Why Hong Kong showdown could never have morphed into Tiananmen 2.0Roundup
tags: Hong Kong
As pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong confronted police in the fumes of tear gas, the world looked on in admiration of their spirit and bravery and in fear of a possible crackdown.
Those who dreaded a Tiananmen-like scenario in Hong Kong can now breathe a sigh of relief. The standoff came to a peaceful end. But the protesters failed to achieve their basic goal — reversing Beijing’s Aug. 31 decision to restrict elections to candidates the Chinese Communist Party approves of. They couldn’t even force the city’s chief executive, C.Y. Leung, to resign.
Chinese President Xi Jinping can claim credit among party elites for the bloodless outcome in Hong Kong. Unlike the Beijing Politburo in 1989, he managed to preserve the Chinese Communist Party’s face without making a single concession to the demonstrators.
But there was actually little possibility that the drama in Hong Kong would end the same way as in Tiananmen. The context of the Hong Kong protests and that of Tiananmen Square were remarkably different. The domestic and world circumstances that led the Chinese leadership to order the Tiananmen massacre no longer exist.
In 1989, the Chinese economy appeared to be deteriorating rapidly. Then-General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party Zhao Ziyang had pushed through price liberalization, triggering bank runs as people emptied their savings to stock up on goods. Prices shot up, and inflation reached a staggering 30 percent by the end of 1988...
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