Wednesday, July 21, 2021

14. Conversations About the Book "Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems': Chapter 13 (Thursday 22 August 2019) Reflections on Zheng Yongnian: "The Capital of Protests" Who Controls Hong Kong?" [郑永年:“抗议之都” 谁主香港?]


“言有尽而意无穷” [Words and meanings are endless]. 

In the run up to the book launch scheduled for 13 July 2021 (registration required but free HERE), the folks at Little Sir Press have organized a series of short conversations about my new book, "Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems'." 

About the Book: Hong Kong Between “One Country” and “Two Systems” examines the battle of ideas that started with the June 2019 anti-extradition law protests and ended with the enactment of the National Security and National Anthem Laws a year later. At the center of these battles was the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. By June 2020, the meaning of that principle was highly contested, with Chinese authorities taking decisive steps to implement their own understanding of the principle and its normative foundations , and the international community taking countermeasures. All of this occurred well before the 2047 end of the 1985 Sino-British Joint Declaration (中英联合声明) that had been the blueprint for the return of Hong Kong to China. Between these events, global actors battled for control of the narrative and of the meaning of the governing principles that were meant to frame the scope and character of Hong Kong’s autonomy within China. The book critically examines the conflict of words between Hong Kong protesters, the Chinese central and local authorities, and important elements of the international community. This decisive discursive contest paralleled the fighting for control of the streets and that pitted protesters and the international community that supported them against the central authorities of China and Hong Kong local authorities. In the end the Chinese central authorities largely prevailed in the discursive realm as well as on the streets. Their victory was aided, in part by the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. But their triumph also produced the seeds of a new and potentially stronger international constitutional discourse that may reduce the magnitude and scope of that success. These essays were written as the events unfolded. Together the essays analytically chronicle the discursive battles that were fought, won and lost, between June 2019 and June 2020. Without an underlying political or polemical agenda, the essays retain the freshness of the moment, reflecting the uncertainties of the time as events unfolded. What was won on the streets of Hong Kong from June to December 2019, the public and physical manifestation of a principled internationalist and liberal democratic narrative of self-determination, and of civil and political rights, was lost by June 2020 within a cage of authoritative legality legitimated through the resurgence of the normative authority of the state and the application of a strong and coherent expression of the principled narrative of its Marxist-Leninist constitutional order. Ironically enough, both political ideologies emerged stronger and more coherent from the conflict, each now better prepared for the next.

The book may be purchased through AMAZON (kindle and paperback), 

I am delighted, then, to make available the next in the series of video recordings of conversations about the book with my former research assistant Matthew McQuilla (Penn State International Affairs MIA 2021). Today we discuss Chapter 13 (Thursday 22 August 2019) Reflections on Zheng Yongnian: "The Capital of Protests" Who Controls Hong Kong?" [郑永年:“抗议之都” 谁主香港?].

The chapter is particularly interesting for its development, in academic circles of the concept, first articulated by Xi Jinping, that the central authorities were "committed to the policy for the Hong Kong people to govern Hong Kong and the Macao people to govern Macao, with patriots playing the principal role. We will develop and strengthen the ranks of patriots who love both our country and their regions, and foster greater patriotism and a stronger sense of national identity among the people in Hong Kong and Macao." (18 October 2018). In a sense, the development of this concept of a patriotic front of governance is tied to the more ancient notions of 鼎 (Dǐng) (an ancient three legged bronze cauldron; the throne or leadership "core"; or more broadly the state apparatus). Hong Kong is not the cauldron itself, or figuratively the throne (as itself a symbol of the authority given to the leadership "core" by the mandate of heaven), but rather an element of its content. It is, however, an element of the cauldron that itself has upset the harmony that the cauldron represents--it has upset the order of things by its own fundamental disorder. “To put it bluntly, there is only one fundamental problem in Hong Kong, that is: Who is Hong Kong?” That question suggests two key elements for the analysis that follows. The first is the cauldron itself. If China represents the cauldron right side up, then Hong Kong illustrates the consequences when the cauldron is turned upside down. Underlying this is a sense not just of imbalance in the natural order of things, of fundamental harmony, but of inversion. The cauldron turned upside down contains nothing, it spills its contents. The second references the contents of the cauldron--the core of leadership that shapes the cauldron itself. Here the cauldron upside carries a different connotation--that which ought to be at the periphery appears to become the core and the core is emptied of content. A cauldron that is upside down, a cauldron with an empty core of leadership, cannot be sustained.


 The video of the conversation about Chapter 13 may be accessed HERE.

All conversations are posted to the Coalition for Peace & Ethics YouTube page and may be found on its Playlist: Talking About the Book: "Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems'." All conversation videos are hosted by Little Sir Press. I hope you find the conversation of some use. 


A pre-publication version of some of the book chapters may be accessed (free) on the Book's webpage (here). All videos may also be accessed through the Little Sir Press Book Website HERE.

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