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Christine Loh Hong Kong’s Relations with China: The Future of “One Country, Two Systems” N IN E YEARS INTO THE TUM ULTUOUS LIFE OF HONG KONG AS A SPECIAL Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China, it has become clearer what role Hong Kong plays in China’s modernization. This paper argues that Hong Kong’s role is that of a transforming cata­ lyst. In dealing with the affairs of this city, Beijing from time to time has to put aside its normal instincts. This creates opportunities with potentially far-reaching consequences for the nation as a whole even though questions have often been raised as to whether “two systems” will survive as Hong Kong becomes more integrated into “one China.” Hong Kong’s plight is difficult and there are constant risks of being overwhelmed by the much larger mainland system. Nevertheless, just looking at what may be seen as Hong Kong’s losses in the process of integration will prevent a deeper examination of how the mainland has been affected at the same time. Hong Kong presents Beijing with many challenging issues as well that go to the core of party ideology and prac­ tices. This is not to say that Beijing intends Hong Kong to be a pacesetter for political reform on the mainland, but at least in one comer of the country where debates are in the open and where the people’s behavior is different, the result is that Hong Kong has a gradual transforming effect on China’s modernization by forcing deliberation, debate, and social research Vol 73 : No 1 : Spring 2006 293 possibly even behavioral change on some of the most sensitive issues to the Chinese leadership. AROUND CHINA’S PERIPHERY AND “ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS” China is a very large country and a very old civilization with one of the longest histories in the world. At various times, Chinese rulers have both been open and welcoming ofoutside influences as well as inwardly focused and shutting the country off. The most recent period of selfimposed closure was from 1966 to 1976 during the Cultural Revolution. New ideas take time to penetrate this country. The periphery is often where the seeds of new ideas are sown. Hong Kong, situated in the southern periphery of the large Chinese landmass, has always been physically and psychologically far away from Beijing and China’s inte­ rior, and has experienced a high degree and long periods of mingling with outside influences. From 1842 until 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony and has evolved its own distinct characteristics that set it apart from the mainland. The city is therefore a live expression of a Chinese society, providing interesting idea and a model for development. When Beijing embarked on its Open Door policy in 1978, it chose to start the push from Guangdong by allowing greater economic free­ doms there through the establishment of the special economic zones (SEZs) of Shenzhen, Zhuhai, and Shantou because of their physical proximity to Hong Kong and Macau. Beijing’s policy to experiment with change on the mainland was coupled with a strategy of what may be described as infectionprevention to limit outside influences from pene­ trating the mainland too quickly and thereby causing political disrup­ tion and “chaos.” Thus, since 1979, change on the mainland has been gradual, although it is obvious that it has also been fundamental in many respects. If the Beijing leadership were to examine the results of its infection prevention strategy, it would conclude that while China has changed greatly since 1979, the country has not been rocked by forces that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could not manage. There was a moment of danger in 1989 but the time has passed 294 social research and China was able to continue with economic reform—although the legacy of Tiananmen remains to be addressed one day. The “one country, two systems” formula, originally designed in the early 1980s for the re-absorption of Taiwan, may also be seen from the perspective ofinfection prevention. The formula in the end was first applied to Hong Kong and then Macau. The concept behind the formula to create a...


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