Sunday, July 25, 2021

15. Conversations About the Book "Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems': Chapter 14 (Monday 2 September 2019) ‘Two Systems’ Internationalism Against ‘One Country’ Nationalism--Reflections on the G7 Declaration and the (Re)Construction of New Era


“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 14 (Monday 2 September 2019) ‘Two Systems’ Internationalism Against ‘One Country’ Nationalism--Reflections on the G7 Declaration and the (Re)Construction of New Era.

This Chapter considers the character of the way that the international law dimension of the situation in Hong Kong re-emerged as an internationalist constitutional counter-narrative. It starts from the fairly bland statement about the situation in Hong Kong issued by the G7--"The G7 reaffirms the existence and importance of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 on Hong Kong and calls for violence to be avoided"-- and then considers the response of the central authorities. The G7 in its own way sought to re-inject notions of international constraints on the constitutional dimensions of the "Two Systems" elements of "One Country-Two Systems". It began what would eventually become the outline of an international scope to the constraining of constitutional authority without challenging the territorial sovereignty of a government over the territory to which these internationally developed constraints applied. Here, those international principles were alluded to as the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. The G7 suggested that the document continued to have force. The Chinese response suggested a counter history in which the utility of that document and its international dimension came to a conclusion on the day that the lease to parts of Hong Kong lapsed and the rest was ceded back to China. It was the instrument, the bridge, through which absolute sovereignty was returned to China under an initial framework the implementation of which was left entirely to the discretion of Hong Kong's sovereign. The question is to what extent do the Hing Kong protestors think this possible, or think this at all; to what extent is the international community willing to make good on this promise with more than words uttered at fancy meetings of high stats people? The Chinese central authorities are banking on the likelihood that the protestors are incapable and the international community too timid, to make good on this. Are they right?


 The video of the conversation about Chapter 14 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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