Summarising Zhao Dingxin’s lessons from 1989 for the Hong Kong protests: protest ecology and conflicting state legitimation

Talking about the on-going protests in Hong Kong, pundits love to invoke the 1989 Movement that famously centred around Tiananmen Square in Beijing. I myself have previously argued that it might be more useful to compare the overall effect on Hong Kong of the ‘Hard Had Revolution’ to the effect that the February 28 Incident […]

Hong Kong shows that ‘communism’ is the most efficient creator of alienation

As Hong Kong is gripped in chaos and violence, there is something interesting about the ‘strongly condemn’ statements that Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor puts out at her rare press conferences. Completely in line with the rules prevalent on the Mainland, the first thing she condemns is always the harm done […]

The Hard Hat Revolution will not be Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Square, it might be its February 28 Incident

Tension had been building for a long time. It had been a while since the former colonial power had returned the island to China, but rather than being grateful, the local inhabitants were increasingly chafing under what they saw as a breakdown in the rule of law and encroachment on their economic opportunities. Finally, one […]

Party Not Required: nationalism’s long-term threat to the Chinese Communist Party

Xi Jinping’s well-documented attempts to become ‘chairman of everything’—as several observers have argued before me—are in fact a testament to his need to shore up weak central power. The Chinese party-state works through broad project campaigns, launched through the apparatus of party committees and propaganda organs. Local leaders take the cue to come up with […]

The dangerous long-term weakness of authoritarian leadership

A strong leader can put the house in order. Authoritarian figures with a vision have some successes on their names, notably in East Asia. But their cheerleaders often underestimate how much their achievements were possible because of broad support. As Paul Krugman pointed out in his 1994 Foreign Affaris article debunking uncritical celebration of the […]

Never Forget Chinese Nationalism’s Ethnocentrism

Saying that Chinese increasingly assertive nationalism has a rather ethnocentric streak is nothing new, at least not for those who follow China. However, only when you actually read the source material in Chinese, is the starkness of the PRC’s racialism really driven home. This is something analysts, and other people paid to have opinions on […]

Carving up the Girdle of Emerald: colonialism’s violent cleavages

The evil of colonialism is not expressed in a sum of its benefits and downsides. These debates over British railways in India and economic development miss the point of colonialism entirely. Colonialism is violence. It is not just that it entails violence as an inevitable product of its system, colonialism itself is an act of epistemic […]

Is China trying use the COC to beef up its Article 281 defence?

Besides ‘we do not accept,’ another legal argument China used to argue that the Philippines case before An Arbitral Tribunal under Annex VII of UNCLOS was inadmissible was that the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea prevented arbitration as per UNCLOS Article 281. This article states that if states […]

Section 377A is racist

Former High Court of Australia Justice Michael Kirby once termed the sodomy offence ‘England’s Least Lovely Criminal Law Export.’ Much has been said about this nefarious side-effect of the supposed rule of law exported throughout the British Empire in the form of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. There is a certain irony in seeing […]

The argument for democracy is its mediocrity

Any review of the argument for democracy as the best form of governance as a matter of tradition starts with Churchill’s citation in the House of Commons of the quote that Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. I oblige. Its popularity shows how wary many people have become of democracy. Gone is the faith of […]