As thousands of legislative delegates and political consultants last week gathered in Beijing for two weeks of meetings of the Chinese National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) faced challenges ranging from an economic slowdown and a ruinous trade war with the US to growing anxieties about the future of Chinese tech giant Huawei and growing domestic discontent.
With respect to Hong Kong, Chinese leaders called for a crackdown on local pro-independence young people, and the territory’s closer integration with the national economy and the one party-state. This reflected Beijing’s heightened concerns over widespread political and socioeconomic grievances among Hong Kongers since 1997.
The latest call for economic integration coincided with the newly announced Greater Bay Area program, an ambitious policy to convert cities and townships in the Pearl River Delta into a high-tech financial zone called the Greater Guangzhou-Hong Kong-Macau Bay Area.
At the center of this development agenda is financialization, a process of expanding the profitability of banking and finance at the expense of the labor-intensive manufacturing. As income is diverted from labor to capital, the regional banking and finance industries are positioned to grow faster, with higher monetary returns, along with numerous opportunities and risks.
While this top-down model of regionalization is designed to create a new transregional platform for international and domestic high-tech, services and financial enterprises to thrive, it might end up handing over profits to the wealthy elites, thereby widening inequality and triggering popular discontent.
So far, the discourse of regional economic integration has led to widespread worries, both real and imagined, about the deteriorating rule of law and freedom in Hong Kong. Rather than act as a force for stability and unity, the program has been leveraged by democracy and independence supporters against the pressure for “Mainlandization.”
On the international stage, where China appears to be unmatched, a sense of assertive identity has shaped how Chinese leaders intervene in Hong Kong’s political and judicial affairs, and how China is perceived as a hegemon by Hong Kongers and expatriate communities.
National cohesion builds on shared understandings among citizens who consider themselves to be part of an imagined community. National identity is not socially given, but has to be institutionally constructed from a broad coalition of different groups and interests held together by consensus.
Today’s Chinese nationalism is characterized by the supremacy of the collective over the celebration of individualism. Hong Kongers are instructed to show absolute loyalty to the mighty communist state and to identify truly with the Chinese motherland. This attachment to the collective polity is perceived as a fundamental element of one’s worth and dignity, and a vital means to keep the Chinese Communist Party in power.
These worrisome trends offer a pessimistic glimpse of what Taiwan’s future might look like under the “one country, two systems” framework, a visionary strategy implemented by then-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) that aimed to guarantee administrative autonomy and judicial independence for Hong Kong and Macau, and to enable experiments with liberal governance on Chinese soil.
As the territory is quickly absorbed into the Chinese political union, the long-standing universal values, regulations and norms that have contributed to the success of Hong Kong are disintegrating.
Joseph Tse-Hei Lee is professor of history at Pace University in New York City.
In November last year, a man struck a woman with a steel bar and killed her outside a hospital in China’s Fujian Province. Later, he justified his actions to the police by saying that he attacked her because she was small and alone, and he was venting his anger after a dispute with a colleague. To the casual observer, it could be seen as another case of an angry man gone mad for a moment, but on closer inspection, it reflects the sad side of a society long brutalized by violent political struggles triggered by crude Leninism and Maoism. Starting
The year 2020 will go down in history. Certainly, if for nothing else, it will be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuing impact it has had on the world. All nations have had to deal with it; none escaped. As a virus, COVID-19 has known no bounds. It has no agenda or ideology; it champions no cause. There is no way to bully it, gaslight it or bargain with it. Impervious to any hype, posturing, propaganda or commands, it ignores such and simply attacks. All nations, big or small, are on a level playing field
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement on Saturday that the US was to drop self-imposed restrictions on meetings between senior Taiwanese and US officials had immediate real-world effects. On Monday, US Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra met Representative to the Netherlands Chen Hsing-hsing (陳欣新) at the US embassy in The Hague, with both noting on social media the historic nature of this seemingly modest event. Modest perhaps, but their meeting would have been impossible before Pompeo’s announcement. Some have welcomed this move, thinking that it is long-overdue and a step in the right direction to normalizing relations between
The US last week took action to remove most of the diplomatic red tape around US-Taiwan relations. While there have been adjustments in State Department “Guidelines on Relations with Taiwan” and other guidance before, no administration has ever so thoroughly dispensed with them. It is a step in the right direction. Of course, when there is a policy of formally recognizing one government (the People’s Republic of China or PRC) and not another (the Republic of China or ROC), officials from the top of government down need a systematic way of operationalizing the distinction. They cannot just make it up as