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:
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).
And it's wonderful to see that mainland China is now catching up, at least on the economic front.
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."
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.
It could still happen, but predicting the future in politics is hard.
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" .
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.
> 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.
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 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.
That's a very weird statement to make.
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.
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.
Lenin's New Economic Policy in the USSR.
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.
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 .
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.
And yes, the governors of UK colonies have generally been from the UK (thus, incidentally, predominantly white). So?
Partypolitics has shown its potential when it came to development and design with the hard water made in russia.
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 what issues, Western countries are blundering into currently in that regard.
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.
1. anecdotes from exasperated civil servants who were not party to the state level discussions,
or 2. declassified documents about the discussions.
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?")
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.
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.
One of which is in no position to exercise its guarantee.
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.
For me it is another moral failure of the British.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This theoretically is much harder to do due to the geographic situation, but it's not far from your reasoning.
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.
Hacker: So the whole system is designed to stop the Cabinet from carrying out its policies?
Bernard: Well, somebody's got to.
-- Yes, Minister
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.
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.
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.
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.
The official Chinese newspaper also famously showed a picture of Thatcher losing her footing coming out of the meeting hall.
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...
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
>"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.
Taiwan is more debatable because it was separated from China geographically, culturally and economically for very long periods of time.
I'm not sure I could call this as "not changing much".
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.