Defects in Western political system are on display: China Daily columnist

By Zhou Bajun

China Daily/Asia News Network

The profound and full-scale readjustment of the global economic, financial and political situation made significant headway in 2016.

Looking back, it was the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US that set the wheels rolling, so to speak.

But, because they were terrorist attacks that had no direct connection to the economy and finance or had much effect on politics, people did not realise the global economic, financial and political situation was undergoing a profound and full-scale readjustment until a "financial crisis of the century" broke out in the US in 2008.

This triggered a worldwide economic recession the next year, while emerging economies like China and India rose to the occasion.

Another year of significance to remember is 2014, when the world was rocked by a number of major geopolitical events, from Europe (the split of Ukraine) to the Middle East (the rise of ISIS).

This year, the destabilising trend continued, with the United Kingdom blindsided by Brexit in a referendum and the US emotionally torn by Donald Trump's victory in the presidential election.

Those two events highlighted the crumbling liberalist international order dictated by the West and an unprecedented crisis for the Western political system.

There have been in the Western press many analyses of the crumbling liberalist international order dictated by the West and the unprecedented crisis of the Western political system, but the so-called mainstream media in Hong Kong has paid scant attention to such insights.

The world had never heard of Hong Kong, an obscure village on an island off the Guangdong coast up until 1841 that has since developed into an international financial, trade and shipping center completely under the liberal international order dictated by the West.

Only 7,500 residents were counted there in May 1841, but the population grew to 6.5 million by June 30, 1997.

For generations Hong Kong residents, the great majority of them Chinese, were influenced by Western ideology and many of them still worship the liberal international order dictated by the West and seek to adopt the Western political system today.

It is safe to believe not many people are confident that "self-determination" or "Hong Kong independence" can succeed here, but far more people are sympathetic to those separatist tendencies simply because they share the same ideological upbringing that gave them the faith in the liberal international order dictated by the West and the Western political system.

This blind faith in turn has bred separatist tendencies such as "self-determination" and "Hong Kong independence".

Therefore, the best way to effectively prevent separatism from spreading in Hong Kong is to guide and help local residents understand the world is changing and the liberal international order dictated by the West is crumbling, while the Western political system is struggling in the death grip of an unprecedented crisis.

Britain is considered the cradle of Western parliamentary democracy, while the US is widely seen as the zenith of the Western political system ­- so much so that many Americans and numerous people in other countries regard the US as the beacon of freedom and democracy that points the way into the future.

However, when a simple majority of British citizens voted in favour of Brexit earlier this year despite the common desire by both the Labour and Conservative parties to stay in the European Union, the rest of the world was treated to a rude awakening and left to wonder: Is a "rebellion" afoot under the Western political system?

By the same token, when US voters hand Donald Trump a shocking victory against all odds there is little doubt the Western political system as we know it is in an unprecedented crisis.

Facing the undeniable reality one of noted Hong Kong scholars known for their opposition-friendly views has decided to speak the truth.

On Nov 21, Ma Ngok, an associate professor with the Department of Government and Public Administration of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, published an article under the headline "Western democracy in crisis", in which he admitted that many found it very hard to accept Trump as the next US president even after he won the presidential election.

The country widely regarded as the greatest democracy in the free world chose a man who openly embraced ideas that run counter to the spirit of freedom and democracy.

This phenomenon shows that today's Western democracies are in a profound crisis, which is not just due to Trump winning the presidential election but also the fact that the political elites of Western democracies have failed to cope with fast-changing voter culture, while the democratic system has failed to live up to people's expectations.

Ma concludes in the article: "Brexit, Trump's win and the resurgence of the right wing in many Western countries are all signs of a looming crisis, which will bring waves of political change that run counter to the logic of the democratic system, I am afraid."

It's a pity he stopped short of explaining what this "crisis of Western democracy" means to Hong Kong, considering many opposition-friendly scholars like him joined the chorus of "true democracy" and "genuine universal suffrage" while seeking to duplicate Western democracy in Hong Kong.

How could they justify inflicting a growing crisis upon Hong Kong society?

* The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.