The world is watching Beijing as it watches Hong Kong. There are nervous expectations that troops will be deployed in the region, as they were in Tiananmen Square thirty years ago. Were this to happen, it would be seen as proof that an era of malign Chinese enforcement had begun.
Xi Jinping and his colleagues know that if they take drastic action, a new narrative will take hold about China’s draconian instincts. So instead, the Chinese government is deliberately holding back. It helps to understand the philosophy behind this approach. In Daoist tradition, the term ‘wu wei’ translates as ‘inaction’ – the art of simply doing nothing. The ancient Chinese philosopher Han Fei, while not a Daoist, also advised that powerful leaders should remain obscure and invisible, as everyone else reveals their hand.