China’s Policies Toward Hong Kong and Taiwan Are Driving a Slow-Motion Catastrophe

China’s Policies Toward Hong Kong and Taiwan Are Driving a Slow-Motion Catastrophe
People hold flags during a rally to show support for China’s Uighur Muslims, in Hong Kong, Dec. 22, 2019 (AP photo by Lee Jin-man).

In order to understand the mounting tensions in both Taiwan and Hong Kong over their relationships with mainland China, one must abandon the usual time frames of weeks, months or at most a handful of years and instead imagine the scenarios that open up over decades—five decades, to be precise. Over the next 50 years, interlocking dreams and nightmares will hang even more heavily over Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province, and Hong Kong, over which Beijing wants to assert more direct control, with possibly tragic outcomes.

China has all but announced that a new common reality must be forged between them by 2049. That is the year when China—by then, in all likelihood a superpower with the world’s largest economy—will celebrate the centennial of Communist Party rule.

This clock actually began ticking in earnest back in 1997, a much more optimistic time, when Britain returned Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty under a carefully negotiated arrangement that has come to be known as “one country, two systems.” Under that scheme, Beijing granted this rich, highly globalized city broad autonomy over its own affairs for the next 50 years. It meant that Hong Kong could retain its own laws and judicial system, as well as its own semi-democratic political system—itself only a recent creation at the time of the handover—as well as the management of its own economy.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.