Saturday, January 18, 2020

Beware Years Ending in 9

Jiayang Fan:
There’s a saying in Chinese politics—Fengjiu biluan (“Encounter nine: turmoil for sure”)—reflecting a belief that the country often experiences its worst turbulence in years that end in 9. (Since the fall of the Nationalists, in 1949, years ending in 9 have brought, successively, the Great Famine, an armed conflict with the Soviet Union, another with Vietnam, the Tiananmen Square protests, and the Falun Gong crisis.)
This is from a long, excellent piece on the Hong Kong protests at The New Yorker. One thing that comes clear from this account is that while outsiders often imagine the conflict as between Hong Kong and Beijing, the people of Hong Kong are severely divided against each other. Fan portrays this as largely a generational divide, with young protesters against older people who want order and think that living with China is inevitable, but of course it isn't that simple.

I have been wondering lately where this could go. Independence for Hong Kong is hardly an option, and close cooperation with Beijing is essential for economic and other reasons, so what sort of viable solution can be reached? Fan admits to not knowing, and she portrays many people in Hong Kong as equally confused.

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