If Hong Kong and Taiwan want to resist the mainland, they should focus on economics, not politics
- The Tsai Ing-wen government’s setbacks in Taiwan highlight the consequences of neglecting the economy in favour of independence politicking
In 1982, Deng Xiaoping insisted on Hong Kong returning to Chinese sovereignty. Why were Hongkongers so afraid? At that time, there had been no democratic elections in Hong Kong. Although there was a high degree of freedom of speech, the British government was not known for its fairness and openness. The biggest problem was that Hong Kong’s economy was much richer than the Chinese mainland’s.
However, Deng famously promised Hongkongers that “horse racing will continue, dancing parties will go on”. This is reflected in Article 5 of the Basic Law: “The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years”.
In my view, the original intent of “one country, two systems” lay in the fact that Hong Kong was much wealthier than the mainland, so it was necessary. Of course, Hong Kong enjoys more political openness and freedom of speech than the mainland, but economic factors are still a very important consideration. In fact, after China’s economy developed, many Hongkongers moved to Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and other places on the mainland, proving that we are economic animals. Wherever there are opportunities to make money, we follow.
In Taiwan, the former anti-communist camp has been partly bolstered by the economy and by the democratic political process. At present, Taiwan’s economy is no match for the mainland, but its democratic freedom far exceeds Hong Kong. Therefore, the anti-China ideology still has a market in Taiwan.
In fact, people originally thought that Taiwan’s independence from China would come about naturally and inevitably. Who would have predicted the moderate reversal in that sentiment over the past two years. It is precisely because of the backwardness of the Tsai Ing-wen government that the economy has faltered.
If Hong Kong wants to explore independence or stress that “two systems” override “one country” or if Taiwan wants to push an independence agenda, it is most important that the economy continue to develop at a high speed. In other words, fighting for the economy is the most effective way to resist China. On the contrary, if people focus on politics and neglect the economy, they are actually weakening themselves and increasing their reliance on China.
Chan Ka-kin, Yuen Long