Of course you can never justify oppression, but I think such a thought experiment can give some very useful context.


I understand the point you're trying to make, but at best, it's simply an explanation of the realpolitik motives of China. Yes, Hong Kong was ultimately created through some nefarious tactics by the British. But that was 150 years ago. The people living in Hong Kong now are overwhelming ethnic Chinese (92%), have their own culture, and while not perfect, are far more democratic and freedom-loving than the CCP is. If you support the right of peoples to be self-determining, then it seems to me that China is clearly the antagonist here.


I know it may look like I'm taking China's side, but I'm not. In fact it's the automatic dismissal of all possible attempts to understand the Chinese perspective that I'm fighting against. How does simply asserting one side to be the antagonist and leaving it at that, help the situation?

If things are black and white then we miss the fact that HK's legitimacy is of a different kind to Taiwan's. Which in turn reinforces global opinion that HK's fight is equivalent to say Ukraine's. Why exactly aren't the UK rushing to HK's aid? It's precisely because of the nuances of the history that too few people are aware of or interested in. At the very least if such knowledge doesn't help HK now, then it will help all those in the future involved in similar acts of aggressions that the West, let alone China, still haven't grown out of.


I simply don't see how someone could simultaneously support self-determination and yet determine "legitimacy" via some nation-state government elites and not by the actual people living there. If you believe in democratic values, it's irrelevant if Hong Kong is "legitimate" in the eyes of the CCP. This type of self-determining situation can be tricky in other circumstances (see: U.S. Civil War or Catalonia for some examples) but the simple fact is that China is an authoritarian, totalitarian, anti-democratic state, while Hong Kong is not.

> Why exactly aren't the UK rushing to HK's aid?

For numerous reasons, none of which have to do with a nuanced view of history: Brexit, internal domestic politics, fear of upsetting China, fear of impacting the British economy, etc. Britain in particular and the West in general have zero qualms about intervening in other countries' affairs when it suits them.


> For numerous reasons, none of which have to do with a nuanced view of history: Brexit, internal domestic politics, fear of upsetting China, fear of impacting the British economy, etc. Britain in particular and the West in general have zero qualms about intervening in other countries' affairs when it suits them.

Hongkong is Chinese territory and this is no longer colonial time: China is no longer so weak that it may be slapped into compliance. China, though still not that strong, will do whatever it wants at home.

Of course, Britain is no longer a world power and is not in a position to dictate policy to other countries apart from the puniest ones.


You still seem to think that I'm trying to argue that we should take China's side.

Let me put it like this. Imagine I'm an alcoholic, but I can't afford rehab, so I steal the money to check myself in. I get better and everyone in the world agrees that my new state of sobriety is the best possible outcome for me. However the police find out, I go to court, get a big fine, get depressed and start drinking again. I ask for help from my friends, but I neglect to tell them about actually what happened, I allow them to entertain the idea that I am a total victim.

My point is that we need to know that context of a situation, or we can't truly help.

So I have to strongly disagree with you that history has nothing to do with Britain's current stance on HK. Britain is a sad, humiliated, crumbling nation. Brexit is in fact Britain's chickens coming home to roost from the very events of which HK is but one in a myriad of aggressive wounds on the world. Those rich, Eaton-educated families that got their wealth and arrogance through the authoritarian, totalitarian, anti-democratic practices of colonialism are finally beginning to find their true place in the world. Either Brexit happens and Britain suffers Northern Irish violence and Scottish independence, or Brexit is cancelled leading to the collapse of the Conservatives. Either way the core source of British "pride" has a very sobering journey ahead of it.


Your last paragraph sounds very bitter from you. Like it's almost personal?

Hate to break it to you, but the rich elite in the UK will not suffer because of Brexit. The poor will suffer, as they have always done. The elite will be just fine, and probably be in a position to strengthen their standings from the chaos.

And finally, what is your conclusion on China then? You are not arguing they're in the right, so what? What's your suggestion? What's your take? What should the CCP be doing right now? Should they be implementing democratic reform on the mainland to converge with the HK culture more?


> I know it may look like I'm taking China's side, but I'm not. In fact it's the automatic dismissal of all possible attempts to understand the Chinese perspective that I'm fighting against.

I think part of the problem is that while "attempting to understand" you're leaving out some important things. How did this "Chinese perspective" form? Was it natural, or deliberately formed or amplified with propaganda? What are the political motivations behind it? How much value should be put on irredentist nationalism, especially when wielded by an anti-liberal authoritarian ruling class against smaller more-liberal communities?

> If things are black and white then we miss the fact that HK's legitimacy is of a different kind to Taiwan's.

That really is a matter of perspective, isn't it? One could very validly argue that these "nuances of the history" that you're emphasizing are actually irrelevant to the posture that one should take to toward the current situation, and kind of a distraction. To put it another way, if you are considering slavery and have a slave in front of you, does it really matter if he's a slave because his parents were captured in a raid or if they were sold into slavery by his grandparents? Or should you focus on the slave's thoughts and his experiences? Maybe the his owner is adamant that his grandparents bought his slave's family fair-and-square, but how much effort should you make to empathize with that position?


San Francisco was, in fact, taken from Mexico during the 1800s through unprovoked war. Mexico doesn't and shouldn't see this as an active political issue.


What is this thought experiment meant to say? If the people of Liverpool or San Francisco want freedom and make their own country, many in the west would support such a thing. After Trump got elected, the separationism meme was spread in California half-seriously.

The reason this thought experiment doesn't really work is that it disregards a crucial piece of information that the CCP is an authoritarian regime, while the people of Hong Kong are liberal and democratic. People generally prefer to move from the former to the latter, and not from the latter to the former.

I think history is useful, but it doesn't really change the fact that the people of Hong Kong do not want authoritarianism. It should be irrelevant what some king in the Qing dynasty or British empire did. As common folk ourselves, we should be giving more value to the will of the people, than the will of people who buy and sell countries and its people as if it was private property. So, no, Hong Kong does not "belong" to CCP just because at some point it "belonged" to Qing dynasty.

Talking about people as if they are property of kings and rulers is just slavery at the level of groups.


The governments of the UK and the US would not countenance the idea of cities gaining independence.

In fact the US fought their bloodiest war over such issue...


The UK has a massive precedence of ceding independence to former colonies and overseas territories: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_that_have_...

I can't see how you imply UK and the US have any link on the topic.


The point was about their territories proper, not overseas colonies.


150 years ago. Today if Scotland voted to leave the UK with a clear majority, the UK would let them go. If Puerto Rico voted to leave the US with a clear majority, the US would let them go.

I'm not sure what would happen if say 75% of a city wanted to leave the US because that has never happened and isn't very likely to.


The situation is that today the policy of the UK government is not to allow another referendum on Scottish independence...


That's not the case. The policy of the UK government is that they just had a referendum in 2014, so one is not needed today, not that another referendum should never be allowed. The latest poll I can find shows that the majority of Scotland opposes another referendum at this point, so why would they have one right now before Brexit is complete?


Who said 'never'?

The point is that the government is obviously finding ways to avoid a referendum because they obviously don't want Scottish independence.

Let's not be naive here.

The hard truth is that governments of any country on Earth favour self-determination in two cases: (1) when it does not apply to them, and (2) when they expect that they result will favour their interests. That's how geopolitics works. "People's interests" is just for PR.


Why would they need to find ways to avoid a referendum. Less than half of the Scottish people want a referendum and they had one in 2014.

How often does a country need to have a referendum on independence of regions that are so inclined to be said to support self determination? Also the polls leading up to 2014 were close enough that the result wasn't certain, yet the government went ahead.

I never said the UK would be happy with Scottish Independence. But if Independence was the clear preference of the people, the UK would let them go. The same can be said for the US and Puerto Rico, but not for China.

>never

You said their position was "not to allow", which makes it sound like the Scottish people clearly want one but the UK won't allow it. That is not the case.


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You are assuming that nobody here knows about the history of Hong Kong. This is incorrect: many of us are familiar with this history (which I first learned about in American public schools). We simply disagree that it is at all relevant to the question of what is best for the people of Hong Kong.


The Beatles would have sounded very different.


The conclusion makes sense to me - that HK is not Taiwan. However, after so many generations I do think that some of the HK people do recognize the irony of how they got to their situation but that doesn't mean their yearning for the situation Taiwan has isn't legitimate.


Of course their yearning and indeed protest actions are legitimate. To what extent though would you agree that, using the computer world's RFC vocabulary (MUST, SHOULD, MAY, OPTIONAL, etc), Hong Kong MAY ask for recognition whereas Taiwan SHOULD ask for recognition?

It feels to me that HK is exploiting the fact that most of the world automatically assumes big superpowers, especially little understood foreign ones, are the bad guys, such that HK the underdog MUST fight for recognition. I think such framing of the conflict misrepresents the situation preventing HK getting the actual relevant help that will bring about the most practical solution. By which I mean most of the world unhelpfully sees the black and white of HK good, China bad. When in fact China is a fundamental component in the global economy and everybody's quality of life, such that we all implicitly support it by, for example, buying their cheap-labour subsidised goods. If we're genuinely interested in finding a way forward don't we need to reflect on these nuances? I know that's a big ask, but big problems usually require a big effort.


> preventing HK getting the actual relevant help that will bring about the most practical solution

What is this help, and how is it being prevented?

> When in fact China is a fundamental component in the global economy and everybody's quality of life, such that we all implicitly support it by, for example, buying their cheap-labour subsidised goods.

How is that relevant?


HK is simultaneously supporting the vilification of China and the continued integration of China into the world. How are we supposed to oppose China and have cheap iPhones? If the citizen's of the world actually understood the situation then they would have more opportunity to exercise their economic and diplomatic powers.


HK is supporting the vilification of the actions of the Chinese government over their treatment of HK, not "China".

This idea that we cannot say one part in the conflict is clearly in the Wrong (or even evil) unless we reject the country as a whole is just silly beyond belief. I'd even say that's been the default position of much of the Europeans regarding the US for decades now.

> If the citizen's of the world actually understood the situation then they would have more opportunity to exercise their economic and diplomatic powers.

That's rather ambiguous. What specific actions are you thinking about?


I think the western society is objectively further advanced than the Chinese one. Not surprising since China is a country in development and most other countries have gone through similar phases. So it should not be taken as a accusation. This conflict aside, I wouldn't see them on the same level.


The idea that democracy and freedom are somehow foreign to Chinese people and can't work in their culture is a myth peddled by the CCP to serve their own interests. Democracy and freedom are flourishing in Taiwan. They are flourishing in South Korea (who aren't Chinese but whose traditions are no more democratic than China's). They're doing OK in Japan.

"The Chinese point of view" is an ambiguous term that the CCP uses to its advantage. In fact it is the Chinese Communist Party's point of view, which they have managed to indoctrinate into most Chinese citizens via their control of all Chinese media. Where Chinese people have escaped CCP influence, they tend to have quite a different point of view.


I saw the many citations of Taiwan, Korea and many other small country (even Japan) as the example that democracy can work as is for China. IMO the scale and population is drastically different. Couple things make it complicated:

1) over 800M rural population with most of them under-educated. High school is not common and the villagers will celebrate if one of the kids made it to college. If you want them to understand democracy good luck educating millions of people across vast areas(thanks to Chinese government you might be able to take trains)

2)Middle and upper class Chineses have more different point of view, but they rarely choose to move since it’s against their own interests

3) The other countries listed are historically US strategic allies with even US troops deployed. Ironically what US did will only pushback Chinese people from wanting western style democracy

I believe democracy in China will happen one day (I believe it’ll be top-down) but the majority of the population doesn’t have any motivation right now


Regarding 1, many western countries developed their democratic system when their populations were largely agrarian. In those cases however many of the people with money or political power (who were the first to be given a vote) were also spread throughout the countryside and that is probably not the case in China.


China is different from those other countries and would face different challenges but the argument often made is that democracy is incompatible with Chinese culture or somehow otherwise inappropriate for Chinese people and that is simply not so.

Obviously democracy isn't traditional in Chinese culture, or just about any culture including "the West" if you look back more than few centuries, but that doesn't make it a bad idea.


The CCP and the Chinese culture believes in social harmony and the good of society over the good of the individual. You believe in personal liberties over all, and you have implicitly assumed this philosophy to be the universal moral standard. Why are the Chinese the ones who are "indoctrinated" while you are the enlightened one?

I'd also like to point out that considering current world affairs, this is the worst time in decades to so confidently assert that democracy is the ideal form of government.


> You believe in personal liberties over all,

I actually don't, so please don't make assumptions about what I believe. I do believe that people should not be ruled by autocrats for the benefit of the rulers, and that is inevitably what happens in autocratic systems. Democracy is the best system I know of for ensuring that governments work for the benefit of the people.

That doesn't mean the good of the individual trumps the good of society. Regular peaceful transfer of power is good for society and social harmony in the long run, because it's clear from history that the alternative is violent revolution or stagnation and collapse.

> I'd also like to point out that considering current world affairs, this is the worst time in decades to so confidently assert that democracy is the ideal form of government.

The Internet and other technological changes are disproportionately aiding autocrats and hurting democracies. I hope democracies will learn to cope with that, but whether they do or not, it doesn't make autocracy good.


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Is that why most of the relatives of the top brass in CCP, and wealthy Chinese business people are holding passports of foreign countries?


True freedom exists at the personal, inner level, each individual must earn it for themselves. How little Americans personally value the kind of external (political) freedom which they talk up as the absolute good and sacred can be observed in the 10% ish turn out rates in cities like NY and SF, as well as in how everyone tries to get out of jury duty as much as they can.


> everyone tries to get out of jury duty as much as they can.

Perhaps it's the fact that I live in a smaller city, but literally no one I know had tried to get out off jury duty, except one friends in the last months of her pregnancy when she had preeclampsia and was ordered by the doctor to rest (so a legitimate reason).

One advantage of this is I get to hear all kinds of great stories about various cases (including a murder, in one case).


Large Western corporations do not select which books I'm permitted to read.

Large Western corporations do not forbid me from criticizing their CEO's.

Large Western corporations do not harvest organs from the poor.

Large Western corporations do not imprison minorities in concentration camps.

Large Western corporations do not scrape thousands of protesters into a gutter with bulldozers and disappear anyone who speaks of the incident


And that is exactly what Western propaganda looks like: absolute and automatic conviction of superiority. The truth is large Western corporations invented most of the things you describe and are now so advanced you don't even recognise it.

Unchecked political lobbying dictates the major themes of news cycles and school curriculums, the places where censorship and distortion of the written word most matters. (Eg. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica)

CEO's and rich people are beyond the legal system, which is the ultimate arbiter of criticism. (Eg. Jeffrey Epstein)

Granted, it is indeed true, thankfully large Western corporations do not harvest organs from the poor. Though you need to know about the British and Dutch East India trading companies, arguable some of the most evil entities to ever exist. They had standing armies that slaughtered, committed state-backed genocides, enslaved, raped and stole. What's more they are the very source of how the modern concept of a corporation came to be. And if you want a modern example then look at the large Western corporation of Nestle.

My understanding of China's concentration camps is that they're more like re-education camps, please correct me if I'm wrong. But besides, we're all happily buying things like iPhones that are made in what amount to exploitation camps. Indeed this refers to the previous paragraph, in many ways the fundamental definition of Western power arises from its corporate exploitation of human beings for economic greed.

I also agree that large Western corporations don't scrape thousands of protests into gutters with bulldozers. The West is much more intelligent. It enables proxies wars in the Middle East that kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions of civilians for daring to speak out about oppression and not letting the West have free access to geopolitical assets and commercial resources like oil.

If you want to make bold statements, then you have to say the West is worse than China. But this isn't a competition for who is best or worst. We are all on both sides and are all implicated in the solution to this inextricably global problem.


The Chinese point of view is to take HK culture and remove it, because the Chinese way is the only way. You said it yourself. I'm not sure how that's okay or what greater understanding is supposed to yield. China wants to subsume HK at any cost. HKers want to keep their culture, rights and freedom. They're going to fight for it, and China is going to crush them and force their will on them. I don't see the good here, or how a "fair" evaluation of the situation will change these facts.


> Hong Kong has to accept that they are Chinese now, and accept all the consequences that come with that.

HKs independence was agreed to by the PRC as part of the handover.

The PRC must accept there are two systems.


A certain level of autonomy, yes. Independence, no.


> Basically what they sad is that western culture in Hong Kong clashes with the chinese culture.

Funny that authoritarianism, corruption, etc. is being excused as "Chinese cultural differences". This stuff ain't new, folks.


America's Fundamental Misunderstanding of China

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ojr-tqaQQOQ


This is just plain factually incorrect. Around two million Chinese immigrate to other countries every year (net).

Note also that it's similar to India's immigration rate, while India is doing much worse economically than China.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_net_migra...


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I've long been a lurker on HN but these protests have compelled me to create an account to chime in on the situation.

As someone who's bilingual, travelled to both China and Hong Kong, and worked and interacted with Chinese people, the sheer volume and intensity of Sinophobic comments on western social media (Twitter, Reddit) following the wake of these protests painting China and the Chinese Communist Party(CCP) as an evil communist government which brainwashes and oppresses its citizens, reflects to me deep ignorance and opened my eyes to how environment and media shapes your worldview.

I'm not saying the CCP is without flaw; China has done things I strongly disagree with. But making broad sweeping statements about how China bad based on what you know from western media, without having stepped foot into either China or Hong Kong, without making an effort to understand a foreign culture, is an even greater crime. To me, it's no different from liberals claiming conservatives are all brainwashed by Fox News.

Regarding the Hong Kong protests, most people don't have time for deep political analyses. You read headlines, read stories, read social media, form an impression of whats going on, and then you pass judgement based on your worldview. Western media has largely framed these protests as a fight for democracy against China and oppression. Who's the audience? The English speaking world, which is largely democratic.

However, if you can understand Chinese/Cantonese, I would suggest looking at Hong Kong and Chinese media and social media. It's also prone to biased reporting, but there are moderate and sensible comments as well, and you get a deeper understanding of both sides of the conflict. In my opinion, the situation is alot more nuanced and complicated than what's portrayed in mainstream media.


This isn't that complicated: many citizens of Hong Kong enjoy their democratic form of government, and fear full control by an authoritarian Chinese government.

The Chinese government, on the other hand, sees Hong Kong as an integral part of China that was taken from them, and see it as their right to rule the land as they see fit (prior agreements with the UK notwithstanding).

So what's this nuance you're referring to? You spent 4 paragraphs talking about how nuanced the situation is, yet never provided any examples.

I've never been in Hong Kong or China (although my father spent several months a year working there over a decade, and so I've learned a lot second-hand). But I have lived in a country that was invaded by an authoritarian government, and in another that experienced a semi-coup by an authoritarian government, and the justifications I'm hearing now sound a lot like the justifications I heard back then: it's so nuanced, you're an outsider so wouldn't understand, you don't understand our culture, etc, etc.


> So what's this nuance you're referring to? You spent 4 paragraphs talking about how nuanced the situation is, yet never provided any examples.

I thought I was going crazy too. Repeating "people just don't get it" over and over isn't an argument.


> many citizens of Hong Kong enjoy their democratic form of government

They didn’t have a democracy prior to this protest (eligible HK SAR administrators were picked by Beijing). They also didn’t have a democracy during British rule (HKers could not vote).

> fear full control by an authoritarian Chinese government

Some do, some don’t. Not everyone is a protester or even in the anti-Beijing camp. Generally younger people are anti-Beijing, older people are moderate or pro-Beijing.

There are opinions that state that democracy is not the true thing those people are looking for; rather, it’s a better life (housing increasingly unaffordable, supposedly the current situation was not caused by Beijing but by previous entrenched landlord powers in Hong Kong). The protesters still blame Beijing, and believe that democracy will automatically yield a better outcome.

That possibly answers why pro-Beijing would possibly make sense (nobody wants a dictatorship, right?): The older generation remember that things under British rule wasn’t fairytales and unicorns either, and they aren’t naive enough to believe that independence automatically equates good outcomes. They may also have seen how China changed for the better over the decades, and even if China is still evil it may at least be seen as a necessary evil (i.e. the alternatives are worse).

Good outcomes: How is HK going to look like if all of a sudden they have to take care of their own food, water and defense, and their main business model collapses? Singapore spends a huge amount of their GDP on defense, HK currently none. Enjoy mandatory drafting into the army. Okay you can vote but the good jobs are gone, now what?

Singapore was authoritarian before it prospered and turned democratic. Ditto for Taiwan and South Korea. Russia after the collapse of Soviet Union was democratic but the available (or at least voted for) rulers were utterly incompetent and destroyed the country until Putin came along. Democracy in the middle east isn’t exactly working out. Democracy in western countries is working sort-of well but the west has also been prosperous for a long time so people can afford to focus on idealism.

This shows that “democracy equals good outcomes, authoritarian equals bad outcomes” isn’t always true. It isn’t necessarily UNtrue either but it is... nuanced?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Your first two sentences already show how “it’s not complicated” is in fact very complicated.


> They didn’t have a democracy prior to this protest (eligible HK SAR administrators were picked by Beijing). They also didn’t have a democracy during British rule (HKers could not vote).

Because they didn't have a full democracy before (because of CCP regulations) they aren't able to demand one now?

> They may also have seen how China changed for the better over the decades

HK per capita gdp and every other standard of living measure has been, and continues to be far better than maintain China. I don't know what you are trying to say here.

> This shows that “democracy equals good outcomes, authoritarian equals bad outcomes” isn’t always true. It isn’t necessarily UNtrue either but it is... nuanced?

You're almost there. Democracy doesn't equal good outcomes, but authoritarianism without liberalization always ensures a bad one. The only way the CCP can hold on to power will be through further violent crackdowns at home and wars abroad. Arguing this outcome is a good thing for the Chinese people, or the world, is odd.


This is the first time I hear about the term "zeroth world". A quick Google search did bring up some results, but not much. Wikipedia does not seem to cover that. Of course it covers 1st/2nd/3rd world (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-world_model, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_World, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_World, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_World). The terms "developed", "developing", and "underdeveloped" are somewhat analogue to that (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Developing_country). There is also the term fourth world (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_World). Putting countries (or cities) into these categories is hard of course (and maybe does not make sense).

It seems that the term zeroth world naturally is used to say that such countries/cities are more developed than the first world. More specifically, more developed than USA. Countries/cities like Taipei, Singapore (in this article) or Norway (http://www.chaosnode.net/blog/2018/06/17/life-in-the-zeroth-...) are such examples (you probably can add some more to that list, e.g. Switzerland).

Other articles (https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/america-is-r...) argue that we maybe can just downgrade USA to a developing country (i.e. like 2nd world).


I think he uses the term creatively, it’s not a standard term I’ve seen elsewhere.

Having spent a decent amount of time in both mainland China and Hong Kong, and living in San Francisco and previously elsewhere in the USA, I can definitely relate. So many things about China feel much more modern than the USA. I get better cell phone service on top of remote mountains in China than I do at my home in downtown San Francisco. Public transit is light years better there as well. Certainly there are things that are worse in China, the main one being air quality, but often coming back to the USA after an extended trip in China or Hong Kong is quite disappointing as I reacclimate to our crappy infrastructure.


At least peak air pollution seems to have been passed, so it'll only get better from here (it's still a long way down though).

The situation at the moment is a bit difficult in that reducing some of the emissions will actually result in more pollution, since the pollutant mix undergoes chemical reactions and some components deplete others.


What about going back to China? Do you have to reacclimate to keeping your opinions to yourself?


American living in Switzerland, and while I'd definitely agree that it's more developed than the US (on the continuum of development in my mind from also spending a lot of time in places most would consider "developing"), I'm just not sure there's a clear difference between some of those countries named and the US. Many European countries seem around where the US is; some are more developed, while others are probably less developed. I have no idea where I would draw any distinction.


Here on HN, how developed a country is is directly proportional to the quality of train service in that country. Other considerations are too marginal to matter.


Public transport / trains is just one of the most obvious aspects. Of course there are others (public schools, public universities, quality of streets, public healthcare, general safety, food quality, nature, many many more ...). Often they are very much correlated, though.

Do I understand you right that you claim that while train service is bad in USA, there are other things / aspects which are better developed in USA, which are at least as much important? Can you give some examples?


I'm the GP commenter, so not the person you replied to, but some random areas where I think the US certainly exceeds some/many European countries include air quality and quality of specialty healthcare (not health insurance or financial coverage).

EDIT: To provide a random anecdote, if you've ever known someone who needed an ambulance in the south of Spain you'll know what I mean. ;) The public healthcare services don't exactly have a very positive reputation, though the private ones are relatively cheap.

Random article of an incident in Sweden so apparently it isn't just the experience of my family members: https://www.thelocal.se/20120503/40608

I'd like to find actual data on this but seem to be having difficulty doing so.


> I'm the GP commenter, so not the person you replied to, but some random areas where I think the US certainly exceeds some/many European countries include air quality and quality of specialty healthcare.

Choosing (small) areas and some samples doesn't make a lot of sense, though. Comparing a small city with a county hospital to some rural area and saying "see, there are areas here were medical services are much closer" is obvious and somewhat useless. You'll want to compare the average or median accessibility, not tiny sub-samples.


I wasn't comparing much of anything for ambulance response times because, as I said, I couldn't find concrete data on it. I'm not sure what rural area you're referring to but the anecdote from the south of Spain was in a city with over half a million people.

Anyway, as for air quality, a population adjusted measure of exposure: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/PM25-air-pollution


Seems like that year was a special case, and they (over?)corrected in the next: https://www.thelocal.se/20130204/45990


I have two cars between my wife and I. In Europe we'd have much smaller cars, but the train is there. But I'd rather travel point to point, on my schedule, even to places the train doesn't run. And I'd like to bring our kayaks with us. I feel that from my point of view, cars are superior and having a train around wouldn't improve our quality of life.


Train service is pretty high up in the Maslow's hierarchy of social needs is the thing. It really is a nice extra if a region can provide it for its people – but it usually doesn't come before reasonable health care across the board.


I took the term to be a snarky punch at the "1st world", which asian megacities have long since left behind.


> The MTR is the one technology the Hong Kong protests could not do without, an autonomous fiefdom that the police mostly stay out of. It is neutral territory

This is a godsend. During Paris protest earlier this year the gov would just shut down public transports for about 5~10 km around and block main accesses so people couldn’t massively join the protests.

At least the mainland gov. didn’t get to touch that I guess.


Some stations have been shutdown several times in the past few weeks, I'm not sure if it was on the request of the police, or the MTR just decided to skip stations. However, this wasn't due to people going to protests, this was due to increased violence, and even attacks inside the stations.

Last week the HK police decided to fire tear gas within a station as well.


> However, this wasn't due to people going to protests, this was due to increased violence, and even attacks inside the stations.

Yes, and it's legitimate from a business point of view.

But then, if the police wanted to shut down these stations, causing violences/attacks would also be a way to push MTR's hand (they've already hired mobs to stir the protests, trashing stations for strategic advantage wouldn't be out of character)


I believe the police have also requested the MTR to add additional train services, so that people could get out of affected areas.

There's been a lot of push back on the police operating inside the MTR stations, especially after what happened last time. It's one thing to try and push people to leave the area, another thing to fire tear gas rounds at the entrances of MTR stations.

The protestors have already shown that they can cripple the MTR network within a couple of hours, I doubt the MTR want to be on the wrong side.


Exactly what I was thinking. China can simply shut down the public transport system next time and that will do it. No violence, no tear gas.


At that point, have they done the protestors' job for them? That would cause massive disruption and would make the authorities savagely unpopular. Maybe if they'd done that at the start, they could have blamed the protestors for making it necessary, but by now, everyone has seen that it's perfectly possible to run the MTR alongside the protests and would blame the authorities for unnecessarily shutting it down.


If you close public transport 5~10km around the protests, there wouldn't be much public transport operating in Paris. Rather there were a handful of closed subway stations, around where the protests were (like Etoile was closed, but not the closest stations). I understand the idea, a stampede in subway corridors would have caused casualties.


I think you might be referring to the later protests. Before the gov. "concessions", they shut down basically a quarter of Paris.

Even without using public transportation, you could try to walk from the Louvre to Etoile for instance and get blocked as soon as at Concorde by police barricades. We went to Chatelet/Les Halles during the whole thing, and you would see protesters preparing their masks, helmets etc. and planning their path to the main place to avoid hitting the main police blocks.


> During Paris protest earlier this year the gov would just shut down public transports for about 5~10 km around

10km is nearly Paris' width so I'd say that's a bit much. If I remember correctly, they closed the main stations around the protests but not much more.


You are right, and checked back, La Defense -> Chatelet is 9.4km (that's the two RER stations left open after shutting down CDG Etoile and Auber. And they basically shut down anything between these stations)

They shut down 36 stations in total at the peak of the demos: https://www.lavoixdunord.fr/502926/article/2018-12-07/la-rat...


My bad, didn't realise there were so many stations shut down.

I travelled without any hassles on those days so I assumed just a couple of main stations were closed.


You can listen to this article here:

https://www.listle.io/#/article/951265060


> The protesters learned in 2014 that having leaders was a weakness. Once the leadership was arrested, the heart went out of the occupy movement, and it lost momentum. So in 2019, there is no leadership at all.

Another thing that's similar with the (still ongoing) Yellow Vests in France.


> “It’s okay,” I tell them. “This is normal. I’m not dying—I’m Polish.” They edge away.

Funnily enough, myself being Polish, I found HK climate much more preferable than the Central European. I dread every end of summer; every winter kills my energy and work performance a bit more.


Even us locals suffer during the summer. It easily reached 35C with up to 90% humidity.


Yes I understand, peak summer is very sweaty. For me it's still nicer that freezing off and having to wear 4 different layers to survive.


"All that prelude is to say, coming in to the Hong Kong protests from a less developed country like the United States is disorienting."

This sentence got me hooked. It must be so alien to the average American that there are more developed countries/cities out there.


I wouldn't put Honk Kong in that list though as much as I like the people and the city. I've been a few times and the infrastructure looks like it's falling apart. Electricity wires are hanging haphazardly, alleyways are dirty, and most facades of buildings are straight out of the third-world. The contrast between high-end boutiques interspaced with tiny mom-and-pop shops selling second hand stuff is a little surreal.


What you described is the exact impression I got when I first travelled to New York :)

"Is it supposed to be this dirty?"


Come visit downtown San Francisco :D


I go fairly frequently these days and am not surprised by much any more ;)


More developed mostly means ‘newer.’

These places will also have to figure out what it means to keep infrastructure refreshed in 50 years. It is always a struggle..


Many places in Europe run way older infrastructure yet feel more developed than top tier cities in the US, so I don't think that's the reason.


If anyone is interested, I actually happened to be in Hong Kong and attend the first wave of protests and took some photos: https://500px.com/zensavona/galleries/hong-kong


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