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One Country, Two System Model In Hong Kong

Twelve years ago, international headlines and the international community’s eyes were focused on the events that were unfolding in China. This was a year that would mark the end of British reign in Hong Kong and the world was anxious over what the future held. Two years ago in 2007, Hong Kong commemorated its first decade as a sovereign part of china. These celebrations continued to reduce the fears that majority in Hong Kong and indeed the whole of the western world had that China would eventually renege on its promise to grant Hong Kong autonomy.

An independent analysis of the situation in Hong Kong both by the international community and pundits has affirmed that the one country, two system model has been a great success. An critical look and evaluation of the successes of Hong Kong has to take a look at the unique history that it has had both in its relations with the former colonial masters as well as with China, currently the fastest growing economy. It has also to take into consideration the long tussle that China has had with the western world over communism, its perception of individual freedom and civil rights.

It is also crucial to underline the important concepts that are used as the yardstick to measure the success or the failure of the model. The history of Hong Kong dates back to days of the imperial china when it was incorporated into the Qin Dynasty. This is a territory that has seen its fair share of events, being both a political and economic site due to its geographical status. It was able to survive the various dynasties to emerge as an attractive venue for both the Chinese and other western forces. Hong Kong became an important part of china after an upsurge of Chinese into the region creating a population boom.

Although it is not precisely told what caused this upsurge, wars and famines that locked china during the Mongol area are seen as the major causes. It is its geographical position that would evoke the attention of most western powers who were seeking to establish a colonial base in the East Asia. Indeed Britain has had an interesting relation with both China and Hong Kong. This history dates back to the early 19th century. During this period, the former colonial masters had established strong trade links with china becoming the most important importer of tea with China in turn receiving luxurious export goods such as clocks and jewels.

This is an era that continues to generate immense interest from historians and has been referred to some as the century of humiliation. British relation with China by then was only centered on trade. This is a relationship that was lopsided to the benefit of the British but to the disadvantage of china due to its closed economic policy. As Ronald (2001, 151) observes, “they (British) were eager to acquire silks, porcelain, spices, and other goods to take to Europe, but they had difficulty figuring out what to sell the Chinese in return.

” They eventually found this in opium. Although the Chinese were interested in luxurious goods, this interest was not enough to translate into a profitable venture for the British traders. The prospects of selling opium to China generated interest, leading to addiction and more sales to the British making opium to be the chief good of import. This however was largely prohibited by the Chinese government who destroyed one such major consignment headed to the country leading to a major diplomatic row and a British attack that obliterated the Chinese military base at canton.

At the end of this confrontation, Britain and China in 1842 entered into the Treaty of Nanking. The provisions of this treaty granted Britain exclusive rights to trade in opium, receive compensation for the war loses as well as establishing a colony in Hong Kong. The reference of the 19th century as the ‘century of humiliation’ is a summation of the various losses incurred by China in the hands of the western powers. The defeat of China by Britain opened a floodgate of interest from the western nations such as America and France.

Various territories that were paying tribute to China and which were under the control of the imperial government were annexed. Vietnam fell to France; Korea was conquered by Japan while several unequal treaties were signed with the various powers. It is these defeats, humiliations and annexations of what Chinese regarded to be rightfully theirs that would shape the peoples’ perceptions and suspicions of the west and these factors would arise at the end of British colony in Hong Kong (Ronald 2001).

Hong Kong’s colonial era remains one of the most important in its history. This was a period that would witness Hong Kong become modernized, a replica of the western world with almost every industry and sector becoming a reflection of the establishments in the west. This is also an era that would see remarkable transformations that would introduce massive separation from the mainland, socially, politically and economically.

Though Hong Kong’s population had recorded a significant growth since the establishment of the colony, the first quarter of the 20th century would witness a mass movement of Chinese from the region amidst fears of attack by the Japanese. Indeed the eventual occupation during the Second World War would impact negatively on the economic progress of Hong Kong. Through the occupation, Japan hoped to introduce new economic and political policies. Hong Kong dollar was outlawed and massive deportations to the mainland were carried out.

The period of japans occupation has been recognized as one of the most derailing era in the history of Hong Kong colony and the liberation that would follow at the end of the Second World War would be received with jubilation, setting in a second era of British rule. The events that would follow would see a population boom in Hong Kong as well as the establishment of a modern and prosperous economy that has continued to thrive today. The 1960s and 70s are seen as the economic turning point of Hong Kong, the manufacturing industry expanded ten folds coupled by the revamping of the construction industry.

Culturally, Hong Kong was moving away from Chinese traditions and many of the values held as important in the mainland would be vehemently challenged as lifestyles were fast changing as people spent more time working. There were stark differences between mainland’s and Hong Kong’s economic policy. Where Hong Kong was pursuing a liberalized economy characterized with free market, china was stuck with a command economy with the government having a hand in almost every sector of the economy (Ming, 1997).

The negotiations and the process of handing over of Hong Kong to china was a strenuous one that took a flurry of diplomatic talks and treaties to conclude. The period before the handing over and the conclusive agreement was characterized by mutual suspicion and anxiety as the future of Hong Kong became the foremost priority of the British government. The crucial nature of this process can be seen in the profile of the delegation sent to china mainland by the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher and also her own visit as the first British prime minister holding office to visit china.

This was a testament that indeed anxiety was growing and fears raging over the standing of Hong Kong years after Britain ceded powers. The issue of the handover began cropping up two decades prior the expiry of the lease in 1980. This was in the understanding that economic and political stability of Hong Kong was predicated upon the predictability of the People’s Republic of China’s intentions. As was then before the talks, there were difficulties raising loans for important infrastructures due to the looming uncertainties.

The flurry of diplomatic talks was opened by the then Hong Kong’s governor, Murray MacLahose upon he called on China’s leadership. China is said to have asserted its position on Hong Kong maintaining that it hoped to resume its sovereignty over the territory. The negotiations that would follow would reveal the hard-line position take by the People’s Republic of China in regard to the control of Hong Kong as well as its disregard for the ‘unfair and unequal treaties’ that had ceded China’s territories to the British in the 19th century (Robert 2003).

The culmination of these talks would be with the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration by the respective leaders in 1984, which took effect and were recognized by the United Nations in 1985. . It is crucial to point out that the signing of the Sino-British declaration was marred with controversy with a section of the public in Britain criticizing the prime minister for handing over Hong Kong to the communist china rather than granting Hong Kong’s people British citizenship.

This handing over of the territory to china has been widely examined by scholars who maintain that it was the only prudent action to take in the face on the realities on the ground. There is the recognition that geographical position of Hong Kong in relation that weakened Britain’s negotiating powers and hence opting for a compromise. Hong Kong could not be easily defended from any attack form the mainland and also relied mostly on Guangdong for its key supplies. To maintain on the sovereignty of Hong Kong would have been futile and also a detriment to its economy.

Hong Kong’s mortgage, due to the looming uncertainties were for fifteen years, had an agreement not been reached by then, it would have spelt doom for Hong Kong with a collapse of its economy being eminent. Indeed the fears of the future of Hong Kong were being overshadowed by the realities on the ground and the economic implications should a common ground over the territory fail to be reached (Shiu, 2008). The success or the failures of the one country, two systems have to be analyzed in relation to such realities and also in relation to the expectations that the two groups had.

The idea of one country, two systems was proposed by Dneg Xiaoping. This was in the recognition of the fact that there was a need for “an effective and by-and-large successful framework to regain sovereignty and jurisdiction over Hong Kong from the British, and by extension, Macau from the Portuguese. ” (Ming, 1997, 5) The PRC with this system also hoped to maintain the economic prosperity that had characterized Hong Kong together with its democratized political system, hence using this as a tool to establish good relations with the western industrial powers.

Indeed as had been observed before, the major worry in regard to the handing over of Hong Kong to china lay in the likely event that china introduced the repressive laws and policies that it has on the mainland into the territory. Chinas system of governance and economic policies are remarkably different from Hong Kong. Where the economy and indeed powers are centrally commanded, Hong Kong, due to British patriarchal control is a democracy that espouses free trade. There was a raging fear that china would impose its policies on Hong Kong introducing distortions into the market and also into the economy.

These fears were understandable as the intricate negotiations took place at the era of the cold war when the world was highly polarized being divided along ideological lines. Indeed many had earlier concluded that a feasible settlement was unlikely to be reached with the two powers, china and Britain, being ideologically different and with each pulling at opposite directions. With the united kingdom being an ardent supporter of the principles of capitalism and democracy and china pursuing a centrally commanded system with communism overtones, it was seemingly impossible that the two sides could reach an amicable solution.

Upon the signing of the Sino-British agreement, it was difficulty to conceive the possibility of china adhering to the provisions. Today however, a different story is being told and many have hailed the accomplishments, terming the one country, two systems as being a major success (Warren & Li 1997). The success of the system is being evaluated on the parameters that were widely held to be the core of Hong Kong’s survival. These raged form free trade, rule of law, individual freedoms and liberties. Freedom of the press has been recognized to be core to the thriving of any democracy.

Robert (2003, 210) has extensively evaluated the extent to which Hong Kong has enjoyed this, pointing out that “respect for or control of the press stands as a good proxy for the sincerity of the PRC government in these matters and for its tolerance for dissenting voices in Hong Kong. ” Indeed, in light of this majority have agreed that Hong Kong has enjoyed a robust media although there are certain events that have remained uncovered due to PRC government’s control. The issue of Taiwan for example has been highlighted as being given a media blackout at the insistence of the PRC.

If the economy is anything to go by, the model can also be termed as a success. Indeed this is one front that has been termed as a major success making Hong Kong to have one of the biggest GDP in the world. This prosperity has been hailed as a product of the economic freedom that PRC has extended to the territory in line with the treaty’s provisions. International community and indeed international watchdogs have hailed this with Hong Kong being recognized “at the top of more than 100 (in 1999) countries or regions as a place in which the highest degree of economic freedom flourishes. ” (Cited in Jerome & Stephen, 2003, 363).

The last few years has seen Asia undergo major transformations, economic crisis and health scare that has left Hong Kong with a dented image. The Asian economic crisis in the 90s was seen by many as a core test for Hong Kong. The outbreak of the Avian Flu was also a major challenge. A clear analysis of these situations indicates that the major challenges that have faced Hong Kong are not as a result of flouting the agreement but rather have been universal. Indeed, the Mainland has come out strongly as a major economic partner of Hong Kong, stepping in to aid the territory in the face of crises (Warren & Li, 1997, 231)

The hailed successes of one country, two system model in Hong Kong however are not apparent to all. There have been views presented especially by the liberal democratic wing in Hong Kong that the rule of law and economic prosperity should not be the only parameters to measure the success of the model rather there are other intricate deficiencies that have stood in the way of the models success. There has been a push by most residents of Hong Kong to have Beijing grant them universal suffrage.

This has been one major bone of contention with majority claiming they are being denied basic civil and political rights by Beijing. Currently, Hong Kong has a unique electoral system that only allows a small group of representatives to participate in the elections of the chief executive. Again, Beijing only allows half of the parliament to be elected. This is an issue that continued to irk a majority of Hong Kong residents and have participated in demonstrations to question such an injustice. Beijing has adamantly refused to increase the number of elected representatives, allowing only 30 of the 60 seats to be voted in.

Additionally, residents have also decried the authority vested in the unelected constituency representatives to veto bills that proposed by the elected individuals. This is a move that has been interpreted by many to be led by the fear of Hong Kong falling in the hands of elected officials who might introduce policies and legislations that undermine Beijing. Residents of Beijing see this as constituting a “direct interference on the local politics of Hong Kong and violates the very concept of one country, two systems.

” (Hualing, Carole & Simon, 2005, 60). The success or failure of this system should also be evaluated in regard to how it has been unable to imbue enthusiasm to Taiwan to join the PRC. Many have observed that the decision by PRC not tot interfere with the internal politics and Hong Kong’s economy has been influenced by its desire to woo Taiwan to go the Hong Kong way. From this perspective, china has largely failed and Taiwan remains adamant in its refusal to become an administrative territory of PRC.

Indeed an examination of whether the one country, two system Hong Kong model has been a success has to take into consideration the key issues that are seen as interpreting to success. It has first of all, take into consideration the history of the interaction between China, Britain and Hong Kong and the expectations that each has in regard to the other. Hong Kong fell to Britain towards the end of the 19th century upon the conclusion of the Opium wars. From then, Britain would colonize and modernize it, transforming it from a military and transport link to the mainland, to a modern city that was distinctly different from the mainland.

Upon the expiry of the lease in the late 1980s, the fears that were dominating centered on how communist china would impact on the lives and the livelihood of Hong Kong’s economy? Would china introduce a centrally commanded economy and politics, trample on the residents rights and scuttle the gains made in individual freedoms and liberties? Though there is a view that Beijing has tried to control the local politics and influence policies that are inconsistent with the liberal culture of Hong Kong, the dominant view is that this model has recorded immense success.

Success that has traversed the rather pessimistic expectations that both Hong Kong and the indeed the international community had in regard to the future of Hong Kong. The economy has remained highly liberalized and Beijing has only stepped in to ensure its growth rather than to introduce distortions. Hong Kong still remains distinct from the mainland, enjoying civil and political liberties that many in the mainland only dream of.

As china’s political landscape continues to be transformed towards openness and semi-liberal market based economy, it becomes interesting to watch what the future holds for Hong Kong in relation to the Mainland. References Warren I. C. , Li Z. (1997) Hong Kong under Chinese rule: the economic and political implications of reversion. Cambridge University Press, Yiu-chung, Wong. (2004) “One country, two systems” in crisis: Hong Kong’s transformation since the handover. Lexington Books. Robert F. A. (2003) Hong Kong in transition: one country, two systems. Routledge. Ming K.

C. (1997) The challenge of Hong Kong’s reintegration with China. Hong Kong University Press. Ronald J. G. (2001) confronting war: an examination of humanity’s most pressing problem. McFarland. Shiu Hing Lo (2008) The Dynamics of Beijing-Hong Kong Relations: A Model for Taiwan? Hong Kong University Press. Jerome A. C. , C. Stephen H. (2003) Understanding China’s legal system: essays in honor of Jerome A. Cohen. NYU Press. Hualing F. , Carole P. , Simon N. (2005) National security and fundamental freedoms: Hong Kong’s Article 23 under scrutiny. Hong Kong University Press.

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