Could East Germany Help Us Understand Hong Kong’s Future? | Nathan Wilson
In recent years it has been noted that America’s and China’s relationship is slowly becoming akin to that of a Second Cold War, with both economic great powers vying to compete against each other in being the world hegemonic power. What is unusual is the similarities between the first Cold War and now this imminent Second Cold War.
We often see unusual trends throughout history with similar events and archetypical figures emerging after time. We see variations of familiar events; one such is that of East Asia, which is slowly starting to look more and more like parts of Europe during the Cold War.
In a recent Federalist article, it was noted that there exists a disconcertingly parallel with Germany (East Germany specifically) during the early parts of the Cold War. This was when Germans could still travel between both parts of Berlin and before the Berlin Wall was erected; when the Berlin Wall was put up, however, it separated generations of Germans from effectively the outside world. The point to be made is that Hong Kong is slowly starting to look like our archetypical East Germany and East Berlin. The follow up to this article will explore Taiwan’s and West Germany’s similarities.
Such ideas have been recently espoused by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, over the arrest of twelve Pro-Democracy activists in Hong Kong. This comparison with Hong Kong becoming East Berlin is very appropriate when considering governmental clampdowns coming from new security laws. Such actions when examined could be argued represent Beijing becoming more hard line and an end to its ‘era of restraint’. Such an end to this era could place Hong Kong firmly under the thumb of Beijing, similarly to that of East Germany under Moscow’s sphere of influence during the late 1940’s.
What remains unclear is what’s Hong Kong’s place within this Second Cold War, if it is this new East Germany. It has been worried that it has been the actions of Hong Kong (specifically that of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive) that have been the spark that has started the fire. The accumulation of this fear of a second Cold War having been triggered by Hong Kong remains vital in our understanding of East Germany and the Second Cold War at large. As further Pro-Democracy activists and politicians seek asylum abroad, those that remain face severe jail time. What is uncertain is if Hong Kong will ‘hidden’ behind its own invisible ‘Berlin Wall’ or will remain outspoken against Beijing and China at large. It may remain too soon to say what will happen to Hong Kong and what its future holds, but if it is in its ‘late 1940’s’ period, we could just be seeing the start of erecting of its own ‘Berlin Wall’. This wall being in the form of both the ‘Great Firewall’ being electronic and being the an ‘immigration wall’, that is starting to close.
What is certain is that Hong Kong has become the first visible victim of the Second Cold War, in the eyes of the world media. This is due to the region’s loss of economic activity (as a result of the Hong Kong Protests, US-China Trade War and Beijing’s clampdown through new security laws), but also the region losing its own unique soul and spirit. Many Hong Kong protesters having expressed great worry that the region will just become another Chinese city.
After all, could the history of East Germany become a vital blueprint in our understanding of Hong Kong’s future? I would argue, right now it remains uncertain but if Beijing continues its policies and actions against both Hong Kong and America, then we may see this recurring trend repeat itself throughout the rest of the 2020’s. Which when we examine East Germany does not bode well for the rest of Hong Kong.