The passage of Hong Kong’s national security law has marked the end of the city as we once knew it. However, Beijing is not seeking to turn Hong Kong into another Chinese city; there is little incentive for it to do so. Instead, China’s leaders might be performing a “grand experiment” of transforming Hong Kong’s political ecosystem based on the model of Putin’s Russia.

As laid out in William Dobson’s “The Dictator’s Learning Curve,” dictators have realized that the most effective form of governance in the modern era is not an iron fist, but a birdcage with limited freedom. Such a system uses democratic disguises to claim legitimacy, yet the overriding premise is to keep the regime in power.

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