A mere 5 weeks ago, the Chinese Communist Party declared that the Chief Executive of Hong Kong would be elected from a slate nominated by Beijing. In so doing, it ignited a student uprising now known as the "umbrella revolution" in which up to 200,000 protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong in non-violent civil disobedience. According to a declaration from the Hong Kong Students Federation (available HERE), the protesters are seeking (1) a confirmation of civil nominating procedures, (2) political reform in HK, (3) an apology from Beijing to the people of Hong Kong, or (4) the resignation of Hong Kong's top three executives. The protesters are drawing attention to what students are calling "imperialism with Chinese characteristics."
So what? While the ultimate resolution of this standoff is impossible to know, I do believe that Hong Kong is sounding the gong on the global love affair with China. While much of the world rushes towards building closer ties with China, those closest are running the other way "in search of things money can't buy in China: Cleaner air, safer food, better education for their children" noted Jeremy Page in a piece entitled "Plan B for China's Wealthy." Consider the fact that ~85% of all "investor visas" issued by the US government so far this year have been awarded to Chinese nationals. Or that Chinese investors are buying homes, art, and other assets outside of the Middle Kingdom as rapidly as possible. Capitalism with Chinese characteristics is driving the financial flight of Chinese characters.
The WSJ's Bret Stephens recently wrote "Hong Kong is what China could be if it weren't, well, China -- if state intervention were minimal; if government weren't a vehicle for self-enrichment; if people could worship, write, exercise and associate just as they please." He continues, noting the fundamental problem of politics with Chinese characteristics: "dreaming is the essential freedom: there can be no true dreaming when the state regulates the sorts of dreams its people may have."
Hong Kong has sounded the gong: the world must awake to the realities of life with Chinese characteristics.