Orville Schell: Hong Kong Demonstrations Challenge President Xi Jinping's Hard Line

Chinese President Xi Jinping gives a toast during the National Day reception marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of the PRC at the Great Hall Of The People in Beijing on Sept. 30, 2014. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

China’s problem in resolving Hong Kong’s current crisis is compounded by the fact that President Xi Jinping has for the past two years adopted “a hard line in solving problems,” writes Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of Asia Society's Center on U.S.-China Relations, in an October 5 essay for the Wall Street Journal.

President Xi’s reluctance to compromise and his stance “as a tough, immovable leader” now put him in a bind.

“The problem with such a pose of unalloyed strength is that while it can inspire confidence, it can also prevent a leader from considering concessions when they might be the only way to head off a train wreck,” Schell writes.

Schell argues that President Xi’s handling of the Hong Kong demonstrations will reveal his still-emerging profile as a leader and set precedents that will apply to other issues. 

“From Hong Kong’s fate, we will be able to glean important hints as to whether the U.S. and other democratic countries can expect to collaborate with China, despite all our disagreements, on problems such as climate change, nuclear proliferation, big-power aggression, terrorism and pandemics.”

Read Schell's complete essay here.

About the Author

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Juan Machado is Assistant Director for Media at the Asia Society.