Populist leaders consolidate support by creating enemies

Training18.03.2020Jarvis Tsang, Civic Party Hong Kong
IAF Populism Jarvis Tsang
Jarvis Tsang with his co-participants in an excursion to Cologne posing with Asia's little finger heart sign

Some common points or measures are being used by certain populist leaders, including creating enemies and discrediting the democratic system. The leaders try to consolidate the support of their supporters by creating enemies. They would usually name those who do not support them as the enemies of the people, and are not true citizens of the country. Populist leaders discredit the democratic system, the ultimate goal of which is to increase their own political power to be in office and lead the country.

This is one of my takeaways from the seminar “Liberalism vs. Populism: Recreating the Story of Freedom” organised by the International Academy of Leadership (IAF) in January 2020 in Gummersbach, Germany.

The rise of populism is a very hot topic not just in a particular region but also worldwide. The seminar gave us a chance to decode and study the potential reasons of the rise of populism as well as the potential reasons of the downfall of liberalism in some democratic countries.

In Hong Kong, we can see some politicians using the above tricks to manipulate the views of the public. Some would claim that their supporters genuinely work and fight for a better Hong Kong, while non-supporters are not. Some of the politicians gained certain political power through the democratic system but at the same time they are trying to diminish the reputation of the democratic system, saying it is slow and unable to react to the people’s demand. These are reminders that even in a hybrid regime like Hong Kong, there are still chances for the rise of the populism.

The IAF has set a very high standard for a seminar in terms of programme content, style, and the facilitators.

The style of the seminar gave me a totally new experience. Only 50% of the time was spent in the “lecture room” where facilitators shared their views. The other 50% time of the time was for group discussion and presentation. In addition, there were art jamming sessions in the seminar to visualise some of the concepts, including populism and liberalism. I truly enjoyed the inspiration and creativity in all of the sessions, thanks to the efforts of the IAF team.

As for facilitators, the IAF balanced both the aspect of academic theories and practical skills. We were happy to have Sven from the academic world and Radu from the field of politics to be our facilitators. They gave me different perspectives from their own professions helping us understand populism, liberalism and the conflicts of them. Sven brought us the knowledge from the academic world by using academic theories to break down the concept of populism and liberalism, while Radu shared his own experience in the government and the importance of having good storytelling skills.

No thinking without drinking. I have to extend my deepest appreciation to the IAF team for serving endless drinks to us. I will definitely miss the great food and drinks provided by the IAF!

IAF Populism Jarvis Tsang
Jarvis Tsang second row, fourth from left

IAF is FNF's training academy in Germany. It organizes international seminars and workshops on topics related to promoting individual freedom, best education, open society and digitalization, social market economy, and international politics.