The Struggle for Democracy in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong: Sharp Power and its Discontents

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EVENT TRANSCRIPT: The Struggle for Democracy in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong: Sharp Power and its Discontents

DATE: 6PM-7PM, 2 December 2019

VENUE: Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, Westminster, SW1P 4RS United Kingdom

SPEAKER: Dr Andreas Fulda

EVENT CHAIR: Matthew Henderson

 

MATTHEW HENDERSON

Good, well, I think we can probably begin since time is quite short tonight and we have a great deal to hear about. And I will keep my words very brief for the same reason. It’s an extraordinary pleasure to invite Dr Andreas Fulda to talk to us tonight about his book and as I suppose I could call myself a little China hand, I have just been discussing it with him sharing my wonderment and the fact that this book exists now to me is a very timely and a very challenging thing for all of us who claim to have some interest and some reasons to be interested in democracy and in the places where it is challenged. But rather than say any more, I will handover to Dr Fulda to explain how he came to produce this splendid book and to tell us what he’d like us all to do with it, which I think is very important, this is not just a piece of theory but it is based on practice. At one point he says that theory should come from practice and practice should not be informed by theory. Well, let our practice now be informed by this exercise. Thank you very much Dr Fulda.

DR ANDREAS FULDA

Thank you so much, Mr Henderson and I’d like to thank the Henry Jackson Society for being so kind to invite me to talk tonight. I would like to actually start with a quote by the German tennis player Boris Becker. Some of you may recall his exciting wins in Wimbledon. He once famously said that he considers Wimbledon his living room, that’s how close he felt to Wimbledon and London of course. Now, this stroke a chord with me, this kind of metaphor because when I think of Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, I very much feel at home. It’s a very big living room, I had to conceive that. You see, I’ve studied contemporary China for more than 20 years, I’ve immersed myself in Chinese culture and society in all three places and I’ve learned the language to, I would say, native speaker standard. And perhaps surprisingly I’ve actually advised the Chinese government for three years, between 2004 and 2007, when I was embedded in non-governmental organisations, named China Association for NGO Cooperation (spelling in Chinese language). So I had a Chinese post, Chinese colleagues, Chinese co-workers and that really homed my thinking about the political system and Chinese society from within the system. And, you’ve just mentioned it, I’ve been doing a lot of political development work for various international clients, British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which I know you’ve been working for for many years, the US State Department but also the European Commission and also other private foundations like [Inaudible], Geneva global, Rockefeller and forth. And this really has homed my thinking about both practice and theory. Now what really struck me when coming back to Europe and then coming to the UK in 2007 is that even among Sinologists and China scholars the knowledge and understanding of all things Chinese is really uneven and I found that very perplexing and perhaps this was due to the very high walls of academia and the distance that many academics have to practical work. But there is also a different reason and that is the Chinese communist party has actually exercised censorship and that has indeed led to self-censorship in Western academia and I have now seen too many examples to think that this is a coincidence. Actually, a lot of so-called China experts have internalised party states kind of rhetoric and thinking. And that’s of course a big problem. But even within the kind of more interdisciplinary fields like political science you see problems. So for example, in my book, I critique democratisation studies under many problems in this academic field and the biggest is that they haven’t developed their predictive, like, theory. Now, you could say no one has a crystal ball, we don’t even know what’s going to happen in UK, you know, in terms of the, you know, general elections, so I would concede that. But in terms of democratisation studies, the prevalent theory still today is modernisation theory and in a nutshell that means that if a country becomes more prosperous it will become more affluent and you’ll get the middle class, more educated people, and eventually that may lead to demands for democracy. Now, of course in history we know of many examples that this doesn’t always work that way but Mainland China is a good example which shows the limitations of modernisation theory. And to cut a long story short I tried to overcome this theoretical stasis in democratisation studies by doing a couple of things. One is combining theory and practice but also what I call etic and emic perspectives. So I’m clearly an outsider, I’m a German national, living and working in the UK and I concern myself with Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. That’s a bit odd but that’s globalisation, my friends. And yes it is a view of an outsider, well-informed outsider but I do concede that of course we need to look at the view of insiders as well, and that’s what I call the emic kind of perspective. So we need to combine these two perspectives. And now when we talk about Mainland China town or Hong Kong we can actually see what I call oral language discourse. There’s actually not as much written material about this in terms of how people think about reform and in Chinese we call it (spelling in Chinese 1) and (spelling in Chinese 2). (spelling in Chinese 1) meaning to work within the system for change and (spelling in Chinese 2) being kind of outside the system, muckraking and critiquing those on the inside. Actually a third kind of category exists that is (spelling in Chinese 3) it’s kind of people who don’t like this binary choice of either having to be part of the system or standing outside the system. Now, the Chinese wouldn’t use this term (spelling in Chinese 3) but you could think of that kind of term if you wanted to describe this category. And these three categories to use just plain English could be called pro-establishment, anti-establishment and trans-establishment. And so in each of the three regions we could, you know, broadly identify three reform camps. Now the problem with this kind of ascribed categories is that they don’t tell us much about how people think. Let’s say you’re working in the system, outside the system or between the two, what does that mean in terms of strategies and tactics? Now, as I said there’s not much literature in any of the three regions on this subject matter, but actually we can use ideas from outside China. And so my contribution to the debate here is that inspired by the theories of change in development studies, I developed theories of and for political change. So let me very briefly explain what I mean by that. Of course I don’t have a crystal ball, like, no one in this room has. However, we all have our own ideas about what may and may not happen in Hong Kong or in Taiwan or in Mainland China. Assumptions, so some people think it will never change, political system will always remain the same, while other people think, well maybe the [Inaudible] coming off. Just look at Hong Kong. So that’s our implicit assumptions about the future. And what the theories of and for political change allow us to do is make these implicit assumptions about the future explicit. And once they’re explicit we can discuss them and critique them and can say you know look Andreas you are clearly too optimistic or why are you so pessimistic or why do you believe that change comes from within not outside or whatever, yeah. And so I won’t go too much into detail in terms of theory but I want to just explain these three theories of and for political change, which are really informative and can home our thinking about possible political changes in China. The first is the theory of and for political change by Gene Sharp. He was a peace activist, he also formulated an explicitly anti-establishment approach to prevent and destroy dictatorships. The second one is the Trojan horse approach by Saul Alinsky and he argues that political activists have to work within the system to advance political reformation, which is pre-condition to political change further down the line. And then the third is Paulo Freire’s trans-establishment approach of the pedagogy of the oppressed. So I’m just going to very briefly explain kind of the key features of all three approaches and then I’ll come to China and I promise that I’ll be short in terms of theory, but it’s very useful. So Gene Sharp basically makes the case for political defiance, but he suggests that people should be nonviolent, so he develops this 198 methods of nonviolent action. Now, he is not a pacifist I should say, he has a very antagonistic position towards the pro-establishment and he is very critical of negotiations. He says democrats should never negotiate with dictators. The only negotiation that should take place is which airport the dictator should take to leave the country. And in the prescriptive part of his book he suggests that one should do four things. Strengthen the oppressed population, strengthen independent social groups, create powerful internal resistance force and, the most important point, develop a wise ground strategic plan for liberation. So without this strategy it won’t work. Ok, so this is his anti-establishment approach. Saul Alinsky, it’s actually quite interesting, just for your reference, a couple of American democrats took the great interest in his work. Barack Obama taught it in Chicago and Hilary Clinton wrote her thesis about Saul Alinsky. She didn’t always agree with his tactics I have to add. Now, Alinsky says one should work within the system but not to (Inaudible) oneself. Gain access to resources, but to work towards change for what he called “have nots”, “have a little and want mores” and by that of course he means the middle class and the working class. And interestingly, in comparison to Gene Sharp he is not opposed to negotiating, he sees virtue in compromise. So we have to ask for one hundred, you get thirty and then you have thirty ahead. That’s his thinking. And then he develops very interesting, like thirty rules for realistic radicals and they are quite amusing actually if you read the book, I can’t read them all now but for example power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have or a tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag et cetera. Now what’s interesting about Alinsky is he believes that particular ends justify particular means, so he’s quite flexible in terms of what one can or should do and he justifies some of his rather unusual methods, developing an ethic of means and ends. And he wrote his book when he was often like in prison because even in America people had not always liked his advocacy on behalf of, for example, black communities during the civil rights movement. Now the third theory of and for political change is by Paulo Freire he was of course educator, Brazilian educator and he wouldn’t agree either with Gene Sharp or Saul Alinsky because he believes in liberating dialogue with oppressed, not only liberate themselves but also their oppressors. Yeah, no pressure. And he suggests that one should not just engage in almost like elite recycling, where the oppressed people become the new oppressors. And he actually thinks that one should involve the oppressors in the struggle for self-liberation but he also warns of unrealistic expectations, so for example in the case of Hong Kong if you think about Hong Kong, ideally you would get the Hong Kong as a government to agree to reforms or you would make a couple of the police man and women switch sides, but that’s first of all not very easy and secondly these people would actually bring their deformations with them to the cause. Now the most important point that I picked up from Paul Freire’s work is that he is actually very sceptical of revolutionary leaders, restoring liberation as a gift to their people so for example the case of Hong Kong, you could argue that the British indeed gifted, not democracy, but a certain form of liberalism to Hong Kong. And for various reasons that’s not, it’s not as easy as that and I’ll talk about that a little bit more in the case of Mainland China. So the reason why I introduced these three theories of and for political change is that they actually can help us to understand a bit better what’s happened over, perhaps, 30 years in Mainland China. They can be the kind of the analytical yet so to speak to make sense of these kind of struggles for democracy so let me get to that. So this year, 2019, we of course had the thirtieth anniversary of 1989 and I will think given the age of this audience and, of course, it’s a wide spectrum of people here but most of you will have either seen these scenes unfold on television or seen documentaries and read about it so I’m not going to go into a great detail here but 1989 anti-corruption and pro-democracy movement was suppressed. Many people died. It wasn’t just in Beijing, it was in 300 cities across the country. And so you could say that story has been told, we know what happened, case closed. But actually let’s still pause for a second and think ok, what actually happened, especially in Beijing, that’s of course a very important place, symbolically speaking, with Tiananmen square with the political power. We basically have three key actors in that struggle, the students, workers and intellectuals. And actually all three of them, wittingly pursue different strategies and tactics. So for example, the students, although they seemed as they were anti-establishment, but in fact they actually used what could be called the Trojan horse approach. They still believed in dialogue and they thought the communist party could change. So that was their approach like through changing the regime through dialogue. Now the workers, on the other hand, they were far more anti-establishment, they wanted to establish truly independent unions outside the control of the party state, so they were anti-establishment. Although they couldn’t have their union at the workplace but they had an independent union on the square. Let me have this curious case of the 12 mostly establishment academics who tried to kind of mediate between the students, workers and the party. But they were ridiculed by the young activists, they said who are you to mediate, we’ve forced them to negotiate, negotiating table, and you are now telling us go home, just, you know. So they used what could be turned a trans-establishment approach. And what I find remarkable is that in the case of 1989 these three kind of approaches (inaudible). They didn’t lead to transformative change. Now you could say the regime is never going to badge anyway but I think there are actually other problems that they had to deal with. First of all that was not a preconceived movement, it was basically, they were improvising most of the time. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t have some success, so for example they mobilised students at 350 colleges and universities nationwide. They also got the support of Chinese urbanites, temporarily split the party state and its leadership, they even won over the support from serving and retired army leaders and willing to crack down on the protesters they blocked the 38th army trying to enter Beijing, at least made the first attempt and they clearly did delegitimize the party state in the eyes of the wider public and they pioneered nonviolent struggle. But in my research for the book I noticed that Gene Sharp himself has been in Beijing, I didn’t know it at that time, and he interviewed activists and he noticed that the very few of them although they subscribed to non-violence had any idea about this 189 methods so they were not trained in these methods and so all of that speaks to the fact that this was mostly improvised. In one of the findings basically after the failure of the movement was that they lacked an organisation and so 9 years on they tried to remedy this shortcoming and there were people trying to establish the China Democracy Party in 1998. And that’s a very curious case as well because [Inaudible] a famous leader of 1989 he to his credit managed to register nationwide prefatory committees for this new party and they, they did very interesting work, they participated in local elections, they helped lay off workers and attempted to establish an alternative party which was multi-class membership, it included intellectuals, owners of small businesses and ordinary workers so that was a very you know a lot of effort. But, again, they employed a Trojan horse approach, so the idea was to register these prefatory committees with the minister of civil affairs, first at the provincial level and then to link them up nationwide. Now we have to think about this approach from the perspective of the communist party, why should they allow this to happen because even if they declared themselves as a loyal opposition, it’s not in the interest of the Chinese Communist Party to have a opposition at all. Also, the [Inaudible] legislation at that time didn’t allow for cross-provincial linkages so even if they had succeeded with their initial plan, the party state would have been able to declare them illegal at any moment. Now you could say, in a way it was therefore a misreading or a deliberate misreading or the NGO legislation of at that time but yeah it didn’t work. The Chinese Communist Party crackdown on these perhaps more than roughly 200 activists, many of them went to jail were tortured et cetera. So that was in a way a failure as well. Now you could ask what alternative approach could they have taken, perhaps they could have tried to split one of the factions of the Chinese Communist Party from the party, but that of course is very difficult, you have to become a party member yourself first, you need to build trust within the system and then on. Yeah if you fail you actually will get into trouble, you will not just end in jail you might be, they might execute you for treason. So it’s an extremely high risk strategy. And so it took actually the democracy movement until 2008 to kind of overcome these major setbacks of 1989 and 1998. And that of course was the year where a number of activists developed the Charter 08 which was mounted on the Charter 77. Some of you will know that in Eastern Europe that the Charter 77 was instrumental in kind of galvanising the dissident community in Eastern Europe which was also like pretty disunited and didn’t have a common objective. So they tried to kind of unify highly fractionalised democracy movement in Mainland China and they achieved 10.000 signatories: lawyers, writers, journalists, editors, teachers, artists, officials, public services, engineers, businessman, workers and, you know, many other people to sign on to this. In this very important pamphlet or document because it explicitly called for an end to one party rule in China. And in terms of its demands, the 19 demands, I’m not going to read them out here but they are like the typical staple of you know, liberal democracy, constitutional democracy, separations of powers and legislative democracy, independent judiciary et cetera, et cetera. Now the problem with the Charter 08 is still that it had very limited reach and you could also ask from Paulo Freire’s theory of and for political change, you could ask the question how effective is it really for elites to restore the Charter 08 as a gift so to speak to the Chinese people. Shouldn’t it be developed with the people? Now you could say that’s impossible, right, because how can you do that in a highly authoritarian system. But as we will find out it is actually possible and this should be done. So for example [Inaudible] who was of course one of the key persons facilitating the drafting of the charter 08, he paid an enormous prize for his advocacy, so he was imprisoned and he eventually died of cancer. Now I’ve argued in the book that perhaps what he lacked was a constituency of supporters, so he was very well known among diplomats and academics and elite members but he wasn’t in the streets of Beijing, Shanghai, [Inaudible] or [Inaudible]. And if you have a constituency of supporters they can actually protect you as we’ll find out. So just a year on, after the crackdown on Charter 08 activists and signatories and we see a very interesting new development, a new citizens’ movement in 2009. And the Chinese public lawyer [Inaudible] gave it a name and some meaning by writing about it three years on. And he described this as an ongoing bottom-up and catch for political, social, cultural and peaceful progressive movement aimed at “a free China ruled by democracy, law and just a happy civil society with freedom, righteousness, love as a new national spirit”. Now [Inaudible] is obviously very interesting because when I was in China during that time one of my friends and dissidents they said no, [Inaudible], he’s way too soft, he is properly co-opted by the party state. But in fact actually he went to jail because of his advocacy and he spent 4 years there and he survived. This will be very important for our discussion, I think. In the way he concepcionalised and the new citizens’ movement was different from the previous situations he said; the democracy movement doesn’t need an organisation, it can be legal less or leaderful so it’s about organising without organisation. This is of course what we are seeing in Hong Kong right now. It has its pros and cons but let’s bear in mind in 2012 [Inaudible] already developed these ideas for Mainland China and he suggested it should take place both online and offline. So at the time when I was in China actually lots of my Chinese friends used handle [Inaudible] or whatever, it meant citizen Wang to show their support for the movement. And I certainly have found it very interesting because it’s not just about constitutional democracy, it’s also about how Chinese people can outgrow the rampant corruption and collusion that is upsetting not just the state but also society so it has very strong moral and ethical components. Now I have to of course disclose here that [Inaudible] is a Christian, so his Christian faith is certainly informing some of his thinking but what’s interesting about the new citizen movement is the bottom-up kind of version of the Charter 08 so to speak. And they certainly put the money where the mouth is and really put a theory into practice by running an educationalised campaign to abolish the house of registration requirement for children to take national entrance examination and they got a 100.000 signatories in Beijing alone and they succeeded. Be it also these [Inaudible] things like calling for asset transparency, they wrote an open letter to [Inaudible] in 2013 calling for more than 200 senior officials to publicly disclose their assets. Now the reason why this movement is interesting is because the way its conceptualised, it actually does blend those three theories of and for political change. They call for nonviolent non-cooperation; the way Gene Sharp envisages change. They resemble Saul Alinksy’s kind of theory of and for political change with their emphasis on self-organisation and in terms of their advocacy of linking up disperse social movements and they echo Paul Freire’s theory of and for political change by suggesting that it’s not about overthrowing, it’s not about revolution, it’s about establishing. So at no point actually do they call for the, an end to one party rule. They just say we need to overcome authoritarianism, so of course everyone knows what is implied by that. But the you know of course you can say the new movement is playing a very long game, if you want to change China from the bottom-up, you have to convince a lot of people, and it’s true, and, now some of you may say Andreas, that’s all well and good but hasn’t [Inaudible] really crack down on civil society and laws, agreements and it’s true but don’t forget there have been young feminists taking a stand and paying a price for their activism. The young Marxists, who have been very brave to call for solidarity, you know, with workers and [Inaudible] China and many of them have, you know, disappeared, been beaten and intimidated. If civil society was truly dead then we would not hear any of these voices, so at least we can say that the spirit of the new citizen’s movement is still alive. So let me draw to a clause here. I think what we have seen if we look at these four episodes, these struggles for democracy is that it took a long time for the Mainland China’s democracy movement to come to this realisation that yes, they need to end one party rule. And I found that surprising as an outsider, to me it was clear that 12 years old, in 1989, but I come from a very political family and of course from outside these things look a bit clearer. But yeah I mean this also underlines Paul Freire’s observation that oppression is domesticating, it does take a long time to overcome this this the shackles so to speak, the free thought. And so whereas the Charter 08 is kind of like Mainland China key cognitive map that people can use to chart a democratic future. Actually the new citizens’ movement signifies a slow but ultimately unstoppable, kind of bottom-up process towards self-liberation. And finally, what I’ve learned by writing this book is perhaps another interesting insight. Before I wrote the book I thought that you either choose to be anti-establishment or you work within the system or you try to work as a trans-establishment reformer. That somehow you just need to find the right approach, you know, the perfect strategy so to speak. But actually I’ve learned that one has to combine all three approaches, it’s not enough to work within the system, it doesn’t do the trick. It’s also not enough just to [Inaudible] from the outside and also think that you just need to have a better dialogue between the state and society is also mistaken on its own and will not do the trick. But [Inaudible] himself has actually suggested that the best way for China would be if [Inaudible] all come together and in his words, let me quote: “The most ideal reform model for China is to develop a constructive political opposition groups outside the existing political system, that can then negotiate with progressive forces within the system to enact a new constitution and together complete a transition to constitutional democracy”. End quote. And on this note I‘d like to end, and I very much welcome your questions, comments and let’s have a good conversation. Thank you.

MATTHEW HENDERSON

Thank you very much indeed Dr Fulda. [clapping] So now let us throw the floor open but before we do so I’d like to ask anybody who wishes to ask a question please, if you be so kind, identify yourself clearly, and if it’s relevant do let us know whether you represent any group. First of all, I’d like, if I may, to use my privilege as chair to ask a couple of questions. I remember vividly, in the aftermath of Tiananmen, one of the most tragic voices I heard was a young student who said: and they even drove their tanks at the monument to the people’s. What are the shibulets now it would still stand. And secondly if [Inaudible] is still the order of the day ultimately, why is the all loving and all-knowing party so scared of its own people, that it unleashes the cutting edge of artificial intelligence algorithms to prevent them from developing any individuality whatsoever. Sorry, two parts of the same question I think. Thank you.

DR ANDREAS FULDA

Perhaps I can just respond with an interesting anecdote. I spoke to a local government official a couple of years ago in that official’s office and that was someone who had lots of books, just like in academic, kind of. This official leaned over and said to me: you know Andreas, the biggest problem is that the Chinese government doesn’t trust its people. And that’s indeed a problem, if you don’t have faith in people, it’s very hard to engage with the wider population in a constructive way. And I mean I have faith in people but if you don’t then you will take a very manipulative approaches to dealing with the public and that’s exactly what we are seeing now.

MATTHEW HENDERSON

Thank you. So let’s have some questions from the audience please. Sir.

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE

Yes, thank you Dr Fulda. My name is [Inaudible] and I worked for John Redwood who was an MP prior to the dissolution of the Parliament. I’ve read your book and I thought it was a very good seminal study on this subject. But I just wanted to ask you two questions. So one is, you talked about in the book that Westerners have got this very [Inaudible] to China saying that actually development of the middle class would lead to democratisation but actually it isn’t because, as you pointed out in the book, the middle class in China is completely dependent through corruption and family links on the Communist Party. So my question to you is, how can democracy develop in Mainland China when effectively you’re asking people in China, that group of people at least, to vote against their economic self-interest. And my second question is, you need tantalising of the quote in the final chapter to which I’m sorry you didn’t expand on, in which you are talking about talking to a government official, a very senior official, and them talking about them being discontent of the Communist Party, about their approaches taken. And I wonder if you could kindly expand on them, talk about why now they’ve moved away from reform, for example like Hong Kong looking to elect the chief executive and why now he’s clamping down so much. And is that a sign of strength of China or a sign of weakness. Thank you and it’s an excellent book and I recommend everyone who can to buy.

MATTHEW HENDERSON

Absolutely right.

DR ANDREAS FULDA

Yeah, excellent question and I think the middle class, you are right, they are dependent on patronage and it’s, under these, like, circumstances it’s very hard to demand let’s say greater political freedoms for example. So that’s true. But what is also true is that perhaps since 2011 and especially after this train crash in Wenzhou when two trains basically crashed and the regime tried to literally cover up this disaster by burying these train carriages, it’s quite dramatic, you can go online and see the videos, I mean they didn’t start a rescue search for survivors, they tried to bury the trains. It was insane. And since a lot of people actually on that train were middle class members, members of the Chinese middle class, I think it homed a lot of people’s thinking, oh how safe is actually our modest wealth, in terms of like property rights but also these kinds of things. Yeah and over the years I’ve come to realise that even people within the regime, who are actually on the payroll of the Chinese Communist Party are actually very disillusioned in terms of the lack of the rule of law and the lack of certainty. And so also when I talked to Midland Chinese students here in the UK, from 2011 onwards I’ve heard many more people speak much more critically about the regime. Not necessarily in class but when certainly when they came to my office and that wasn’t the case before 2011. So I would agree with you that the middle class so far is not playing that role that modernisation theory describes to the middle class but it still has the potential to do so under certain circumstances. And just very briefly on the senior official, I mean I shared the story with Matthew just before the talk. Strikingly this official just two or three minutes into the conversation in Chinese said to me: look, the Europeans, you Europeans, the Americans, you should do one thing, you need to bring down the regime. And I though like you must be kidding me, but I had a long conversation in Chinese in the evening for two, two and a half hours and this individual knew a lot of the people I had worked with in China for many years, the liberals, the democrats and he knew, let’s say, details about them you can only know if you are like, friends with them. And so this person was for real and as I said, fairly high ranking, and that kind of suggests that not all is well and that if people believe that everyone is just buying to this like Xi Jinping thought kind of leadership, they may pay lip service to that, but they do have hopes for a different future and so actually [Inaudible] has written an excellent study which is far more scientific than my anecdote from this meeting from last year which shows that actually especially at the local government level people are very upset about Xi Jinping and so it wouldn’t come to my surprise if it’s that you know, we, not this year but maybe next year like we will see the end of Xi Jinping, I mean he has a lot of enemies and if there’s just one bigger mishap well you know then he might as well just, you know, fall from power, I mean this is really where we are already and perhaps Hong Kong is the black swan in that and I have some ideas about that that I can share with you later.

MATTHEW HENDERSON

Sir, at the back.

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE 2

Hello, [Inaudible] . Myself I’m from Ukraine and we watch closely the occurrences in Hong Kong and we relate to a lot of things that happen. My question is what is the turning point when the Chinese government says it’s enough and they will for example invade because after we ousted our corrupt president we were invaded by Russia and then many protesters, they took on the weapons and went to fight in Eastern Ukraine. Some of them became ministers in Parliament, some of them died. Do you think the Chinese protesters will go that far for implementing their ideas? Thank you.

DR ANDREAS FULDA

I think that would be dangerous because as Gene Sharp points out and actually common sense dictates that states of course can unleash far more violence than protesters so I very much hope we will not come to see that I think still open ended it could happen, I just discussed this on Twitter today with someone who is also very concerned about this scenario but let’s say, it happens. The unintended consequences of the military rule in Hong Kong would be, yes, as hinted at, perhaps of the nature that could bring down the regime, so for example, a lot of the Princelings in the Chinese Communist Party are actually using Hong Kong as a conduit to essentially launder money and get their ill-gotten wealth out of the country. There’s also evidence that many shell companies, also registered in Hong Kong, that kind of hide this blotted wealth of the Chinese nation, so just imagine if the PLA occupies Hong Kong, for example there would be a question about continuity in terms of like commercial contracts. Also replication of the common law, with that actually the PRC law. Now, what I’m hinting at is the unintended consequence could be that a lot of people in the regime, in the Chinese Communist Party, will lose a lot of money in one go. So think about it, if you were a Princeling and Xi Jinping is help end on doing that, just, you know, sending the PLA, will you fight that tooth and nail? Because you may lose a lot of your assets so they may actually fight the [Inaudible] because they care about democracy or because they care about Hong Kong. They care about their money and so they speak like hard Brexit and I know where I am, that the Henry Jackson Society is slightly more on the Brexit side then perhaps me myself, yeah. But the unintended consequence of a hard Brexit is of course we also don’t know the economic implications in terms of the trade relationship and investments et cetera. So that’s why I would let’s say caution against, you know, hard Brexit, for example. But military occupation of Hong Kong I think will be a disaster.

MATTHEW HENDERSON

Thank you. Sir.

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE 3

Thank you very much [Inaudible] I’m studying applied skills and strategy in Exeter and deluded to this economic sensitivity and a hard Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong I was kind of looking at a kind of more geopolitical in the sense that the Hong Kong have been so much more of an open international space, than, like, kind of more ordinary Chinese cities. The fact that the Chinese government has been holding back unleashing hell on the protests not because they have been doing in in front of their press but in front of the world’s press. And now that America has openly advocated for the Hong Kong protesters and China has of course came back and said: absolutely stay out of Hong Kong, or, you know, or better back off. I was wondering [Inaudible] more international countries now that America has advocating for the protesters or even kind of the more [Inaudible] level of power, like Russia, kind of just interfering for the sake of interference and hitting two rivals against each other in China and in the USA. And just kind of the more complex international conflict in situation erupting around the democratic protests and the possibilities of the negative threat of the Chinese regime that you could see in the near future.

DR ANDREAS FULDA

Excellent question. Well I think the Hong Kong democracy and human right act that has been passed by the Congress and now signed into law by president Trump, it’s very useful to potentially sanction people like Carrie Lam and her Cabinet and ministers for, let’s say, the human rights abuses that are occurring in Hong Kong but beyond that I think they can’t really instigate, like that law cannot instigate regime change in Hong Kong or in Mainland China. It doesn’t mean that it’s not useful and I do think the UK should pass its own version of the Hong Kong democracy and human rights act. And you could use it as a lather to put pressure on let’s say Carrie Lam and her family. I understand that some of her family members have British citizenship or maybe they have real estate somewhere in the UK and you can just take it away, you know, or you can threaten to do that. You know, maybe it will stop her from being ever more complicit with the Chinese Communist Party in the crackdown. Ultimately though, I think the Hong Kong will have to sort this by themselves. Still, to think that somehow great powers will solve this problem on their behalf is actually highly unlikely, as I said, the law is useful but it’s not a magic wand. And so in my book I’ve been actually quite critical of some of the very one-sided strategies of the Hong Kong democracy movement. In my view they are actually too much on the anti-establishment kind of front. It’s good, you need to resist and should politically be defined but you can’t win this battling it out on the streets. Now my Hong Kong friends will say that’s self-defence and that’s true actually but you still need to have some way of having any kind of conversation or back channel into the Hong Kong central government or in the CCP. So for example, a year ago when I went to Hong Kong I asked my friends, so do you actually have people within the system, some people who try to do like this Trojan horse kind of work? And they really scratched their head and they could barely come up with one name. They could come up eventually with the name of Christine Loh. And those of you who know Christine, she used to be pan-Democrat legislator working in the legislative council, but then she left the legislating council because she found that she couldn’t really do much, it’s that politically muted and I understand that. And then she entered into the CY Leung administration as the undersecretary for the environment but a lot of my Hong Kong friends then call her a turncoat, a sell-out et cetera, which I think is unfair, but it tells you a little bit about the kind of mind-set, that it’s either you’re anti-establishment or you’re a sell-out. And that in itself is also self-limiting because I’m not suggesting that you can actually change the system from within, probably you can’t, but you still have to have, you know, people on the inside who are sympathetic, let’s say, to the movement, let’s say just pretend, probably, or others. So, yeah, I think the Hong Kong democracy movement has been too one-sided in many ways. And if we could talk about Taiwan for example, in the 1980s they managed to achieve the breakthrough because they did combine these three strategies, anti-establishment, Trojan horse and trans-establishment. So if you’re interested I could talk about that as well.

MATTHEW HENDERSON

I think there’s something interesting there about Christine Loh being friendly with a lot of foreigners and there’s a kind of purity thing that young people want. They don’t want a [Inaudible] . And there’s something about this leaderless purity but anyway, sorry. Thank you. Sir.

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE 4

[Inaudible] My question is to what extent is Taiwan a sort of model for either side, you know, either the pro or former.

DR ANDREAS FULDA

Yeah, that’s a very interesting question. I had very good conversations with CCP cadres in the early 2000s and they clearly admired Taiwan. These were people working for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Now, before you get too excited about that, they are very liberal, the MFA people, not their spokespeople, but the diplomats, by large, apart from a few let’s say high ranking ambassadors, no names. There are liberal minded people in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But it’s also not a very important, actually, ministry in the Chinese political hierarchy. But yeah, they liked Taiwan, but that’s of course not the official position and whether or not that can be model I honestly don’t think so because it is democratisation in Taiwan occurred because of their peculiar historical reasons and geopolitical reasons, which cannot easily be replicated. So, very briefly, the nationalist party which ruled for 50 years under Martial Law they were dependent on US arms sales and thus Americans could leverage that in 1980s. Also, of course, because of the colonial legacy, many of the Taiwanese opponents to the nationalist rule have found memories of the Japanese period, so they could hop back even to these colonial times and that meant that the Taiwanese democracy movement was much supported by Taiwanese nationalists who took issue with [Inaudible] . You know these cultural policies which were highly discriminatory. And in the 1980s you have basically in the opposition people who yes took to the streets but also people were through the Parliament and one individual in particular [Inaudible] who led the Taiwan movement which was the opposition at that time. He was actually on good speaking terms with [Inaudible] , who was the successor of Chiang Kai Shek. And because they got along well [Inaudible]  allowed [Inaudible] to internationalise the opposition by visiting the United States, Washington DC in 1984. Now think about Mainland China – it’s totally unthinkable, none of the democracy activists in Mainland China would ever get the consent of Xi Jinping to internationalise their movement by visiting Washington DC, it would just never happen. But that’s what happened in the case of Taiwan, they even had conversations with people in Washington, they actually supported the [Inaudible]  regime, as you can still continue selling weapons to the Republic of China but you have to exert pressure on the regime that they give us more space. And actually [Inaudible] so they’ve been doing something very similar in Hong Kong, so they have been lobbying for example congress and Washington DC for the Hong Kong democracy and human rights act, but the big difference here is that, of course, [Inaudible] government knows the CCP needs American weapons. So especially what was similar in terms of this approach to internationalise the democracy movement, it can’t work the exact same way, as it did in case of Taiwan for this.

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE 4

But it shows that Chinese can be democrats.

DR ANDREAS FULDA

Absolutely, yes.

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE 4

So isn’t that a sort of model?

DR ANDREAS FULDA

You see, you don’t actually need to look at Taiwan, I mean, I’ve done political development work in China and I’ve seen that Mainland Chinese can be just as liberal and democratic as anyone else on this planet. You know, we supported like grassroots democracy, often we had like community dialogues which involved many more people than are here in this room. We had very open, very egalitarian, very democratic, you know, discussions for three days, the party never showed up, maybe at the beginning and then they just let us do whatever we wanted. But that of course was the most liberal, in quotation marks, phase in the whole era between 2003 and 2007. Things like that were possible but I’ve seen… Yes, I have faith in Mainland Chinese people, they can be just as democratic as anyone else.

MATTHEW HENDERSON

We are running short of time. I’m sorry if I may take a question from the front, he’s been trying for some time. Please.

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE 5

Yes, thank you Andreas. I wanted to ask whether your theory would be effective in the emigration of Chinese middle class people. Basically there has been a view based that the middle class are allowed to emigrate and transfer their riches out of Mainland China as a kind of [Inaudible] to prevent them from, you know, trying to push through, you know, the demand for power. And I suspect that’s what Xi Jinping is [Inaudible] saying ok, you’re allowed to leave and take your riches with you as long as you don’t try to overthrow the party power structure. If this is the deal, that implicit deal, where are the, you know, you see the China, Chinese democratic movement will have any fruits and whether if the West tries to calm down or even shut down the immigration from China whether that would help in any case the Chinese democratic movement. Because we Chinese we have nowhere to go.

MATTHEW HENDERSON

Thank you for your question. I’m sorry, could you identify yourself sir?

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE 5

I’m a Hong Konger working in London.

DR ANDREAS FULDA

I don’t know, I mean I can’t really answer that because it’s such an open question about the role of the diaspora. I think you could give entire talk about it. I am not quite sure whether actually there is this tacit agreement that people can go abroad and just live their lives out of the control of the CCP, actually if you look at the United Front work of the Chinese Communist Party, which of course extends beyond China, they invest enormous amounts of resources to control the Chinese diaspora and so actually leaving China doesn’t mean you’ve escaped the Chinese Communist Party, it’s kind of long arm and my understanding is also that even if you live abroad you will be allocated eventually a social credit score. So the Chinese Communist Party is very much aware that people could try to work against the regime from outside China and that’s why we have the China students and scholars’ associations, that’s why we have these awful Confucius institutes which I think should all be kicked off campus at least. They can exist in the UK but not on campus, because that’s just wholly, you know that should be free of political interference.

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE 5

Chinese immigrants are [Inaudible] .

MATTHEW HENDERSON

Sir.

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE 6

[Inaudible] No association and I haven’t read your book but one question. Is there any chance, do you see any possibilities that what’s actually going on in Hong Kong will swing into Mainland China?

MATTHEW HENDERSON

Thank you.

DR ANDREAS FULDA

Well, one would hope so but there are a couple of obstacles to that kind of happening, of course the communist party is very much aware that this could happen so they’ve been very strict on people coming into Mainland China through Shenzhen for example, people have been checked, you know, their mobile phones et cetera, so you could get into some serious trouble if you had taken some pictures from the popular uprising. And in addition I think there is of course a huge gulf between Mainland Chinese and Hong Kongers, I actually deeply regret that this is the case, but there is a lot of mutual misunderstanding, let’s put it that way, for various reasons. Of course, Hong Kong has been [Inaudible] by the Chinese Communist Party. But sometimes that does translate into anti-Mainland Chinese sentiment, which I think is not helpful and I’ve noticed both in Taiwan, where I’ve stayed three months this year, but also in Hong Kong that especially a lot of young Taiwanese and young Hong Kongers have a lot of prejudices against the Mainland Chinese they for example think, a lot of people think that Mainland Chinese are all brainwashed, cannot think for themselves, et cetera, and this almost like, it can become quite racist to be frank with you. And this is obviously bad for the moral ethical reasons but also politically unwise because in Mainland China there are of course also liberals, democrats and people who want the rule of law and less, let’s say, arbitrary political system. So to [Inaudible] in the entire people saying you’re useless, you’ll never be liberal democrats. If you honestly believe that then that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, so we have to have faith in people.

MEMBER OF THE AUDIENCE 6

So don’t seem that any chance for a spark of what’s going on in Hong Kong trends, that it’s going to encourage and inspire people in Mainland China to pick up on it.

DR ANDREAS FULDA

Perhaps, it’s a bit too early to tell because for example the district council elections was a very interesting case where the state media didn’t see that coming, they had kind of, they told the Chinese people: oh these are all radicals, the silent majority in Hong Kong actually support the regime and Hong Kong is our government but they were wiped out at the pools and suddenly they had big difficulties to tell the story, they said yes there was an election and people asked: so what was the result, it’s kind of, yeah no news on the result. It’s a lot of, Mainland Chinese were confused, literally confused, I mean I’ve heard enough from various sources, including some of my students who said: but we don’t know what’s happening there. Because if they’re all these bad, radicals, militant people, how could majority vote for these awful people. So a lot of people are scratching their head. And whether this will translate into whatever insights or actions I don’t know because this just happened a week ago, right. But I think a lot of people are realising that they’ve have been hoodwinked and lied to for too long. And so again as Paul Freire says, oppression is domesticating, but what happens when people start to wake up and think for themselves? I think a lot of people are waking up now.

MATTHEW HENDERSON

Dr Fulda, thank you. I’m so sorry, I feel our time is up. We could have asked questions all night and I don’t doubt that we would have got fascinating answers likewise. I do hope you will come back another time soon and we can carry on. But thank you all very much indeed and I’d like to express together our thanks to our speaker. Thank you. [clapping] Now, there are copies of Dr Fulda’s book outside and I do prevail upon you to cease this opportunity.

HJS



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