*1:Social networks and cybertools are making inefficient authoritarian regimes more frail, because the people now have more tools to communicate and take on the state. See: Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Russia. But they’re making efficient authoritarians even more efficient. See: China. And they are making democracies ungovernable, because they not only facilitate the “end of truth” but also “the end of compromise.” See: America, Brexit and Hong Kong.
To compromise means, at a maximum, to forge new common ground, to find areas of overlap, where opposing sides can stand together and, at a minimum, each side takes a little less of what it wants in order to just coexist. But both are becoming harder under the intense pressure of online-enabled extremists.
As my Times colleague Keith Bradsher has noted, the last time major street protests in Hong Kong broke out was in September 2014 — ironically after an Aug. 31, 2014, decision, approved by Beijing, to give the people of Hong Kong more say in how they chose their leaders.
At that time (and still today), a 1,200-member electoral committee, stacked with Beijing loyalists and more conservative farmers, businessmen and fishermen, chose the city’s chief executive. Beijing proposed on Aug. 31, 2014, to shrink that committee’s power to only choosing the candidates who could run — so no one overtly hostile to Beijing could take office — but then allowing all Hong Kongers to vote on the candidates.
It was not an awful compromise because even if Beijing controlled what names would be on the ballot, whoever would win the voting would likely be candidates who promised Hong Kongers the most democracy. In the current system, the winner of the most votes among the chosen 1,200 electors is often whoever makes the most promises to Beijing to twist the arms of Beijing’s friends in Hong Kong.
The compromise was rejected by the street in 2014 and it set off a two-month occupation of several Hong Kong neighborhoods, known as the “Umbrella Movement.” It demanded a “one man, one vote” system, with no obstacles on who could run — the only way to truly protect Hong Kong’s unique democratic identity.
I have huge admiration for the courage of Hong Kongers to defend their city’s unique character. But my head says that “perfect” is rarely on the menu and that better is good when facing an overwhelming power like Beijing. Imagine that the Aug. 31, 2014, compromise had been accepted. Mainland Chinese would be watching Hong Kongers vote directly for their leaders — albeit from a limited list — compared with mainlanders who can’t do even that.
“By insisting on all or nothing, the pan-democrats squandered a good opportunity to bring Hong Kong closer to the ‘true democracy’ to which they rightfully aspire,” observed the Hong Kong investor and writer Weijian Shan, the author of “Out of the Gobi, My Story of China and America.”
Had Hong Kongers accepted the Aug. 31, 2014, offer of limited universal suffrage they’d be in a much stronger position today to demand the full deal. Now it’s unclear if Beijing or its Hong Kong allies will offer even this limited universal suffrage — or if this democracy movement could compromise on it.
So, when the tear gas smoke clears, two huge questions will still linger. Is “better” — the 2014 compromise — still on the table? And, if it is, is there a protest leadership that can say yes to it and make it stick?
*2:Watching the Hong Kong protests is exhilarating in a world where democracy often seems in retreat and autocrats are on the rise. But I had a nagging fear, too. This idealistic, largely leaderless protest reminds me of the early days of the Arab Spring. That worries me. Without strong leadership, this movement could have a similar unhappy ending.
上舉這些與日常生活息息相關的例子，說明唯在非民主國家的好大喜功領導人，才會為GDP增長訂下目標，而為達目標，什麼可以促進GDP增長的事都會「上馬」。內地多處無人煙的「鬼城」，便是為GDP達標而建；佐治．梅遜大學經濟學教授S. Sumner在近作〈Land of Bridges and Tunnels〉指出全球有一百座「高橋」，而貧瘠的貴州便佔其中的四成即四十座……。「鬼城」和「高橋」的興建，令GDP符合領導人的「預期」，但這對人民的物質生活有何助益？那解釋了何以在受「無形之手」指引的國度，不會出現「打砸燒毀財物」以促進GDP增長的原因！
It is rare for James Bond to pass up a martini. But on a visit to Japan in 1967, in “You Only Live Twice”, he opts for sake—served at 98.4°F (36.9°C). “For a European, you are exceptionally cultivated,” enthuses Tiger Tanaka, a Japanese spymaster. Mr Tanaka is a suave, Suntory-sipping spook who runs a ninja school in a remote castle, and helps Mr Bond storm the bad guy’s volcano lair.