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The secret negotiations behind the Hong Kong handover (cnn.com)
222 points by Tomte 175 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments

One thing to keep in mind is that in 1997, HK's GDP was about one sixth of China's (even though China has 200x the people), and it was a very important conduit between China and the world: In the early 2000s, HK's port had about as much volume as Shanghai and Shenzhen together.

Today, HK's GDP is barely 3% of China's, and the ports of Shanghai and Shenzhen together have 3x the throughput of HK. (Just have a look at these pictures: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2478975/Shanghai-por... )

In other words, HK used to be hugely important for China. Now, it isn't, and with rising Chinese nationalism, HK is being seen more and more like an unruly and spoiled child.

The grievances of HK's population are real: a political and business establishment dominated by property tycoons (and increasingly mainland Chinese political factions) keen on maintaining their privileged position; huge economic inequality; a slow erosion of political liberties ("salami tactic").

That all, of course, gave rise to the Umbrella Movement in 2014.

However, given that the Chinese Communist Party is not inclined to weaken its grip on power, and extremely protective of the (perceived) territorial integrity of China, I don't really see how this will end well. :-/ Here's hoping.

Sources for statistics:




HK was an important opening to the rest of the world when China was closed. China was able to source limited imports and do some exports through HK. So HK was just for ideological convenience (we shun westerners! But we still need some of their money and exports, so let's do biz through HK). Obviously, HK isn't required for that anymore. Likewise, HK used to be the place to get actual Chinese entertainment that the mainland wasn't capable of producing due to ideological constraints...that barrier has almost went away as well.

These day, HK's only remaining use has been as a proxy for the conflicts between different factions of the CCP. But even this is tenuous, as evidenced by the book store employees being disappeared a couple years ago (books being an important tool for pointing out or making up the crimes of the other faction).

You forgot to mention why Hong Kong's economy and port boomed before 1997 - because those rich families who left Shanghai after 1949 brought capitals and business opportunities to Hong Kong.

Certainly. And HK's relative liberty and autonomy has continued to attract people fleeing China's regime (and the HK umbrella movement had quite some support from them, was my impression).

And it's wonderful to see that mainland China is now catching up, at least on the economic front.

Fleeing China's regime? You need to understand the fact that HK's entire existence is built on top of embracing the regime.

Not sure what you're trying to say.

Wikipedia: 1950's "Skills and capital brought by refugees of Mainland China, especially from Shanghai, along with a vast pool of cheap labour helped revive the economy."

1950s: "The People's Republic of China was established in 1949 under a reorganised Communist Party. As many as 100,000 people fled to Hong Kong each month under the new regime, many of whom were rich farmers and capitalists who brought with them management experience, though even more were criminals who established the influential triad society in Hong Kong."

1960's: "The surge of refugees continued to come in from China."

In the 1980's, when return to China became a possibility, "the warnings of the 1997 handover raised emigration statistics to historic highs. Many left Hong Kong for the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and anywhere else in the world without any communist influence."




At the same time as China has been increasing it's grip on Hong Kong, it has also been liberalizing China (especially economic rights).

What are the chances that in 30 years (2047, the 50 year mark), China will have significant civil liberties and democracy? I have no idea, but I'd like to think it's at least kind of likely.

That's what people said 30 years ago when Deng Xiaoping was driving reforms. The thought was that China's steady economic liberalization would inevitably lead to political liberalization. That had been the typical trend in other countries, but the Chinese Communist Party has proven to be surprisingly skilled at managing dissent and maintaining power.

It could still happen, but predicting the future in politics is hard.

> but the Chinese Communist Party has proven to be surprisingly skilled at managing dissent and maintaining power.

It's entirely a wrong idea to think political system should evolve this quick.

China's political system inherits form 2k+ years of feudalism tradition. The system is largely static, with unsubstantial decorative changes here and there. And eventually it collapsed in the face of Western invasion. This humiliation period spans almost last a century, and is defined as the "Century of humiliation" [1].

The unique timing, and combination of various rather lucky events gave birth to the CCP.

CCP took an approach that is seemingly unconventional, while fundamentally is just another round of emperor-style dynasty evolution. Mao was effectively an emperor, who by chance or intentionally managed not to have his own heir. He also did exactly what has been done before in the history, where new emperor killed almost all of the people who helped him ascend the throne, because these powerful people would become a threat to his heir (be it his own blood line or someone else).

Nonetheless, in less than a few decades, China went through feudalism to communism. This level of change is unprecedented and would likely be impossible in the future.

After culture revolution and the open border policy, China's political landscape also changed a lot. Not in the same scale of the CCP and PRC's establishment, but still quite spectacular compared to any other countries in the world.

1. China's economic growth allows more free expression of opinions through various of channels. In a nutshell, any democracy is a compromise between rational economy groups with matching political power. China's economic growth allows many individual to gain the power necessary to influence the political system. Is this system better or worse than western democratic system? Hard to say, but it's different.

2. Chinese people learnt to respect the bottom line of the CCP, but find constructive ways to express their dissent over government or political polices. People can easily overthrown low-&middle-ranked government officials by showing hard evidence of corruptness over various non-official channels. Such channels, like Weibo, Wechat groups, are regulated, but is not shutdown. The rate is maintained in a way that CCP's bottom line is always maintained, and without touch that, things can be liberal.

3. Chinese people have learnt the truth of propaganda both internally and internationally. I would rate Chinese people the most independent-minded group of citizens in the world. Chinese people are incredible at recognizing propaganda and superficial arguments that bear limited practicality.

CCP also was changed substantially. It now has over 80MM members, and vast majority of them are from all sorts of social background that has nothing to do with elite or any form of privileged groups. However, the bad thing is that CCP now becomes a bed for marrying the powerful and the rich. The rich ones join the rank of power list of CCP.

The whole thing is moving towards the direction as most Western countries, i.e., the political system becoming a tool for the rich and powerful to maintain their status.

In conclusion: > The thought was that China's steady economic liberalization would inevitably lead to political liberalization

China's political system has changed drastically over the same period, much more than any other country in the world.

In the foreseeable future, China will not move in the direction desired by the western countries. Thousands of years of political wisdom have taught Chinese people to balance between different ideologies and maintain the peaceful life of themselves. The only possibility of such change is that a foreign power invaded China and forced her reform in a fashion that is different than what Chinese people collectively desire.

Extreme conditions will not be tolerated, and irresponsible social revolution will not be welcome. Chinese people will be following their own wisdom in finding the true liberation of the nation, most likely through the continuous economic growth.

That's like the relationship between typical Chinese parents and their offsprings. Are the parents abusive compared to western counterparts? Yes. Does the offsprings get what they need to grow and become independent? Yes. Then why destroy such relationship? The answer, of course, is not to do such a thing.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_of_humiliation

>In the foreseeable future, China will not move in the >direction desired by the western countries. Thousands of >years of political wisdom have taught Chinese people to >balance between different ideologies and maintain the >peaceful life of themselves. The only possibility of such >change is that a foreign power invaded China and forced her >reform in a fashion that is different than what Chinese >people collectively desire.

Sorry, this is nonsense. The peacefull years of the empires gonge before, where everything but peacefull- and held several fierce civil wars, which usually endeded when one party captured chinas rice-lands and starved the other party to death (Centralisation by Geography). China is basically where the English Society was pre Democracy. A class of nobleman (party-members) is partially subverted by rich citizens.

> A class of nobleman (party-members) is partially subverted by rich citizens.

A tiny amount of party members

I not sure have you really read my post. Your statement seems irrelevant or is a response to a misunderstanding of my post.

I never said China has a peaceful history. The nation has gone through internal conflicts and external invasions.

Rice-lands are traditionally in the Wu language region, also known as Jiangnan. That is why the Grand Canal was built - move rice to the north. Traditionally, gaining control of the country is all about capturing the Central Plain known as Zhongyuan, sadly it has no overlap with your beloved rice land.

Except that it provides access from every corner too...

> I would rate Chinese people the most independent-minded group of citizens in the world. Chinese people are incredible at recognizing propaganda and superficial arguments that bear limited practicality.

That's a very weird statement to make.

Agreed. In my experience, while Chinese (particularly those who've been abroad) are of course well aware of the propaganda they're subject to, they're still influenced by it. Just as people in other countries are.

The defence against that is

* a vibrant, strong, diverse media landscape

* an education that emphasises anti-authoritarian, critical thinking (and not unquestioning adherence to dogma).

In my opinion, most of Europe fares reasonably well on both points. The USA sort of middling. China bad. I'm unsure about today's Russia.

Overgeneralizing a bit, my experience has been that people tend to be much better at spotting foreign propaganda than domestic propaganda.

Yeah I would like to know what evidence this is based on. It makes me question the authenticity of the entire comment.

Have you been to China or have close Chinese colleagues?

This is a very nice window into the mind of Chinese citizen, thank you!

A few ideas/memes/modes of thinking stand out and are quite similar to what I see in Russia (I believe it's basically a mix of coping strategy and a deeper level of propaganda):

- "western democracy" as something homogenous, as something that can have "an alternative". In reality "western democracies" are very different between each other and are a spectrum (compare the US, France, Sweden and Japan), but every dictatorial regime that I know bundles all those countries up as "western liberal democracies" and contrasts itself with them as a whole. This makes sense from a propaganda standpoint, but precludes from seeing a multitude of futures free from oppression. It's always either "the West" or "our own unique way".

- "we have a different way. Is it better or worse? Hard to say" — this is very typical sentiment in Russia, too. However, it's a moral cop out: if you pick your moral principles and stay true to them, it's very easy to say if one system is better or worse than other. Do you think that citizens should have free speech or do you believe that citizens are hapless children that must be cared for by their government? As soon as you decide that the answer to "is state censure good or bad?" becomes trivial.

- "see, we have ways to change things for the better, too! Here are a few cases: …" — every oppressive regime that wants to be stable has some controlled outlets for people's anger. People are angry over corruption and inefficiency? Execute a few low-level/out-of-favor scapegoats, censure transgressions of the rest, kill or imprison dissenters and continue business as usual. It always works like that.

- "it's the way our people are [except a few dissenters who did that to themselves]". I see a clear contradiction between your tone in "Thousands of years of political wisdom have taught Chinese people to balance between different ideologies and maintain the peaceful life of themselves" and all that euphemistic talk of "controlled channels" and "learnt to respect the bottom line of the CCP". Do you?

- "yes we do have all that propaganda but we are wise enough to not pay attention to it". That's exactly what a lot of people who lived in USSR say! What they miss (and what became obvious when USSR fell) is that good propaganda is multi-layered: there's always a superficial stuff about The Glorious Leader that may impress simple minds, and there is deeper unseen influence. Those memes of "our own way", "West as a whole", "it's the way our people are", "we are impervious to propaganda", the over-arching cynicism are all pushed into public discourse as a part of propaganda and they affect everyone.

And yes, the cynicism disguising as "wisdom". That is perhaps the mightiest propaganda weapon from at least Soviet times.

"see, we have ways to change things for the better, too!" There were "changes" in your old USSR days, but was there anything like having a Communist party actively supporting capitalism? In China, it is called the 1978 reform. If you call this "controlled outlets", well, that is gotta to be a pretty big one.

You do realize that you use a reform pushed from the top as an example of a change coming from below, right? It's not even an "outlet", it's just yet another autocratic decision by ruling elite. It can be aimed to give an impression of social progress, but fundamentally it's still the same way of governing.

>In China, it is called the 1978 reform

Lenin's New Economic Policy in the USSR.

Talking about political liberation, British Hong Kong is probably the worst example one can pick - UK took it in 1840 but refused to let the island to be ruled by its own people for 140 years. The highest ranking officials were always appointed by the UK government, what is worse - they were _ALL_ white [1].

The British government only decided to reform the political system in Hong Kong after the handover was decided. That was 140 years after Hong Kong was illegally & brutally robbed & axed from China. One doesn't need to be smart to figure out what was the real motivation for that reform.

Interestingly, for some people, it was totally okay for UK to deny any real meaningful political reform in Hong Kong for 140 years, yet the rules for CCP is apparently different.


It's a difficult topic to debate the situation of the short history of a small place. Like any such contended area, they are subject of heavy contention of powerful nations with complicated historical and cultural traditions.

Although it's roughly the same that 1) British installs a governor; and 2) CCP installs a governor through superficial election. Nonetheless China is not a democratic country in western standard, despite itself claims to be people's democratic dictatorship [1].

On the other hand, people general fear that Hong Kong will be changed into more like mainland China, instead of continue the improvement.

I think the rich and powerful around the world, universally are conscious that any form of democracy is a camouflage, if they manage to indulge their people in superficial arguments, or simply be content with their lives.

From British's perspective, there is little motivation to give Hong Kong what's being enjoyed by a sovereign nation, because Hong Kong is a colonial entity. And people are nevertheless happy because they compare themselves with mainland China.

After that, British might be thinking to stir instability by allowing political reform; or they might be thinking now they are indifferent in maintaining their ruling, so they might just give what the people want. Either way, that causes inconvenience in CCP's ruling over Hong Kong.

Does it really matter? Not really. Once Hong Kong becomes economically inconsequential, no one really cares much.

For example, do we care Syria people being murdered by ISIS, which US and Russian and China and etc. are still fighting their own little conflicts and are not trying to resolve the root causes? Absolutely not. Or only in a degree that is less than how Trump steal Hilary's presidency. After all, Syria hardly affect how people live here in US.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_People%27s_Democratic_D...


As highlighted in other articles linked in this thread, there have been discussions by the UK to grant more autonomy to HK since the 1950s, but it was opposed by China.

And yes, the governors of UK colonies have generally been from the UK (thus, incidentally, predominantly white). So?

I think the down votes are a result of your slight topic shift and lack of historical perspective.

I think china would benefit greatly from some petri-dish experimental approach on how far libertys can be expanded before they challenge the KP rule.

Partypolitics has shown its potential when it came to development and design with the hard water made in russia.

This is very different from what I was told by certain exasperated civil servants at the time in Honkers which was that initially China didn't really want change at all as they thought any more of this democracy and capitalism poison (not to mention triad crime) needed to be contained and certainly not brought into China proper and that they would have gladly ignored the expiration of the lease but for the idiocy of the Brits insisting on some sort of replacement framework. They'd have gladly just carried on taking the money pretending it didn't exist. Deng had to come up with a fudge - one country, two systems and Macao followed suit thereafter. But it was a long time ago and that may have just been Lily Wong.

edit: for example the chinese did nothing to stem the tide of people to-ing and fro-ing when HK was still a colony, I recall some squaddies complaining bitterly about having to shoot at them up the hillside whilst People's Army looked on bemused.

I wonder if this is a fault with Western negotiators. Many of the Eastern countries will tolerate a lot as long as it is not publicized and explicit. But, if you try to get them to publicly agree to something where they may lose face, then they will adopt a hard line.

I wonder what issues, Western countries are blundering into currently in that regard.

That's an interesting point.

To follow-up on it a bit, whenever Western countries are put into a situation like that, they're effectively forced to do exactly what happened here. After all, whether or not something becomes public or not is completely outside of both parties' control. The minute some newspaper-person looked up the terms on the treaty and published it, there would have been an immediate international confrontation. So Britain was forced to come up with some kind of framework whether they wanted to or not -- simply to prevent random crises in the future.

I wonder what the better source of information is:

1. anecdotes from exasperated civil servants who were not party to the state level discussions,

or 2. declassified documents about the discussions.

Do the documents refute his anecdotes though? The documents are only from one side - we don't know what the Chinese side was thinking (and surely they wouldn't tell the British something like that).

Yes they do refute it: while the talks were still secret Chinese officials were mentioning that "China will formally announce their decision to recover HK", i.e. the UK had 2 years to make the handover public, or China would step up, no officious arrangements accepted.

Additionally, TFA notes that China had HK and Macau removed from the "non sovereign territories" UN list years earlier, so that both couldn't aspire to independence.

Considering that HK was lost following the Opium Wars and the first of the "unequal treaties", something that was considered a deeply humiliating episode in China's history, it's not surprising that their government wanted to "right that wrong".

Thatcher was simply delusional about her initial plans ("I really don't understand why they don't want to renew with us this thing they call Unequal Treaty?")

Seeing how China is throwing their weight around and very much testing the limits of international law in the region, it seems rather more prescient than idiotic of Britain to insist on a formal solution, rather than just letting the lease expire and leave a major city hang around in perpetual legal uncertainty.


For those who don't follow this, in many ways this experiment has, in my view, shown signs of failure.

China also almost surely has arrested/kidnapped Hong Kong citizens (authors) in Hong Kong who push for democracy.

Beijing is seen to have an increasing amount of political influence on Hong Kong. Hong Kong does not have the independence to create a democratic system.

Hong Kong people don't feel like they can control much... so most just go about their day to day lives. They don't like Beijing's power, but what can they do? This is not the way the British agreement was set out ("One country two systems"). Unfortunate, but probably predictable.

Further reading:






I'm not seeing any experiment. China was to take HK regardless and do as it pleased. The Falklands option was no option. A Tibet-style occupation would have been disastrous. Its orderly handover was in everyone's best interests if only for a time. I think its unlikely HK will ever be fully integrated into China's provincial system. I believe there would be strong opposition by other provinces, and fear in the central party about long-term HK influence on communist party policy.

>> China was to take HK regardless and do as it pleased.

No. The HK handover was part of a treaty, the Sino–British Joint Declaration, in which the Chinese government agreed to let HK remain mostly autonomous for 50 years after the retrocession.

The current status of HK is the result of, and guaranted by, a treaty between two sovereign nations. China is not meant to do 'as it pleased' here.

Treaties are worthless pieces of paper unless their signatories are willing and able to confront violations with military force. Britain is not, and China knows it; hence the unopposed erosion of Hong Kong's automomy

> The current status of HK is the result of, and guaranteed by, a treaty between two sovereign nations.

One of which is in no position to exercise its guarantee.

You are correct, and the current (mostly non-)responses from the British government are embarrassing.

However this remains a public treaty, and if China does not respect it, it will erode their standing on other matters (e.g. why would Malaysia/Vietnam/Philippines sign any treaty regarding the China sea dispute, if Beijing ignored the one on HK?). So yes, HK is in a bad situation, but not all is lost yet.

Your reply ignores the realities of power in the South China Sea, just as it ignores the realities of power in Hong Kong (what sort of response would you like to see from the British government?)

Failure for whom? For the HK people that enjoy a democratic system? Probably. For China? Seems like it has gone pretty well. Power transferred peacefully (albeit with some demonstrations) and they are slowly but surely gaining influence in the politics without any sort of resistance/rebellion or need for military intervention. To the rest of the world HK is still HK. I suspect they're trying to run the same program in TW.

The way Hong Kong has turned out has surely made "one country two systems" a lot harder to sell to the Taiwanese.

Taiwan was universally opposed to "one country, two systems" even before China starting cracking down on Hong Kong though: hating it has always been the one thing the Blue and Green coalitions can seem to agree on. So in that sense China's position hasn't actually been made any worse.

I thought the most interesting point was that already in 1960 China threatened to invade if the UK attempted to introduce greater democracy to the colony. This article from 2014 describes it in slightly more detail. https://qz.com/279013/the-secret-history-of-hong-kongs-still...

>The people of Hong Kong were not party to the discussions, nor were they consulted about the final decision, which had a profound effect on their futures and freedoms.

For me it is another moral failure of the British.

Yes, it was. A failure under extremely complex and constrained circumstances, but still a failure.

Question for you: how do you rate that moral failure vs. the moral value of China's political system?

In other words, do you see non-democratic systems as moral failures? I don't have any specific point or advocacy to make here. Just wondering what your broader perspective is given exactly what you said.

Yes, it was also a moral failure of the Chinese political system, but I assumed that they were morally bankrupt anyway (perhaps a good illustration can be found by reading between the lines of Liu Cixin first book).

I believe that they saw it as a huge win for themselves, what makes it even less appealing.

I do not think that a non-democratic system is automatically a moral failure, but it becomes one if they try to enforce it on others.

moral failure? I got a long list of solution for the British government:

1. not to fight the Opium War and sell Opium in the first place. 2. not to invade other country on the other side of the world. 3. not to pretend to be a dominant power.

if you focus on the first two points, they seem to be morally right in ALL culture.

Your comment isn't coherent. However, fighting a war in the 1830s and 1840s was most certainly in the best interests of Britain. Certainly your "long list of solution" wasn't a good enough reason for them to abandon their empire. And no, Britain didn't need to pretend. They were THE dominant power starting from the fall of Napoleon to the end of WWI.

Hong Kong was severed from China, "The people of Hong Kong were not party to the discussions, nor were they consulted about the final decision, which had a profound effect on their futures and freedoms"

Then it was returned in the same fashion.

Ironically, the people who desired to return to their homeland, gradually lost their roots and become indifferent to the idea that Hong Kong is an integral part of China.

There were only a few thousand people in Hong Kong when it became a British possession. The population at the time of the negotiations was descended from people who decided to leave China for a foreign jurisdiction.

So it's ok to invade usa and force the sever of Alaska because there are only 738,432 people, and then force economic sanction so that the mainland usa is super suppressed and migrate to Alaska, right?

This theoretically is much harder to do due to the geographic situation, but it's not far from your reasoning.

The end of what autonomy HK currently enjoyes expires in 2047. Will be interesting to see what happens then. China has always been very long-term thinking oriented, much different than our western system(s) of government, that it has an expiry I think says a lot about China's long-term view.

My guess is nothing: by 2047, the erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy and democracy will have progressed to the point where it's indistinguishable from China anyway, so nothing will have to change.

I see janitors (called ayis here in China) walking around the office gambling their life savings on stock trading apps. Long term planning at work?

I'll take politicians who know they're up for periodic reelection over what they have in China any time.

The problem is that the lobbyists and civil servants do not have any re-election or term limits.

So you have replaceable pols who are a facade to the real influence being brokered by chiefs of staff, head lobbyists - and the distinction between the lobbyists and civil staff is blurred at best.

Bernard: The Department of Employment lobbies for the TUC, whereas the Department of Industry lobbies for the employers. It's rather a nice balance. Energy lobbies for the oil companies, Defence lobbies for the armed forces, the Home Office lobbies for the police and so on.

Hacker: So the whole system is designed to stop the Cabinet from carrying out its policies?

Bernard: Well, somebody's got to.

-- Yes, Minister

Very informative article, in particular I wasn't aware of the fact that Hong Kong was compounded of differents parts and that the larger one was the one problematic as being leased to China and set to expire in 1997. I don't really see how the outcome could have been different, by this simple fact China had the upper hand on any deal.

Thatcher was too soft. The UK gave up HK for nothing. They could have milked china for billions by making the terms a sale rather than just returning the land to them. The UK had to give up the new territories in 97 but could have kept kowloon and hong kong island which would have forced china to setup border checks/customs in the middle of the city which would have been impossible without tearing down hundreds of buildings. Without borders goods would have freely flooded through kowloon into the mainland and vastly disrupted the economy just look at the fact that today thousands of tons of goods are hand carried across the HK border to avoid paying tariffs.

Thatcher showed her hand early and made it clear she carried more about stable trade for the UK in HK. Once she let the chinese know that is what she wanted they knew they could ask for anything because if the deal failed the economy in HK would collapse.

"The UK gave up HK for nothing." Really? The British colonial occupation did not benefit from more than a century of British rule in the region? How about: Thatcher got off easy without a demand for reparations.

Or if we are to play realpolitik without a notion of human decency: by Thatcher's time the Chinese had every local military advantage. The Brits were forced to concede a losing position and should count themselves lucky that the negotiations resolved peacefully.

The hubris of the Western colonial view never ceases to amaze.

Totally. The article fails to mention any history of why Hong Kong fell into British hands in the first place. Flooding a country with drugs and then launching/winning a war to preserve the free trade of said drugs is a pretty shocking foundation. It wasn't even that long ago!

Would you rather have lived in HK or China post-WWII?

This question would depend on if he was British or Chinese.

If he was British, then obviously HK.

But if he was Chinese, it would depend on his beliefs and abilities.

In post-WWII Hong Kong, he would be a second class citizen in his own homeland. Barred from the highest levels because he wasn't British and have to live through "Jim Crow"-like social rules.

In post-WWII China, he would be living in third world conditions and having to navigate the Cultural Revolution.

So the question is what his beliefs are and how much ability he has. In China, he could at least raise up the ranks and won't be discriminated against because of his skin color. In Hong Kong, he wouldn't starve, but he and his descendants will suffer through colonial mentality.

Personally, if I was Chinese, I would take my chances in China.

Many people were faced with this choice.

By an incredible margin--10 to 1? 100 to 1?--Chinese people chose to migrate to Hong Kong from China, not to China from Hong Kong.

You'd have to figure out some way to normalize by population, but even then, the point stands.

In Chinese reporting it was quoted that Deng mentioned to Thatcher: "the PLA will march over across the Shenzhen river to HK on Jul 1, 1997 one way or another."

The official Chinese newspaper also famously showed a picture of Thatcher losing her footing coming out of the meeting hall.


It was an empty threat though; HK had a huge economy relative to China at the time (and more importantly a well-developed western-connected banking system). If push came to shove they might eventually do that but Deng was highly motivated to avoid such a conflict (imagine what that kind of political instability would have done to China's nascent economic reforms).

It's merely a gesture.

The fact that Britain even come to the negotiation table is a sign that their bottom line is much higher than military actions. Don't be silly to think a prime minister does not know the military power in her command...

All of HK proper's food, water, and power came from the mainland, which China was threatening to cut off. Short of war there was no way the U.K. could have retained HK

I've never understood this line of argument. If the food, water and power were such problems, they were known about for decades, and there was plenty of time to correct them. Yet no-one cared enough to do so. This surely implies that these issues were never the real balance of power.

Or, to put it into more recent terms: Qatar has just had its land border with Saudi closed, where almost all of its food and supplies come through. Its gas reserves are predominately from gulf waters shared with Iran and subject to the disruption of many navies, from numerous gulf countries through to the USA. So it has no iron-clad control of its supplies. Following your line of thought, Qatar should have to cede its sovereignty to Saudi Arabia, yet I don't hear anyone suggesting this...

I do not think your opinion would be fair. A lot of political decisions seems to be very stupid on their own, but if you look at the other decisions that are made at the same time, they would make a lot more sense. One country and another don't just make one deal forever in their existence, they made many, and in some they give up something and in some they gain something.

typical biased article from CNN.

when talking about the handover, the article claims that

"The people of Hong Kong were not party to the discussions, nor were they consulted about the final decision, which had a profound effect on their futures and freedoms."

Did the people of Hong Kong party to the "discussions" when UK took Hong Kong after the Opium War? Were they consulted about the final decision, which had a profound effect on their futures and freedoms?

It also need to be highlighted the term Opium War - British fought a war with China so they could sell opium to a nation, they got HK as a bonus for such Opium business. Next time when you see thugs in your local undesirable neighbourhood dealing drugs, think about the British government because they were the same - I mean actually worse, when was the last time you saw drug dealing thugs directly took people's land/homes after selling them drugs?

Before anyone jumping up and down arguing that it was more free under UK - was polygamy legal in Hong Kong until 1971? Maybe you want to discuss with women in Hong Kong and lecture them why there were more free under British Hong Kong.

Comey recently said that NY times articles on Trump were fake news. Most of the top American media are news pimps, sold out to one party or the other, inciting people for their own cause with little concern for Truth.

> Comey recently said that NY times articles on Trump were fake news.

That's misrepresenting what he said. He said some NYT articles he had read were completely wrong. Which is not the same thing as fake news. I now have a better understanding of why the Republican senator asked that question though: to encourage the wholesale dismissal of all critical stories as "fake news" by people like you.

>The people of Hong Kong were not party to the discussions, nor were they consulted about the final decision, which had a profound effect on their futures and freedoms.

I just cannot find a better example of double thinking than this. So UK grabbed a piece of land from China, and now they discuss the return of this piece of land. Suddenly UK created this moral failure on China to involve this piece of land into the discussion. Let's stop creating new countries and races in this hypocrisy of democratic regional self-determinism narrative with mindless and idiotic public voting. No land is only the land of its residents, but by the people of that country.

It is colonialism just the same to forcefully impose one's rule on a another nation using history books, as it is with guns.

How convenient it is for you to equate history books with guns. Let me hit you with a gun instead of a history book.

Rule #1: Don't let the people vote, otherwise they might vote the wrong way.

For some reason, Britain forgot about that rule and let the people vote on Brexit. You can be sure they won't make that mistake again.

EDIT: I'm obviously being sarcastic here.

The photo of Deng Xiaoping and Thatcher is pretty funny given the subtext of almost starting WW3. Good article, for context I recommend reading about the early history of Hong Kong related to the Sassoon family, HSBC, and the Opium wars.

Okay. There are already lots of discussions on politics, so I will contribute something different.

I have spent considerable amount of time in China and Singapore (former British colony). I've also travelled to HK. When I read this kind of articles, I can see how people make decisions that they think are perfectly fine only to find out later that someone else thinks drastically different.

Why do the Chinese leaders and UK leaders think so differently? Why do Chinese leaders prioritize sovereignty over prosperity? Is it because of politics? I think not. It's more to do with culture and history.

China has had a long history of being caught in endless cycles of being divided and united. So much that it became the opening sentence of popular novel "Three Kingdoms" long before optimum war.

If there's one thing that Chinese people really hate, is to see their homeland being taken away and families separated. I don't think cultures where people did not have this kind of experience can have this feeling.

Contrary to popular belief, Chinese (Han) people are never interested in conquering foreign lands. They just want to take back what used to belong.

Why do Chinese leaders prioritize sovereignty over prosperity? Is it because of politics? I think not. It's more to do with culture and history. China has had a long history of being caught in endless cycles of being divided and united. So much that it became the opening sentence of popular novel "Three Kingdoms" long before optimum war. If there's one thing that Chinese people really hate, is to see their homeland being taken away and families separated. I don't think cultures where people did not have this kind of experience can have this feeling.

This is propagandistic pablum. The actual reason is that Hong Kong was a locus of independent political power and the structure of the CCP means any independent centers of power are existential threats to its own power. Therefore all centers of power that are not wholly subordinate to the CCP must be destroyed.

Contrary to popular belief, Chinese (Han) people are never interested in conquering foreign lands. They just want to take back what used to belong.

Try telling this to the Uighur, the Tibetans, the Vietnamese, the Mongols, the native Taiwanese...the Chinese have been just as aggressive and nakedly imperialistic as any other major world power.

> This is propagandistic pablum.

It's one person's propaganda but another's national pride. If you cannot recognize that and frame your argument accordingly, then you are bound to ask for unnecessary arguments.

Is such belief from propaganda? Yes. Does it bear cultral root? Yes.

National pride is best served by facts, and in this case, there are plenty of facts to choose from.

If you're speaking of China as in the PRC, the history goes back less than a century and its territory has only expanded. If you're speaking of the region, then in reality Europe has a history of being even more divided. Nobody wants to see their homeland being taken away or families separated.

>"They just want to take back what used to belong."

How is this different from various historical German ideologies that have centered around "taking back" Greater Germany including the former holdings of the Holy Roman Empire or Prussia? Consider that Otto von Bismarck was still alive when Taiwan was part of Japan.

The desire to fully restore the borders of the Qing is completely understandable and even laudable from the Chinese perspective. The problem is that it's nearly impossible to have a peaceful world if every national or ethnic group feels justified in using the historical borders its ancestors once held as a bar for what they need to "take back", by force if necessary.

On the specific issue of HK, it's been part of China for a very long time and only taken away recently. Of course we are not talking about taking back European territories that used to belong to some dynasties briefly. Just those stable ones since Ming and Qing dynasty. As another comment pointed out, although China has been divided many times, the geographic boundaries did not change much, unlike Europe.

Taiwan is more debatable because it was separated from China geographically, culturally and economically for very long periods of time.

> ...although China has been divided many times, the geographic boundaries did not change much, unlike Europe.

I'm not sure I could call this as "not changing much".


It is actually much complicated than those maps showing only one governing body. Actually those maps show precisely the periods of unity (Han, Tang, Yuan, Ming, Qing) where only one major power governs, as well as the periods of divisions where foreign ethnicity capture a sizable portion of China.

In latter case, the map fails to capture the lost boundary, like in this case: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jin_dynasty_(1115%E2%80%931234... where Jin dynasty is in control of majority of the territory and the map only shows the defeated Northern and Southern Sung dynasty. Actually the website that you quoted from also has the information:

> brutal invaders drove the Chinese from their northern territory, forcing them to migrate south and establish a new capital city.


The Qing Dynasty ended over 130 years ago.

I think what might be unique is that the idea of China with pretty much the same borders has persisted for so long. Reinforcing that idea also has been a strong goal for several Chinese leaders over the centuries. Other countries have been divided, expanded, absorbed etc. and seem to have been much less stable in their borders. The idea of Germany for example is very young in comparison and the territory has obviously give through massive changes. It's incredible that China has persisted so insanely long without much change.

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