From 1945- 1989, Berlin was the centre point between the two great powers of its age, the United States and the Soviet Union. In the recent months since the political escalation in Hong Kong, one might begin to wonder if we are seeing very similar situations again. One might argue that what this shows is that history does not repeat but it certainly rhymes.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many have argued that we lived in the period of ‘an end of history’ (history in the Hellenic sense), something which, in our post-9/11 epoch, many have come to disregard. Since then, the last couple of years have seen many academics and politicians speculating about what the political future of the world might be. The reasoning for such questions arising has come from multiple sources. The main source has been the hegemonic challenger to the United States in the form of a rising China.
Since the rise of China both politically and economically on the world stage, many have wondered what this will mean for the global world structure. How will America react to such challenges? Many have wondered if we are falling towards another ‘Cold War’, this time the frontiers and reasonings being different. Instead of proxy wars and alliances, we see the trend of foreign investment projects from China’s Belt and Road Initiative to the United States Indo-Pacific strategy as counterbalances of their own. The return of the cult of personality around Xi Jinping and the removal of term limits of the presidency would signal a similar return to a Soviet-era style of government. A government with its own type of concentration camps swapping Kulaks for Uighurs, and with its own paranoia about media and state censorship. The recent news of Chinese spy defections to Australia could add towards this argument, with Chinese spy rings being alleged to be currently operating in Taiwan, Australia and Hong Kong by said defectors.
Due to such things occurring and that maybe falling into a world once again split into two, then perhaps it would be prudent to suggest a new Berlin for this ‘Second Cold War’; Hong Kong being the new candidate due to its physical and ideological dichotomy between two forces. Having been encompassed by one superpower sharing a strong cultural base with its nearest neighbour, a large majority of its occupants yet still hold its loyalties towards a more ‘western ideal’. Due to this, Hong Kong protests might merely be the impetus for a new Berlin in this ‘Second Cold War’. A city in which most of its occupants are deeply against their nearest neighbour, its youngest being the most committed against the PRC’s growing influence over the region. The divide between two different cultural worldviews with an uncertain future all might be indicators towards such claims. After all, if we have stumbled into a second Cold War between China and the United States, Hong Kong is currently in the centre of it.
When bearing this in mind, it be would prudent for nations and policy makers alike to start viewing Hong Kong in a new light. This contrasts with Hong Kong’s older view of it simply being a banking hub and a former Asian gem of the British Empire. Policy makers should start to view Hong Kong as that of Berlin post-WWII. Treating it in such a manner would force policy makers and law makers to start recognising the challenges being faced in this region of the world. Only then, can a more coherent policy and strategy be devised by the Western nations in handling such a delicate issue.