Virtue Signaling Is Not a Solution for Hong Kong
As tensions escalate in Hong Kong, including the amassing of Chinese troops on the border, the matter is entering a precarious state. Will the Chinese repeat the atrocities we saw at Tiananmen Square? Will they back down?
I think the latter is highly unlikely given that tyrannical dictatorships rely on never backing down to keep their grip on power. This means the situation is incredibly volatile and inflaming matters could actually lead to a lot of bloodshed while accomplishing absolutely nothing.
Despite these unfortunate realities, some conservatives of a certain segment have decided this is an issue that the United States must immediately involve itself in, including an official condemnation of China.
When Donald Trump didn’t immediately do so, that led to tweets like these demanding he make an overt, combative stand.
Stand with the protestors, Mr. President. It’s not hard. Some are carrying American flags. https://t.co/U5JXz5JumO
— David French (@DavidAFrench) August 13, 2019
By all means, let’s encourage people we can’t help. Hungary 1956 and Tiananmen worked swimmingly
— streiff (@streiffredstate) August 13, 2019
The response by my colleague streiff is dead on (read his full thoughts on the matter here).
Virtue signaling is not a solution in Hong Kong anymore than it was a solution in Venezuela. Those demanding strong words should also be ready to offer actions we can take to help protect the protestors. If those actions don’t exist, then demanding Donald Trump inflame tensions, which will inevitably lead to people dying, is irresponsible. It’s emotionalism that ignores the unintended consequences, something conservatives aren’t supposed to fall prey to.
The lack of articulation of a real strategy and end game, along with putting thought into the possibly we could make things worse, is my problem with all this. Take this response from Noah Rothman.
This is like a parody of what anonymous 100-follower Twitter accounts bark at columnists who advocate democracy promotion. All that’s missing is “neocon paymasters.” https://t.co/PmQwEzqynT
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) August 14, 2019
While the snark is real, Ross’ question is largely left unanswered by Rothman, who’s record on foreign policy positions isn’t exactly stellar. We can all agree that we shouldn’t invade Hong Kong. I don’t believe Noah thinks that either. Ok, there’s the common ground. Now what?
What is “democracy promotion?” How does that actually work? Does Noah support sanctions? Cutting off trade relations? If not, does it matter to Noah that a lot of people could end up dead so he can feel good on Twitter? I’m sure it does matter to him, but he doesn’t seem to be taking it into account.
These are all questions that need to be answered. We are constantly reminded by our blue checkmark conservative betters that words matter and have consequences. Right, and that’s true in this case as well. Any inciting statement by the President can be used by the Chinese to assert foreign influence and justify violent action.
As I’ve said many times, I find the conservative smart set’s positions on China to be completely contradictory and inconsistent. About five minutes ago, they were telling us how dangerous it is to pick a fight with China and asserting that free trade with the communists is absolutely vital. It didn’t matter that China was recently exposed for running concentration camps, suppressing dissent, and stealing intellectual property, never mind their historical evils. Those were all actions worth looking the other way on because they sell us cheap stuff.
Now, seemingly overnight, they’ve found their moral center when it comes to dealing with the Chinese? Forgive my skepticism. If you think we should take a stand against China today, you should have thought that a year ago instead of writing breathless editorials complaining about jeopardizing trade relations with China. China didn’t become a bad actor in just the last few weeks. They’ve been one their entire existence and the moral case against doing business with them existed prior to the Hong Kong protests. We could go all the way back to the Nixon era and game out that it was probably a mistake to ever normalize relations with China because it has allowed them to grow into the power they are today.
The hard truth is that there is probably no good outcome in Hong Kong. The Chinese are not going to back down and the violence against the protestors is growing. I’m failing to see any situation where idle words will do anything but further inflame matters and get people killed. Virtue signaling is not a solution in Hong Kong and conservatives shouldn’t pretend it is.
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