Massive and sometimes violent protests have rocked Hong Kong for over 100 days. Demonstrators have put forward five demands, of which the most radical is a call for free, direct elections of Hong Kong’s chief executive and all members of the territory’s legislature: in other words, a fully democratic system of local rule, one not controlled by Beijing. As this brazen challenge to Chinese sovereignty has played out, Beijing has made a show of amassing paramilitary forces just across the border in Shenzhen. So far, however, China has not deployed force to quell the unrest and top Chinese leaders have refrained from making public threats to do so.
Western observers who remember the violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago have been puzzled by Beijing’s forbearance. Some have attributed Beijing’s restraint to a fear of Western condemnation if China uses force. Others have pointed