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Chinese unrest is serious … but not game changing

Chinese unrest is serious … but not game changing

I first visited China in 1999 – and traveled there with employees, clients, and family two or three times a year until I switched from my consulting business to my writings in 2012. 

It was arguably the best of times to be in China for business and pleasure.  It was that sweet spot between the dark days of Chairman Mao Zedong and the current twilight era of President Xi Jinping.

I saw first-hand how the people of China embraced newfound freedoms as the old Communist regulations started to ease.  (I did not say ended but STARTED to ease.)

Seeing the growing unrest in authoritarian nations, I am inclined to borrow President Lincoln’s mantra.  You can oppress some of the people all the time … all the people some of the time … but not all the people all the time.  That seems to be playing out among the most oppressive and brutal authoritarian regimes –specifically China, Russia, Iran, and Venezuela.

The most significant major exception seems to be North Korea – where Kim Jong-un has been able to keep the lid on public discontent.  Perhaps that is because the people of North Korea have never had a taste of freedom.  And also, because North Korea remains a closed society without the Internet and international communications.

The others mentioned above have had a taste of freedom.  They are less isolated – with the average person being able to send and receive communications to and from the rest of the world.  Many have traveled outside their homeland – and interacted with visitors from all parts of the world.  Western business and tourism were growth industries.

Hong Kong still has the memory of the freedoms and benefits of British rule.  Beijing promised to maintain HK’s unique democratic freedoms under its One Nation/Two Systems policy.  Xi has essentially ended that policy in response to the recent demonstrations in the island province.

Not since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, has there been such a level of civil unrest in the Middle Kingdom.  Ostensibly, it is a response to the restrictive policies of the Chinese government in response to Covid 19 and its offspring.

Ironically, as the world is seeing the Covid Pandemic state that started in China in the rearview mirror, the Beijing government is imposing the most Draconian restriction in the world.  The people of China are figuratively – and in many cases, literally – under house arrest.  Many have been sealed in their apartment buildings by fencing and sealed doors.  Residents are even prevented from going to grocery stores or doctors’ offices.  Others have security guards preventing residents from leaving.  There are virtually no social events.

And if you do contract Covid, you will be taken to a quarantine facility – and your family may be confined to their homes.  Where there is a breakout, an entire section of the city may be locked down.

That is pretty bad – but the Pandemic and the government’s reaction are not the only issues driving the street protests.  They are only the wick that lit the powder keg.  The issues run much deeper.  We can see that because relaxing the restrictions is not the only demand.  They want to end China’s surveillance policies … government censorship … government surveillance …  “education” campaigns … and restore a wide range of personal freedoms.

Before President Xi, the people saw the benefits of capitalism and free market trade.  They felt relief as old Mao Zedong’s oppressive practices were lifted and the Bamboo Curtain was eliminated – providing a free flow of information between the people of China and the rest of the world.   

That all changed when Xi came to power.  Even though his father and family were victims of Mao’s deadly Cultural Revolution, Xi was not driven to reform, but to be the man in charge of the oppression.

While the demonstrations in China are unprecedented, one should not underestimate the power of a brutal authoritarian ruler to oppress the people.  To change that would take a revolution, and China is nowhere near that stage – unfortunately.

So. There ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Micala

    No one saw our American Revolution coming either, but it came and the North and South fought long and hard until the Confederates were defeated and the Union and President Abraham Lincoln won. That was a War that changed the American Negroes lives from slave to free men/women! Kind of the same dynamic happening in the Asian, Russian. Iran, etc countries all led by Dictators. Rioting against oppression — demanding freedom of choice!

    If the Asian people, no matter what Country (except North Korea), have experienced some FREEDOMS from their dictators, that “taste” could be all they need to have a Revolution of their own! Once a people has experienced the cool sweet taste of making their own decisions, the next step is to FIGHT those who want to enslave them!

    I see this coming because our World has changed where the old mores and morals, defined by governments, are no longer driving forces for the people. The dictators of our world are being slowly removed so their people can be free. But a Country without a strong freedom Leader will only crumble and fall back into the hands of another dictator!

    AND our American Federal Government can’t help because Biden is incompetent and senile, incapable of running our own country! So who can those rioting people turn to for guidance?? You tell me.

    Hopefully those Asian (and Russian, Iranian, etc.) Countries can form new governments that can go forward and strengthen our World Leadership! Much must happen before this can occur! But for the sake of many people trying to survive under a power hungry dictator, hopefully their path will be clear to overthrow that person and their lives changed for the good! God Speed to them all!!

  2. frank stetson

    I was there a little before you in 97 as the Chinese came into Hong Kong although I never left the city. Returned a couple of times; maybe we had a drink at the JW Marriot? Great times, great people, but Hong Kong a very different China. I was more a Tokyo guy and that’s like oil n water with China. I just love it there.

    I first visited Japan in the mid 80’s as a consultant to various manufacturers as they entered the United States with their products. They were a nation that gets a sense of identity through social groupings and are tough but polite and quiet in all communications with what seems a very realistic approach to things. I would say great to work with, however, they work hard, really hard. Together they are a team, almost military in their approach — the lead guy rules. This was the time America was copying the Japanese open office. There, they would slam six desks together to form a pod with a seventh at the head, for the pod leader. Three phones in the middle which, when ringing, would look like a fumble recovery in the NFL with players diving to grab the thing before the end of the first ring. Frankly, I thought this was going to be tough.

    Once away from the group, our friends showed us humor, family, you know —- “normal” stuff and my goodness, they were quite funny. Once, right after a hard meeting, we’re in the hotel bar, the leaders have left, and they give me a porcelain statue of basically a pudgy Japanese Coppertone guy with his drawers being yanked on by a puppy, fit me quite closely :>). As I expressed my gratitude, with a very serious tone, I heard, ‘but be careful at customs, that’s where we put the drugs.” I did not know how to respond, a dumb shit eating grin as they totally broke up at that. Very funny. Really it was.

    But in the mid 80’s, Japanese TV was showing public info commercials condemning the evils of Doritos. Now the Japanese were putting in 80 hour weeks, making plenty of money, but I knew —– they would be breaking some of this down though the power of purchase —- once you have a Dorito, overtime seems less important!

    TIs the way in many authoritarian states that move forward into the industrial age. First you got squat, then you become the low cost factory to the world, then you work hard —- make more money, and soon you want some time off to enjoy it. Freedom and liberty become much more important then. All due to the Dorito! My simple explanation of why South Korea, China, all took the factory mantle from Japan and soon they will move ahead of the industrial age and other low cost countries will be found.

    That’s one reason I say let the factories go, at least for the ez stuff, we need to move well beyond the industrial age and create the next generation economy built on innovation and creativity for new things. Education will be key, but also a retooling of much to be able to compete and win with that economy where we innovate, we create and someone else turns the screw to produce.

    Just saying that Chinese unrest is a step in that process of economic maturation.

    • Joe Gilbertson

      I had always thought that China was a race between the evil communists and the ebullient capitalists and one or the other would win. I was rooting for the capitalists…

      But Xi is now the permanent totalitarian dictator, and he has been using it to suck money from the productive capitalists to use against America, using spies and monopoly techniques.

      I hope you are correct, that factories will start to move to other countries.

      Frank, I know we give you a hard time most of the time, but your analysis and background in this case was fascinating.

      • frank stetson

        It’s as much human nature NOT to be under the yok as it is to want liberty and freedom.

        So how do you play Trump’s call to overturn the Constitution? Think 1/6/2021 was just some tourist gone wild? Sure seems like the idea is on his mind at least. Still in the rowboat? Still pullin on them oars in the same direction?

        • Joe Gilbertson

          I might write something about this. If the election was un-Constitutional, then extra-Constitutional remedies might be in order. Not sure it matters, since we have the result that we have.

          • Bibfy

            Good luck with that….

            You can’t even prove The Big Lie much less widespread harvesting or even harvesting in FL.

            I commend your loyalty; like a junk yard dog the way you cling onto Trimp. 😉

            Guilty, guilty, guilty—-seven times.

  3. Boston

    Open season