By Hillsdale College August 16, 2019
HUGH HEWITT: Morning glory, America. I’m Hugh Hewitt in TheReliefFactor.com studio. That music means it’s the last radio hour of the week for me. And that usually means Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, joins me as he usually does most Fridays. Sometimes, Dr. Matthew Spalding of the Kirby Center, the lighthouse of reason in Washington, DC, does. But the lantern of the north is where we find Dr. Larry Arnn this week. He’s up in Hillsdale, Michigan.
All things Hillsdale are found at Hillsdale.edu. That includes their wonderful online courses. All of our Hillsdale Dialogues dating back to 2013 are found at HughforHillsdale.com. You can binge-listen, beginning with Homer up to the present day. Sometimes, we do current events. Often, we go back in history. Today with Dr. Arnn, we’re going to go back in history. Dr. Arnn, good morning to you. How are you, sir?
LARRY ARNN: I’m very well. How are you doing?
HEWITT: Good. You know, I was reading the British newspapers this morning. And this was by way of introduction to our topic of China, Hong Kong, and India. The rump of Tory Remainers, who are aligning themselves with Jeremy Corbyn and the Liberal Democrats to defeat Brexit, the vote of the British people, reminds me of the reading I did on the Reform Act of 1832. The Tories at that time blocked reform that had passed in the House of Lords. And the King—William—had to create new peers. I guess, every 200 years, the commons or the representatives of the people don’t want to do what the people want to do.
ARNN: That’s right. The same thing happened in, what, 1911—1909 to 1911—when there was a crisis over in the House of Lords. But this is—it’s a very hard thing to get done. The pressures are enormous. And, so far, there’s not enough unity in the government to sustain it. And I don’t know. Boris Johnson is very determined. So we’ll see how it plays out.
But it is a disaster. And, you know, the Remainers who are joining Labor—they were in the cabinet—or they were in the Conservative Party when the referendum happened. They were part of a Parliament that voted for that to happen. And so they’re implicated in the thing. And they didn’t get the result they wanted, so they’re going to do something else.
HEWITT: And Boris Johnson has threatened to prorogue the Parliament, which means send them home and have an election. He is riding high in the polls, because he has brought clarity. And I actually am beginning to think clarity is the thing that is prized. People call it “authenticity.” It’s not authenticity. It’s actually just, say what you mean and mean what you say.
ARNN: Yeah, it’s not true that the worst policy is better than no policy, but almost any bad policy is better than no policy.
ARNN: And they haven’t had a policy. The Tories asked the people for a vote. And they gave the vote. And so they haven’t been clear until Boris ascended to the premiership what they were going to do. And why? Because it was always contingent on what they could get Europe to do.
And so the very thing that was voted down by the people—you know, it was a tight election. But I think it was four points, 52-48.
ARNN: The very thing they voted, which is Europe is not going to tell us what to do—that’s what’s been happening.
HEWITT: And I want to go back even a little bit further, because people forget the origin of this. David Cameron was then the prime minister of Great Britain in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who are to the left of the Tories but to the right of Labor.
And he went to the people on election. And he said, I will give you a referendum. And I will abide by the ref—he promised it. And, surprisingly, he won a majority. And then he was obliged to deliver the referendum, which he campaigned against.
And, being a man of principle—since he campaigned against it, when he lost, and the people voted for it, he quit. But they ought not to have put Theresa May in, who also campaigned against it. They should have put in a Brexiteer like Gove or Boris Johnson then. So we’ve just been in three years of suspended animation.
ARNN: Yeah, and see, that’s those divisions that are—it’s a very narrow Parliament. And, to go back, the election that Cameron won, in which he promised the referendum—he won a big majority. He won a comfortable single-party majority.
And then the referendum went the way it did. He resigned in good grace and retired from Parliament. I think he’s still an MP. I don’t really know. And then they did put Theresa May in. And that was the—you know, those were the Remainers in the party voting for somebody who was a Remainer. But she did campaign and announce that she was going to get us out. We’re going to leave. Britain is going to leave.
Then she called an election along the way. And it was a wishy-washy election. And she didn’t have a strong, clear policy. And her majority was gone, because she’s in a coalition right now. And so the Tories have hurt themselves. And, in general—you can blame the Tories all you want to—this is a very fundamental thing. This is a huge problem.
They have been in the European Union now for two generations, and it’s deeply insinuated into British society. And it changes the manners and habits, as the very eloquent former attorney general, who is a Leaver in the May government, said. Geoffrey Cox is his name. He said, you know, We’re going to recover our nationality, which means we’ve partially lost it.
And there are a lot of people in Britain who don’t think of themselves as British anymore. They think of themselves as European. I met a couple of them when I was over there this summer and had long talks with a couple of young men, who were working on a film crew we had over there.
And they were bright. And they were attractive, fine young men. It was a lot of fun to talk with them. And their idea was that we’re Europeans now. And so it’s a very divided country. And God bless them as they try to get out of this mess.
HEWITT: Amen. Now, there have been messes before. I mentioned the Reform Act in 1832. There was a moment in time in 1997 when the British government had to decide whether to fight for Hong Kong or to negotiate on behalf of Hong Kong a deal with the People’s Republic of China, because Britain didn’t annex Hong Kong when they took over Hong Kong. They leased it. Tell people about the run up to 1997.
ARNN: Well, it goes way back to 1896 when they made this lease. And the lease concerns three places—an island and then two spots on the mainland opposite the island. And one is called Kowloon, and that’s the closest to the island. And then the other goes back a way into the New Territories—it’s called. So it’s Kowloon, Hong Kong Island, and the New Territories is what’s at issue.
And China began to grow when it began to liberalize. And one of the first places it began to liberalize was an area just over the border from Hong Kong, where China is a huge economic power now and trades heavily through Hong Kong. So the places get economically integrated.
And so Margaret Thatcher goes over there. And bless the woman. She’s the greatest I ever saw. And I did know her pretty well for a long time.
But she did have a policy. And her policy was, I’m not going to get involved in imperial tanglements. I’ve always thought that the Falklands War, a glory to her—if the Argentine generals had negotiated with her, she probably would have made a deal with them, like the deal that she made in Hong Kong, which I’ll describe in a second, where it guaranteed the rights and the democracy of the people of the Falklands.
But they didn’t do that. They wanted to thump their chest and have a military thing. And so she had no choice. And she went down there and whacked them—with our help, by the way.
So, in Hong Kong, she decided that, in 1984—and remember what the scene was in 1984. Ronald Reagan was president of the United States. And Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were in close cooperation. And Gorbachev was running the Soviet Union. And they were negotiating, right? Those were exciting days and happy days, I think, as these things go.
And she goes over to Hong Kong. And she sits down with the Chinese and says, You know, it’s 13 years until it’s up. And what are we going to do? And she negotiates a deal with them that Hong Kong would revert to Chinese control and that—and you know, it would have been very hard for her to do anything else, by the way.
And she got these concessions. Hong Kong would keep its way of life. Hong Kong would have its own democratic procedures. It would have—what is it called? It’s called wide autonomy in all things except foreign policy. And so then, there’s a—now there’s twelve years, I think it is, until the handover.
And I will tell you, my wife’s brother was running the Hong Kong office of a London law firm. And I had reason to go to Korea. So I stopped in Hong Kong to see him for his first time I was ever there. And I arrived there two days after Margaret Thatcher left. And the city was placarded in posters—black-and-white posters, all the same.
And I got somebody to translate for me. They were calling for a bill of rights. Margaret Thatcher had just left. And there was a campaign to get a bill of rights for the people of Hong Kong.
HEWITT: When we come back from break—this is the history you never hear about the demonstrations in Hong Kong. Why are they demonstrating? Because Margaret Thatcher delivered a deal for them that made guarantees from the PRC, guarantees which are in danger of being eclipsed. Dr. Larry Arnn and the Hillsdale Dialogue return. Stay tuned.
Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt from TheReliefFactor.com studio. The Hillsdale Dialogue is underway. My guest, Dr. Larry Arnn, and I are talking about Hong Kong—the roots of the current disturbance. Dr. Arnn, we went over it very quickly—the fact that Britain leased Hong Kong from China in the 1890s.
The fetching Mrs. Hewitt’s grandfather Admiral Joseph Taussig was wounded in the Boxer Rebellion. He went there after the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1899 and was part of that relief expedition—got shot in the leg.
So there was a lot of unrest in China. And the United States was involved in it. And Great Britain was involved in it, because the empire was falling apart. And that lease was part of the settlement in the 1890s that was part of the transition to a less tumultuous time.
ARNN: Yeah. China has been a mess for a long time. And you unite it with the highest body count, probably, in the twentieth century, and that’s saying something—under Communism with Mao. And that itself, by the way, was a product of the fact that the Japanese—Chiang Kai-shek’s support was mainly in the south of China. And Mao’s support was mainly in the north. And the Japanese occupied the south. And so he was driven away from his base.
And that’s why the Chinese Civil War that attended upon the Second World War—one of the reasons the Communists won. And then, of course, the very stern rule by them for a long time culminating in the ‘60s with the Cultural Revolution and the Red Guard—is that what they were called?
ARNN: And they killed a lot of people. And so China has been through all that. And it emerged from all that, especially under Deng Xiaoping, who set up these special economic zones that have spread across China and made it a prosperous country—relatively much more prosperous than they used to be—and the second largest economy in the world.
And all of those things got in train one way and another from—in the twentieth century, after this 1896 treaty. And so, Margaret Thatcher made this arrangement with China in 1984. And I think she didn’t have much choice. But the arrangement is pretty good. It says that the laws will be basically unchanged.
And it guarantees some things that are just the things—rights of speech, assembly, press, association, travel, movement, correspondence, strike, occupation, academic research, religious belief. Those are all written into that agreement with Britain—private property, ownership of enterprises. All of that’s guaranteed.
HEWITT: A separate legal system.
ARNN: That’s right. And the laws will be basically unchanged is the quote, right? Now, I will—and after the handover—and I’ve lived a weird life. So, it so happened I took a group of people to watch the handover. I was in Hong Kong Harbor.
HEWITT: Wasn’t Bruce Hershenson with you?
ARNN: He did. He did. That’s right. And, you know, it was fun. And we met with a great democratic leader, who arose named Martin Lee, who was the head of the Legislative Council. And he and his colleagues have waged—and he’s retired now. But they’ve waged a long fight to keep Hong Kong’s freedoms intact and its independence intact.
And in recent years—so in 2017, for example—China said that the 1984 declaration was only a historical document, and that the UK has no sovereignty and no power in Hong Kong. It’s China’s now. And they can do what they want. That’s their explicit position.
Boris Johnson was the foreign minister when this was said. And Boris Johnson restated the validity of the document in Britain’s commitment to Hong Kong. Britain is very interested in this, because a long time in—you know, you should—about British rule in Hong Kong—if you ever watch that really great series, which you can get still by Milton Friedman, called Free to Choose, a fair amount of it is about Hong Kong.
HEWITT: And if you ever read James Clavell’s Tai-Pan or his Noble House, you’ll get the understanding—the British way was really the Hong Kong way.
ARNN: That’s right. And, you know, it thrived. Taxes were very low. They mostly got money to run the government by filling in bits of the harbor and selling the land, which became increasingly valuable.
HEWITT: We will come back and pick up the story there. The Hillsdale Dialogue underway. All things Hillsdale found at Hillsdale.edu. My guest, Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College—get your application. Get to Hillsdale. Get back here.
Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt. The Hillsdale Dialogue is the last radio hour of the week. All things Hillsdale are found at Hillsdale.edu. You ought to go there today. And, if you’re in Washington, DC, Hillsdale is going to be offering you a unique opportunity to get a graduate degree. So you got to go over to Hillsdale.edu and check that out.
The fact is it will be an education inside the Beltway that is available nowhere else, nothing like it. And it’s a graduate degree. And I believe it’s going to open pretty soon. Or am I blowing the soft launch here, Larry Arnn?
ARNN: You’re blowing the soft launch.
HEWITT: Oh, OK. Sorry.
ARNN: The soft launch is in two weeks.
HEWITT: I didn’t say that.
ARNN: Yeah, yeah, there you go.
HEWITT: I didn’t say that. But all other things are at Hillsdale.edu, Hillsdale.edu.
Dr. Arnn, we were talking about Hong Kong. In 1997, the agreement that Maggie Thatcher negotiated in 1984 took effect. And you were there to see the handover. And how’s it gone in the 17 years since?
ARNN: Up and down. Substantially, Hong Kong is what it was. You know, the Chinese are very intelligent. They’re very excellent in their tyranny. And so, one of the things they did was they reformed the Legislative Council, because it was producing huge majorities to resist any Chinese intrusion into Hong Kong government.
And so now it’s sort of like a Hegelian thing. Big companies get to appoint somebody, and unions get to appoint somebody. And there’s some popular vote, too. And it just means, basically, that the Democratic Party of Martin Lee—founded by Martin Lee—can’t really win an all-out majority anymore.
And the recent—and so there have been erosions. But there’s not been a major change of the direction or administration of Hong Kong. Now, in ‘84, there were—no, sorry, in 2014, there were major protests for weeks. And that was because of a proposal that would give China more control over things.
And then, in these recent—what they come from is a big thing, right? The Chinese want to be able to—people who are arrested and accused of crimes could be taken and tried in China. And the courts are not independent there, right? They’re party courts. And the Chinese have many methods of control. If you’re a Chinese corporation, of any size, you’ve got party officials stationed in your headquarters all the time. And they watch everything.
And so, yesterday, the president of Cathay Pacific resigned. That’s a really great airline, if you ever fly on it. And it does huge business between mainland China and the world, including Hong Kong. And so, the chairman of Cathay Pacific made the mistake of announcing that we’re not going to try to tell our employees what to do, what to think. And if they want to join these protests peacefully, what’s that to us?
And so, that turned around in about 48 hours. And the top two executives were—they resigned, because they’d made a mistake and shouldn’t have said that. And so, now, the employees of Cathay Pacific are discouraged—I think maybe even threatened termination for this.
And so China is putting the pressure on. And—but the proposal is if you’re going to be—one of the items in the Declaration of Independence against Britain is they were arresting Americans and taking them to London for trial, where they didn’t know anybody. They couldn’t be really tried by a jury of their peers, because they were foreigners, effectively. And so that’s one of the complaints, right? And if you get moved over to the Chinese courts, well, then, you’re in the Chinese courts.
HEWITT: You know, I had it explained to me by an expat—Chinese-American, very loyal American. Said this extradition law grew out of the crime of murder that was committed on Taiwan. And the perpetrator fled back to Hong Kong, and he could not be extradited to Taiwan. And they had no provision for charging someone with murder in Taiwan.
So they passed a law for one person. And as is always the case, when you pass a law for one person—that’s why it’s called—that’s why the United States Constitution prohibits them, right? We don’t have laws that are intended to punish individual people. It always blows up in your hands, because it always ricochets around.
So the Chinese are in an untenable position, although it seems to me, Larry, that if they were to repudiate the extradition law and fire Carrie Lam, they would revert to the placid understanding of two systems, one country that they need if they’re ever going to get Taiwan to join the two systems, one country approach.
ARNN: Yeah. And I think sentiment in Taiwan is very much against that and has hardened against that over the years, and it’s because of things like this.
ARNN: And you’re right. It may just be awkwardness, right? If you try to run everything, you’ll end up—and see, it’s not representative, right? If the Hong Kong government had proposed this, then at least a lot of them can be voted out. And, in the old days, they could all be voted out.
But not now, right? And so what redress have they got? And that’s the situation. There’s apparently 22,000—what’s it called—People’s Armed Police.
HEWITT: PAP. Yup.
ARNN: And they were there gathered on the border of Hong Kong, mostly in a sports stadium—huge number of vehicles. And that body, that force, was formed after Tiananmen Square, because they figured out—don’t want to use the military. But, if you look at the vehicles that are parked, those are military vehicles. And so they’ve just formed an internal security force that’s kind of like a military.
HEWITT: And our friend, Senator Tom Cotton, has said two weeks in a row, if the People’s Republic of China dispatches the People’s Army Police to violently put down Hong Kong demonstrations, the damage to the relationship between the United States and the PRC will be as bad as it ought to have been after Tiananmen Square but was not. And it would be a complete break in relations with China. Senator Cotton’s sounding the alarm. Donald Trump—not so hard-nosed. I think he is trying to persuade President Xi to do the smart thing, which is nothing.
ARNN: Yeah, so there’s a really great journalist for The Wall Street Journal, who happens to be a graduate of Hillsdale College, who writes on Hong Kong. Her name is Jillian Melchior, M-E-L-C-H-I-O-R. And I give a shout-out to her. I helped her meet Martin Lee. And she covers Hong Kong. And she does it really well.
She’s been critical of Trump, and maybe more than is right. I’m not sure. But what Trump has done is said that Xi—he’s a great man. It’s a tweet, you know. He’s a great man. And if Xi would—Xi is a great man. And if he would sit down with the protesters, a humane solution could be quickly found.
And then he also assented that the trade negotiations are going to be tied to this. So he’s suggesting some force. And what do I think? I don’t know—the story is not told yet about what Donald Trump is going to do about this. It is a fact that it’s Chinese territory. And we don’t govern it. And we ought not to try, although it’s good for us to express our displeasure, including in our relations with China, in various ways.
So he’s being cautious about this. And that’s kind of like his foreign policy, right? He’s not quick to go try to do nation-building anywhere. And I think that’s right, actually. And, also, I think we should be tough with them in the economic things about Hong Kong, because they’re great trading partners of ours and of the world’s. And one’s heart goes out to them, because it is a tremendous thing. It’s one of the most prosperous places in the world.
HEWITT: Your graduate, Jillian Kay Melchior, has been repeatedly bylining pieces on the Church in China and the fact that China has a Christian awakening going on. They’ve got 58 million Protestants, millions of Catholics. And the government is suspicious of that.
And my argument is they ought not to be. Christians make great citizens. If you’re worried about stability—and that’s traditionally what Chinese central governments worry about is the fact that it’s a vast country with 1.3 billion people. And what do you do with this many people? You really want the Evangelical and the Roman Catholic Churches to prosper. They make good citizens, Larry Arnn. And I think Jillian has been trying to make that argument for a long time.
ARNN: She’s a remarkable young woman. And she—well, I’m not going to talk about her faith. But she just sees people—your relationship with God—that’s important. And you know, China has an official church. And it has often suppressed Christianity and other religious movements.
And you know, there was a big movement a few years ago called the house churches, where people would get together for Christian prayer groups in houses. And the Chinese police would break in and take them outside and break their legs in the street. So, you know, it’s a tough regime.
HEWITT: But not in Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s got the Alliance Bible Seminary. Hong Kong’s got the Hong Kong Baptist University. They’ve always had freedom of religion in Hong Kong.
ARNN: That’s right.
HEWITT: That’s one of the things that’s different from the mainland.
ARNN: You know, the British rule in Hong Kong was—you know, it was just—for the great majority of the time, it was just a runaway success. And there weren’t that many glitches.
And the people were free. And they got a chance to work. And if you—because I’m so old now. And I went there a long time ago. I saw Hong Kong. I’ve seen it half a dozen times or ten times.
And when you first went there, they were manufacturing in the new territories in Kowloon—a little bit on the island. And what they were making is plastic stuff. And you know how there used to be jokes about “made in China”? And it’s just not like that anymore.
HEWITT: Oh my gosh. What an economic engine when I was there. When we come back from break, we talk about the what-ifs. There were two ways they can go. They can go back towards freedom in Hong Kong. President Xi can order that. Or they can go to repression. We’ll talk about what happens when I return to Dr. Larry Arnn and the Hillsdale Dialogue.
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Welcome back, America. It’s Hugh Hewitt. The Hillsdale Dialogue is that time in the week when Dr. Larry Arnn and I, or some other representative Hillsdale College—all things Hillsdale at Hillsdale.edu—and you should sign up there for their wonderful courses; their free letter, Imprimis. It’s a speech digest that comes out monthly. Or you can watch their—listen to every dialogue I’ve had with Dr. Arnn and his colleagues at HughforHillsdale.com.
We’re talking about Hong Kong in a way that I think very few people do, giving you some historical background. Dr. Arnn, during the break I went and looked at the latest news. And you’re right. Cathay Pacific has been purged, probably by the Chinese authorities as a result of being insufficiently pro-government.
And a strategist by the name of David Roche predicts that these confrontations will, quote, “be settled or crushed before October 1,” the 70th anniversary of China’s National Day. And he says, “I don’t accept that this will be a small problem in a larger China economy. The reason I don’t is because I believe any intervention from Beijing to Hong Kong will be immediately umbilically linked to what happens to trade talks and international relations globally. Beijing has to weigh two things—the political and the economic cause.” What do you think happens after a crackdown if one comes and it is anything like Tiananmen Square, Larry Arnn?
ARNN: Well, that’s the problem that China has been balancing since it decided—China watched the fall of the Soviet Union. And they thought, Well, this ain’t working. So they figured out they’re going to have to liberalize. And so there’s extensive economic freedom in China. On the other hand, the press, and the internet, and even private blogs are censored carefully.
So it’s a police state where people are allowed to work. There’s heavy—anyway, it’s not a free country. But it’s much freer than it used to be. And it’s got a very productive, highly intelligent people in the main. And they’re an enormous—the chief asset of China is the Chinese people. And if you let them work, they’ll produce a lot.
Now, they set out with a purpose. When they did this, they set out to keep control and keep Communism—“with Chinese characteristics” is the old phrase.
ARNN: And so they’ve been trying to—they’ve been working that balance for a long time, because, in the end, what I think is they’re interested in power. And so, how do you get it? Well, you need people to work and produce, or you’ll get weak. That’s what caused the collapse of the Soviet Union. The system was so corrupt, and nobody worked anymore.
And, you know, people were pressed down and degraded. So they are trying. In a way, they’re riding the tiger. They’ve let this go. And they’re working on controlling it. And they use technology—very sophisticated way. You know, I read that the police are wearing glasses—intelligent glasses. And they recognize every face they pass.
And so they always know where everybody is or huge numbers of people are. That’s coming to the West, too, by the way. And they use that, right? And so, in China, you’ve got to watch it. You get a score now. And you can travel if you have a good score. And the good score is compliance.
So they’re trying to hang on, right? And that’s right. This thing is a problem. It’s an enormous advantage for them, because it’s one of the big financial centers of the world. And if you ever—there’s a place in Hong Kong called Victoria Peak. I’ll bet you went up there.
HEWITT: Yeah, I did.
ARNN: And you walk a circle around it. It takes about an hour. And you’re seeing the harbor all the way—you know, halfway around. And you’re seeing the islands off Hong Kong on the other side. It’s just gorgeous. And that harbor, when you get up above it, as you can in that one place—it’s one of the busiest harbors in the world. And it’s a tremendous place.
And so that’s a—you know, that’s a very impressive thing. And they need that. It helps them very greatly. And so yeah, there’s a lot of pressure in China.
You know, what they do—I mean, did you read the stories? Xi has been made leader for life. And there was a convention where that was done. And he gave a four—it’s a great Communist thing, right? He gave a four-hour speech.
And you know, it—and people were—“spontaneous burst of tears of joy.”
HEWITT: Yeah, that’s a little bit North Korea-like, isn’t it?
ARNN: Isn’t it, though? Yeah, it’s like, you know, the old Soviet Union, you know. Brezhnev, who’s one of the meanest but also surely one of the dullest human beings who ever lived, would stand up and talk for six hours to the Supreme Soviet.
And people had to stand there and pretend to—sit there and pretend they liked that—and people watching them, too. So it’s that kind of society. And I don’t think they wanted this controversy. I think they stumbled into it. But I think it’s the kind of thing they will stumble into.
HEWITT: And they got to get out of it. And the key is, how do you get out of it?
And will watch that over the weekend, because if they get out of it the wrong way—Tom Cotton has been very, very blunt. That is going to be the end of relations for a long time between the PRC and China—and the United States. It would not be a good thing.
Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, always a pleasure on the Hillsdale Dialogue. Thank you, America, so much for listening. Thank you, Ben. Thank you, Adam. Thank you, Generalissimo. Thanks to each and every one of you. We’ll be back Monday on the next Hugh Hewitt Show.