America is failing the Hong Kong test

Indifference to pro-democracy protests highlights degeneration of US foreign policy

Edward Luce

Protesters scuffle with police at Hong Kong's airport © AFP

It would be nice to think that America’s indifference to Hong Kong begins and ends with its president. Donald Trump, to be sure, is failing badly. By insisting Hong Kong’s protest are “riots”, and that China “is going to want to stop that”, Mr Trump has given Beijing every reason to think Washington would not object to a crackdown. To ensure no misunderstanding, Wilbur Ross, Mr Trump’s secretary of commerce, said on Wednesday that Hong Kong was an internal matter for China. “What are we going to do — invade Hong Kong?” he asked.

In a few words, Mr Ross captured the degeneration of US foreign policy: it has been reduced to a choice between doing nothing or going to war. The president has obliterated the space for diplomacy. Mr Trump’s solipsism has also reinforced America’s tendency to see everything as an extension of itself. Among Republican hawks this means celebrating the smattering of Stars and Stripes that have been spotted among the Hong Kong protesters. This is unhelpful since China alleges that America’s “black hand” is behind them. The last thing the demonstrators need is for Washington to portray their civil uprising as pro-US.

On the American left this means ignoring what happens abroad unless Washington is to blame. Until the US is found responsible for Hong Kong’s mess, the liberal left will have no dog in the fight. That would change if Chinese president Xi Jinping sent in the People’s Liberation Army to quash the protests. At that point, Mr Trump’s role in enabling Beijing’s repression would hit the US political radar. The more bodies on Hong Kong’s streets, the greater Mr Trump’s perceived culpability would be. America is the cause; the rest of the world is always an effect.

In that sense, America has the president it deserves. Just as Mr Trump thinks everything is about him, America filters global events through itself. Every country is self-obsessed, of course. But we are in a new era where America can ill-afford to be consumed by narcissism. Hong Kong has three key lessons that America is in danger of missing.

The first is that people always have the capacity to surprise. Nobody foresaw the Hong Kong protests. They are homegrown. As a reporter for the South China Morning Post in the early 1990s, I often heard complaints about how apolitical Hong Kongers were. All they cared about was materialism, went the refrain. Hong Kongers today are taking enormous risks for their autonomy. Nobody asked them to. Neither the CIA nor the arc of history is behind their protests. They may fail or succeed depending on how China reacts. The least they could expect is America’s moral support. The same applies to the fate of Xinjiang’s Uighurs, about 2m of whom are in detention camps. Again, Mr Trump has made it clear he could not care less. Since he is not to blame for their incarceration, America’s left cares less than it should.

Second, Mr Xi’s power is more brittle than many suppose. Mr Trump envies his “president-for-life” status. But Mr Xi is in a quandary. If he ignores the protests, they may achieve some of their goals. This would deflate the awe of Mr Xi’s power. Other parts of China could take their cue from Hong Kong. Taiwan could shift towards independence at its presidential election next January. Should Mr Xi intervene, however, he could tip China into recession by putting a chill on investment. That, in turn, could spark domestic unrest. It is worth stressing that Hong Kongers have dented fears of Mr Xi’s cyber-surveillance state. It turns out that if you put a mask on your face, the facial-recognition software does not work.

Third, in a world where war is unthinkable, diplomacy matters even more. Mr Ross is right to say that the US cannot invade Hong Kong. He forgets that the US did not invade the Soviet Union either. America still won the cold war.

The difference between now and then is that we are focused on America’s political health. People question whether American liberal democracy would survive Mr Trump’s re-election. Others regret America’s withdrawal from active diplomacy. The good news is that people still value freedom in America’s absence.

The US could even draw inspiration from abroad. If Americans paid closer attention, the people of Hong Kong might have a thing or two to teach them.

Free Exchange

What comes after Bretton Woods II?

The world’s monetary system is breaking down

“THERE IS NO longer any need for the United States to compete with one hand tied behind her back,” Richard Nixon, then America’s president, told his countrymen in August 1971. With that speech, he heralded the end of the post-war economic order, suspending the convertibility of the dollar into gold and putting up tariffs on imports. The survival of today’s order, which emerged from the chaos that followed, now also looks in doubt. In other circumstances, its demise might not have been mourned. But with each passing August day, the prospects for a happy shift from one global monetary regime to another look ever grimmer.

International trade is complicated by the fact that most countries have their own currencies, which move in idiosyncratic ways and can be held down to boost competitiveness. Governments’ efforts to manage currencies are constrained by certain trade-offs. Pegging them to an external anchor to stabilise their value means either ceding control of domestic economic policy or restricting access to foreign capital flows. Systems of monetary order, which resolve these trade-offs in one way as opposed to another, work until they do not. The context for America’s economic showdown with China is a system that worked once but no longer does.

Such things happen. The first great age of globalisation, which began in the late 19th century, was built atop the gold standard. Governments fixed the value of their currencies to gold, sacrificing some control over the domestic economy. This trade-off became untenable during the Great Depression, when governments reneged on their monetary commitments. As one after another devalued, angry trading partners put up tariffs, and the world retreated into rival currency blocs.

In 1944 Allied nations had another go at crafting a monetary order at a conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.

Participating countries fixed their currencies to the dollar (with some room for adjustment).

The buck, in turn, was pegged to gold. The truce survived a mere quarter-century. As America’s trade balance sagged and inflation rose in the 1960s and 1970s, faith in the dollar’s peg to gold waned.

Drastic fiscal and monetary belt-tightening might have restored its credibility abroad, but at great cost at home. Forced to choose between the domestic interest and the survival of the global monetary system, Nixon abandoned America’s Bretton Woods commitments.

The present system, often described as Bretton Woods II, slowly emerged from the ashes of the post-war order. The dollar’s dominance did not end. Much of the world’s commerce trades in greenbacks.

Changes in America’s economic policy still echo around the world. A stronger dollar depresses global trade, research suggests, while tighter American monetary policy straitens global financial conditions. Through bitter experience, emerging economies learnt that protecting themselves against these gales meant accumulating large dollar reserves, which began to pile up in the 1990s and peaked in 2014.

Emerging-market dollar purchases kept the greenback overvalued and boosted the competitiveness of emerging-market exporters. America began running large, persistent current-account deficits. In other words, its excessive consumption was funded by lending from the emerging world, which invested its dollars into American assets. This flow of money—from reserve-accumulating economies, China chief among them, to America, and from American consumers back to reserve-accumulating economies—defined Bretton Woods II.

The regime never looked particularly sustainable. America could not borrow from abroad for ever, and persistent current-account deficits ate away at its export industries. In the 2000s some economists worried that investors might lose faith in the greenback, precipitating a collapse in the dollar and a global crisis. Fewer observers predicted that America might tire of its role in the system, or that damage done to American communities by deindustrialisation might make politicians across the spectrum sceptical of the gains from globalisation.

For a time, though, a benign end to Bretton Woods II seemed possible. As Europe’s economies became more integrated and China grew, the prospect of a multipolar world, in which the dollar shared reserve-currency duties with the euro and the renminbi, loomed. European and Chinese consumers would play as important a role as American ones—and global imbalances would shrink.

Alas, history has had other ideas. Amid the turmoil of the past decade, investors have clung to the safety of dollar assets, reinforcing America’s monetary hegemony. Debt crises have undercut faith in the euro. Confidence in the renminbi’s inevitable rise has been dimmed by China’s slowing growth, and its diminished enthusiasm for reform. Meanwhile, the present system looks more vulnerable than ever. President Donald Trump’s spiralling trade and currency wars threaten to topple Bretton Woods II, even as attractive alternatives to the system fade.

History repeats

A minimally disruptive end to Bretton Woods II remains within the realms of possibility. Its fate might resemble that of Bretton Woods I, especially if Mr Trump loses office in 2020. Democrats are more economically nationalistic than they used to be, but still mindful of the value of global co-operation.

President Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren might seek a one-off depreciation of the dollar while recommitting America to a rules-based system of global trade. A recession in China could scare its leadership into offering concessions on trade that America would accept.

But the experience of the 1930s may prove a more apt guide. In the absence of a co-ordinated adjustment to exchange rates and a peaceful end to trade hostilities, the world could stumble into a cycle of competitive devaluations and tariff rises. As trading relationships unravel, countries may organise themselves into rival economic blocs.

It is hard to imagine the world repeating such an ugly era of history. But not as hard as it used to be.

Hong Kong’s leaders must respond to the people’s protest  

What can be done in the coming weeks to avoid a tragic confrontation and restore trust?

Nathan Law

Ms Lam needs to stop juggling semantics and definitively state that the extradition amendment will be withdrawn © Reuters

Protests in Hong Kong have taken their ugliest turn yet, as riot police violently clash with demonstrators, Chinese armoured personnel carriers arrive across the border in Shenzhen, and Communist party officials point to “signs of terrorism”.

Beijing is clearly attempting to send a signal to the protesters that it might directly intervene — an ominous threat meant to intimidate and coerce the people of Hong Kong against voicing their legitimate grievances against the government and its practices. This month, protests continued to paralyse airports as the Hong Kong government remained tone-deaf to a deteriorating situation.

It is now past the moment to state the obvious: the “one country, two systems” model, which is intended to allow Hong Kong to administer all areas of government separate from China outside of foreign and defence policies, has turned out to be a false promise. More worrying is the broken bond of trust between the people of Hong Kong and their representative government, led by the city’s embattled chief executive Carrie Lam.

Instead of reacting to the concerns of the protesters, Ms Lam has gone in the opposite direction, doubling down on her authority. While she claims she is responding to the demands of the people, through her pledge to indefinitely suspend a proposed amendment to the law that would allow the potential extradition of fugitives to China, the reality remains that she has not recognised the severity of popular discontent.

Ms Lam is trying to manoeuvre her way along a tightrope whereby she can at once placate the protest movement and simultaneously appear strong and maintain her legitimacy. The latter posture is particularly important as her backers in Beijing grow increasingly impatient with the protests and the Hong Kong government’s inability or reluctance to use more force to suppress them.

Last month Beijing took the unprecedented step of having its state council office for Hong Kong and Macau hold its first press conferences since 1997, when Hong Kong reverted to Chinese administration.

What can be done in the coming weeks to avoid a tragic confrontation and restore trust between the people of Hong Kong and their government?

First, Ms Lam needs to stop juggling semantics and definitively state that the extradition amendment will be withdrawn — not delayed or suspended. This will not temper the frustrations of all of the protesters, but it will be the first step in the right direction, where the government shows accountability and responds to the current crisis.

Second, it will be critical to establish a transparent and impartial commission of inquiry into the government’s response to the protests, including Ms Lam’s ill-advised reference to them as an “organised riot”. The inquiry should also look into the local police authorities, including their inadequate handling of last month’s brutal attacks near the Yuen Long metro station and allegations of excessive use of force.

Third, Ms Lam should offer a blanket amnesty to all the protesters who have been detained, even if some of their actions were criminal. Without such a move, the protesters will only grow more distrustful of the government’s heavy-handed approach to future demonstrations and question its sincerity at reconciliation attempts.

Fourth, Hong Kong authorities should directly address the increasing risk that Beijing will intervene. When the state council office for Hong Kong and Macau affairs warned that the protests were showing “signs of terrorism” it suggested that Beijing is poised to move. The question remains whether this is a scare tactic or a sign of things to come.

Finally, Ms Lam must look in the mirror and seriously consider whether her leadership of Hong Kong is still tenable. These protests are not about the flawed extradition amendment or even about the government’s high-handed response.

Rather, the protesters are demonstrating a structural dissatisfaction with the failed promises that were supposed to maintain their autonomy within the “one country, two systems” framework.

The writer is the founding chair of Demosisto in Hong Kong and former legislative council member.

Science & Ourselves

Dan Kilpatrick will facilitate Coming to the Ultimate: Science and the Ground of Being, a program that will run on September 9-13, 2019 at the Krishnamurti Center. The program will explore how science tends to perceive the universe and its underlying nature, and what it might reveal about ourselves. Dan Kilpatrick recently retired from his position as Associate Professor in the Program of Neurosciences and the Department of Microbiology, Physiological Systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also the author of the following article, entitled Science and Ourselves: 

A Reflection of Ourselves

Science has provided invaluable advances in the quality of our lives. While it appears to be an endeavor unique to itself, having worked as a scientist, it seems to me that it shares much in common with us. In exploring how science looks at things, we may also see ourselves reflected in it.

In its purest form, science seeks to discover what is true. In this search, there may be an indelible sense that there is “something” actual and unknown that underlies the nature of everything. In exploring this question, though, is it possible that we might be overlooking something? Are our and science’s view of existence and our place in it wholly accurate and untainted, or is what we see somehow a reflection of our very way of perceiving?

Science is generally based on the notion that existence is made up of matter (and energy), with matter consisting of separate things. This view is seemingly taken for granted, and why not? It works exceedingly well, and it is how we tend to experience our world — it is “how things are”. However, science has found that at fundamental levels, physical existence behaves in unexpected ways, requiring the formulation of unknown new components to account for these apparent aberrations from our day-to-day experience.

Clearly, science is a product of human thought, which naturally raises the question: Can science come to the basis of existence without understanding thought itself, through which it perceives?

A man who is addicted to the acquiring of knowledge cannot find truth because he is concerned with knowledge and not with truth. The man who accepts division, will he find truth? Obviously not, because he has chosen a particular path and not the whole. Will the man of action find reality? Obviously not, for the simple reason that by following a part we cannot find the whole. That means knowledge, division and action separately cannot lead anywhere but to destruction, to illusion, to restlessness. That is what has happened. The man who has pursued knowledge for the sake of knowledge, believing that it would lead him to reality, becomes a scientist, yet what has marvellous science done to the world? I am not decrying science. The scientist is like you and me; only in his laboratory he differs from us. He is like you and me with his narrowness, with his fears and nationalism.

– Krishnamurti

Our Own Virtual Reality

In my mind, thought describes, identifies, and puts together a picture of “reality” in order to know, understand, and remember. This is essential for our daily living and is an integral part of who we are. In doing this, thought naturally separates what it perceives in order to label and work with it in a manageable way.

But going deeper, this separating into parts tends to be experienced implicitly, and unconsciously, within thought as factual. Is separateness a framework that conditions and colors what thought perceives, arising out of its very activity? Is separateness not just another concept, but instead a fundamental assumption underlying thought’s movement? Is thought creating its own “virtual reality” of separateness as an experience within itself?

In turn, might this impact how science formulates its picture of existence as being made of separate components? And is our sense of a separate self an experience arising within thought, in real-time?

Can science come to the nature of actuality using thought, meaning through concepts and measurement? Can the non-conceptual be captured in this way? And can a movement that separates perceive anything other than separateness?

Can the mind observe the whole movement of life as one, as a whole? Because if one can look at it as a whole then there is no problem, then death is love, and love is death, and living is the dying and the loving. But the mind, that is, our own idiosyncrasies, our conditioning, our constant endeavour to change the conditioning, and the movement within that conditioning, is our life. And can our minds see the whole of life, not one fragment of it opposed to another fragment, one thought opposed to another thought, the intellect opposed to the emotion, the organism has its own desires and pursuits, and denied and controlled. But to treat, to live life as a whole.

I do not know if you have ever thought about it, and what it means. The word ‘whole’ means sane, healthy, holy, that is what that word means, to be whole, non broken up. And can one lead such a life in the modern world – in a polluted world of a town, or in the country filled with smog, with all the competition, ambition, the wars, the violence, the bestiality of competition, can we live a life that is totally, completely, absolutely whole?

– J. Krishnamurti

The Nature of Everything

Krishnamurti suggested that by observing thought’s movement within ourselves instead of avoiding it, we might come to that which is not of thought: truth or actuality. Does this seeming paradox have something to do with coming to the nature of everything? And what does it mean?

What is it like to awaken to thought’s movement, to its hidden assumptions as they are moving in us, without words or naming intervening? Is this movement of separation apparent in the very way we tend to perceive, in any moment? Does this reveal the utter falseness of this movement, one that assumes that thought’s creations and what it sees are the truth or facts?

Is this falseness thought’s underlying basis?

Is there something that reveals the truth of this falseness, which is not created and conditioned by thought? Is this revealing of thought’s true basis the actuality that science and we ourselves are seeking? And in this revelation, is actuality/truth also revealing itself, beyond conceptualization?

Most importantly, does thought have anything to do with this revealing? Can it bring it about?

And yet, in the light of this revealing, is thought now free to simply move, just as it is?

We have examined the nature of thought. We said thought is a material process, matter, because it is stored up in the brain, part of the cell, which is matter. So thought is a material process in time, a movement. And whatever that movement creates is reality: both the neurotic as well as the so-called fragmentary, they are realities. The actual is a reality, like the microphone. And also nature is a reality. But what is truth? Can thought, which is fragmentary, which is caught up in time, mischievous, violent, all that, can that thought find truth? Truth being the whole, that which is sacred, holy. And if it cannot find it, then what is the relationship of thought, of reality, to that which is absolute?

– Krishnamurti

Article written by Dan Kilpatrick

domingo, septiembre 01, 2019



A Tiananmen Solution in Hong Kong?

When there are no good options, leaders must choose the least bad one. China’s government may loathe the idea of making concessions to the Hong Kong protesters, but considering the catastrophic consequences of a military crackdown, that is what it must do.

Minxin Pei

pei53_Anthony KwanGetty Images_hong kong protest

WASHINGTON, DC – The crisis in Hong Kong appears to be careening toward a devastating climax. With China’s government now using rhetoric reminiscent of that which preceded the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters – and, indeed, its democracy – could well be in grave danger.

For more than two months, Hong Kong has been beset by protests. Triggered by a proposed law to allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China, the demonstrations have since developed into broader calls to safeguard – or, perhaps more accurately, restore – the semi-autonomous territory’s democracy, including by strengthening state (especially police) accountability.

As the unrest drags on, the Chinese government’s patience is wearing thin – and its warnings are growing more ominous. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) garrison in Hong Kong is, in the words of its commander Chen Daoxiang, “determined to protect national sovereignty, security, stability, and the prosperity of Hong Kong.” To drive the point home, a promotional video showing Chinese military officers in action was released along with the statement.

Yang Guang, a spokesperson for the Chinese government’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, has echoed this sentiment, warning the protesters – whom he calls “criminals” – not to “take restraint for weakness.” He then reiterated the government’s “firm resolve” to “safeguard the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.”

Zhang Xiaoming, the director of the office, then took matters a step further, declaring that China’s government “has sufficient methods and enough powerful means to quell all sorts of likely unrest (dongluan).” This came just two months after China’s defense minister argued that China’s stability since the Tiananmen crackdown proved that the government had made the “correct” choice.

Increasingly harsh warnings against Hong Kong’s protesters point not just to a hardening of positions, but also to the ascendance of figures in the Chinese government who favor asserting total control over the territory. And they have been reflected in the response from the police, which has been deploying rubber bullets and tear gas with rising frequency. Hundreds have been arrested, and 44 have been charged with “rioting.”

Yet, far from being deterred, the protesters are challenging the Chinese government with increasing resolve. In July, they vandalized the outside of the Chinese government’s liaison office in the city center. Last week, they mounted a general strike that nearly paralyzed the city, one of Asia’s most important commercial hubs. Perhaps counter-intuitively, this radicalization has come alongside broadening support for the movement, with members of the middle class – such as lawyers and civil servants – openly joining the cause.

With their stark warnings having no effect, China’s leaders may well be sensing that the best – or even the only – way to restore their authority in Hong Kong is by force, though President Xi Jinping may wait until after the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on October 1 to act. But, whether now or in two months, a Tiananmen-style crackdown is not the answer.

For starters, Hong Kong’s 31,000-strong police force is not up to the task of carrying out such a crackdown. Not only does it lack the manpower; its officers may refuse to use deadly force. After all, there is a big difference between firing rubber bullets at a crowd and murdering civilians. This means that China would have to deploy the local PLA garrison or transfer tens of thousands of paramilitary soldiers (the People’s Armed Police) from the mainland.

Hong Kong’s residents would almost certainly treat Chinese government forces as invaders, and mount the fiercest possible resistance. The resulting clashes – which would likely produce high numbers of civilian casualties – would mark the official end of the “one country, two systems” arrangement, with China’s government forced to assert direct and full control over Hong Kong’s administration.

With the Hong Kong government’s legitimacy destroyed, the city would instantly become ungovernable. Civil servants would quit their jobs in droves, and the public would continue to resist. Hong Kong’s complex transit, communications, and logistics systems would prove easy targets for defiant locals determined to cause major disruptions.

After the Tiananmen crackdown, the Communist Party of China’s ability to reinstitute control rested not only on the presence of tens of thousands of PLA troops, but also on the mobilization of the Party’s members. In Hong Kong, where the CPC has only a limited organizational presence (officially, it claims to have none at all), this would be impossible. And because the vast majority of Hong Kong’s residents are employed by private businesses, China cannot control them as easily as mainlanders who depend on the state for their livelihoods.

The economic consequences of such an approach would be dire. Some CPC leaders may think that Hong Kong, which now accounts for only 3% of Chinese GDP, is economically expendable. But the city’s world-class legal and logistical services and sophisticated financial markets, which channel foreign capital into China, mean that its value vastly exceeds its output.

If Chinese soldiers storm the city, an immediate exodus of expats and elites with foreign passports and green cards will follow, and Western businesses will relocate en masse to other Asian commercial hubs. Hong Kong’s economy – a critical bridge between China and the rest of the world – would almost instantly collapse.

When there are no good options, leaders must choose the least bad one. China’s government may loathe the idea of making concessions to the Hong Kong protesters, but considering the catastrophic consequences of a military crackdown, that is what it must do.

Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and the author of China’s Crony Capitalism, is the inaugural Library of Congress Chair in US-China Relations.

Lessons of Hong Kong

The West's Guiding Light Has Dimmed

A DER SPIEGEL Editorial by Dirk Kurbjuweit

A pro-Democracy protester is held by police in Hong Kong on August 11.
A pro-Democracy protester is held by police in Hong Kong on August 11.

In Hong Kong, protesters are courageously fighting for democracy, rule of law and human rights -- values that the West used to promote. But not anymore, showing just how dramatically the world order has changed.

They want what the Germans, French, British and Americans already have: democracy, rule of law, human rights. And they are fighting for it, courageously, tirelessly. Although they live in far-away Hong Kong, their cause is the Western one. They likely won't be able to pull it off alone. But who will help them?

If, to quote the historian Heinrich August Winkler, the "normative project of the West" still existed, Western countries would be expected to provide significant support to the protesters.

The French and American revolutionaries of the late 18th century were the first to establish democracy, the rule of law and human rights, even if only partially or temporarily. But it spurred the notion that Western values should be a guiding norm -- both inwardly and outwardly.

But those wishing to assert values outwardly need power -- the hard power of arms and economy and, in this case, also the soft power of being a good role model. The West, though, isn't doing particularly well in either of those areas.

The 19th century was dominated by the British, the 20th largely by the United States. The British back then weren't interested in exporting democracy and human rights, but rather in subjugating peoples to exploit them. That strategy was also successful in parts of China, where Hong Kong became a British colony for over 150 years. The colonialist ambition was referred to as Pax Britannica, even though British conduct had little to do with peace or human rights.

The normative project applied only internally, and the United Kingdom became a model democracy.

In the 20th century, the Americans pursued the project externally, first via President Woodrow Wilson in the context of World War I, and then even more successfully after World War II, when democracy was introduced first in Western Europe and then in Eastern Europe. By 2000, a relatively peaceful Pax Americana seemed to apply in large parts of the world.

That was fewer than 20 years ago, but it was a completely different time, another world. Since then, the normative project has failed in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in the Arab Spring, which led the to the Syrian catastrophe. Sometimes the West intervened, sometimes it didn't. The result was almost always horrific. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo marked the end of America's authority as a role model.

A New World

And now, Donald Trump's presence in the White House hasmade everything even worse. It is unclear if this president, who so admires Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, his autocratic counterparts from China and Russia, is an adherent of this normative project, whether he actually values democracy, the rule of law and human rights. He has undermined NATO, the West's hard-power organization, and now, there is no leading power that will intervene decisively in support of Western values.

The dream that Angela Merkel could perform the role usually played by an American president has not come true. Her refugee policy temporarily raised the hopes of left-wing liberals in the West. But Germany has too little hard power to take a leading position in the world, and Merkel is more interested in securing exports than in safeguarding Western values, especially when it comes to China. Thus far, she has refrained from criticizing China publicly.

The European Union, a Western soft-power organization, also has little global influence. It lacks troops and, ever since the Brexit vote, cannot be considered a role model for the long-term eradication of nationalism. Which means that the foreign-policy aspect of this 230-year-old project is dead. In its current state, the West is incapable of advancing normative values.

In some parts of the world, the West is even laughed at when it mentions such values. Get your own house in order, is the response. And it's not unjustified. In some Western countries, right-wing populism is even threatening to undermine the internal projection of the normative project.

What can be done? Acquiesce to the notion that Pax Sinica -- the Chinese World Order, a system that cares nothing for democracy, the rule of law or human rights -- will emerge as the new norm? Hong Kong could be a harbinger of things to come.

But simply giving up would be a serious mistake. Even those who cannot issue demands command can still engage in promotion. They can still appeal to China's sanity. Things have become too silent in the West in the face of what is happening in Hong Kong. The West may no longer be the guarantor of Western values in the 21st century. But it can be an advocate.