Dennis W.H. Kwok and Johnny Patterson, May 2022
This paper aims to provide an overall risk analysis of the Taiwan Strait situation by using Hong Kong’s experience over the past three decades as a point of comparison. The authors focus on three areas where those watching Taiwan can learn from Hong Kong. Since Deng Xiaopeng’s rule, Hong Kong and Taiwan have been inextricably intertwined, with China intending to reunify both territories using the “one country, two systems” formula. There are, of course, fundamental differences between the situations in Taiwan and Hong Kong. But there are also many similarities from which one can draw useful lessons. In the past three decades, Hong Kong tried to preserve its liberal democratic values whilst coexisting under an authoritarian regime. Hong Kong’s experience proved that a liberal democratic society cannot survive alongside an increasingly aggressive and authoritarian Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime. Taiwan essentially faces the same dilemma.
Hong Kong offers four key insights: First, Hong Kong provides a window through which to understand the modus operandi of Xi Jinping’s CCP. Political priorities trump all others —while CCP actions make sense within the system, they may confuse outsiders. Ultimately, Xi’s words should be taken literally and seriously. Second, the failure of the “one country, two systems” formula and Hong Kong’s collapse should not be lost on Taiwan. The so-called “United Front” tactics and the political polarization that occurred in Hong Kong are being emulated in Taiwan, with the Kuomintang’s (KMT’s) platform feeling increasingly untenable and anachronistic, especially in light of Hong Kong’s experience. Third, the infiltration of Mainland capital into Hong Kong over the past two decades has changed the underlying structure of Hong Kong as a business and financial center. The effect of ‘red’ capital made local Hong Kong and international business voices irrelevant. The authors saw their ability to influence and thereby moderate government policies waned over the years—leading to disastrous consequences for Hong Kong. Finally, Hong Kong has changed the geopolitical landscape in ways that have profound ramifications for Taiwan and how the international community perceives the CCP. The CCP openly walked back on an international treaty registered with the United Nations. The response of the international community and businesses reveals important lessons about the West’s vulnerabilities to this kind of geopolitical shock should the situation over the Taiwan Strait worsen.