Hong Kong should avoid the 'democracy' trap

By M.D. Nalapat ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-10-16 11:00:52

Hong Kong should avoid the 'democracy' trap

Every political system grows out of a historical process, except in rare cases when change is imposed from the top, which happened in Japan after it surrendered at the end of World War II or in Hong Kong during the decade before it reunited with the motherland in 1997. Once it became clear that Deng Xiaoping would not relent on reuniting Hong Kong with the motherland, Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, began his experiments with "democracy". Of course, Patten kept the local tycoons in good humor so that they continued to contribute to the United Kingdom's economy. One of Patten's final acts was to gift the contracts to build Hong Kong's new airport (Chek Lap Kok) to a clutch of UK-based companies.

To this day, British companies have an inside track in much of Hong Kong's commerce, as do British nationals in expatriate jobs. Hong Kong presents an example of the trend which some people in the mainland (like the Japanese) are following to become like their Western peers, including buying absurdly expensive "designer" labels. Also, some Hong Kong residents have replaced Westerners, for they consider themselves to be several cuts above people from the Chinese mainland.

The suitability of a system should be judged by results. After the end of World War II in 1945, Western countries crafted a system that worked efficiently to ensure an enviable quality of life for their people. But a system that produced results for more than half a century began to run seriously aground in 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq and assigned the role of "global policeman" to NATO.

The high cost of such wars could not be sustained by the economies that were losing ground to Japan, the Republic of Korea and China, and this relative decline acquired crisis proportions when the uncontrolled greed of the financial industry in the US and the European Union led to the crash of 2008, in which investors from non-Western countries lost more than $2 trillion in assets located in the developed world. Confidence in the West has been diminishing ever since.

But since 2003 a new export, "democracy" has been aggressively offered by the West to the rest of the world, the implicit message being that if the political systems of other societies were somehow to morph into Western-style models, lifestyles would automatically be upgraded to fit those in the pre-crisis West.

Hundreds of thousands of youths in Egypt believed in this message and swarmed into Tahrir Square, where - after he was given a shove by US President Barack Obama - Hosni Mubarak moved from the presidential palace to prison. What followed was not prosperity but chaos because of the attempt to forcefully impose a Western political system on a society that is not even remotely Western.

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