- How has the relationship between Hong Kong and China evolved over time?
- What is Hong Kong's significance to China today?
- What is Hong Kong's future trajectory?
This Perspective considers the future trajectory of the Special Administrative Region in light of the 2014 prodemocracy street protests and their aftermath. First, it examines economic and political trends in Hong Kong–China relations; second, it considers the issues triggering these recent protests; third, it considers the effect of the protests; fourth, it explores possible future scenarios; and lastly, it offers some concluding observations.
Hong Kong Remains Key to China's Economy and Is an Important Symbol of a Unified China
- While Hong Kong has become far less important to China in absolute economic terms, the two entities are gradually developing an integrated economy, and Hong Kong remains key to China's international trade and investment.
- Although Hong Kong has lost its status as a crucial economic intermediary between China and Taiwan, it has acquired great political importance as a concrete symbol of national unification.
Beijing Will Find It Difficult to Placate Hong Kong's Grassroots Opposition Movement
- The 2014 movements remind observers that Hong Kongese possess deep feelings of civic pride and underscored the sense that the Special Administrative Region's citizens possess a separate and distinct identity from their kin who live on the mainland.
- The continued political disaffection in Hong Kong poses a real dilemma for Beijing.
Effects of 2014 Protests Have Limited Short-Term Effects on the Hong Kong Economy, but Long-Term Effects of Business Confidence Is at Stake
- Although officials from both mainland China and Hong Kong warned at an early stage that the protests could bring economic disaster for Hong Kong, data show that the protests had little effect on the SAR's economy.
- Fundamentally, what is at stake in Hong Kong is business confidence — a fragile and potentially volatile sentiment in any economy.
Possible Political Outcomes for Hong Kong, from Most Likely to Least Likely, Are Status Quo Ante, Ritual Democracy, Repression, and Democratic Opening
- Given Beijing's paranoia about the threat of foreign subversion, Washington should exercise prudence when proffering moral or material support for individuals and organizations in Hong Kong.
- While the United States should not shy away from public expressions of concern for human rights and freedoms, Washington should be aware that Beijing is likely to interpret any support for prodemocracy organizations in the territory as part of an organized attempt to subvert the CCP regime.