China’s explanation for the Hong Kong protests? Blame America

According to Foreign Policy, one widely read Chinese article describes the events in Hong Kong not as a spontaneous outpouring of public opinion but as a conspiracy of Hong Kong separatists, backed by “an America hoping to push [the movement] to its height.” With sideswipes at the National Endowment for Democracy and the CIA, the article goes on to accuse the U.S. government of causing “multiple troubles for China, making China unable to pay attention to its great power struggle with the United States.”

Curiously (or perhaps not), Russian state television, long accustomed to ascribing Russian and Ukrainian protests to American plots (even to Hillary Clinton personally) — has now settled on the same narrative. There is an additional, self-regarding twist: Russian commentators say Hong Kong protests are American revenge for China’s strong support for Russia in its struggle against Ukraine.

There are several breathtaking leaps of illogic in this construction, starting with the notion that China has strongly supported Russia’s struggle in Ukraine. But behind it lies a mentality deeply rooted in both Russian and Chinese official thinking. To the truly authoritarian mind, “spontaneity” is impossible.