Friday, September 03, 2021

20. Conversations About the Book "Hong Kong Between 'One Country' and 'Two Systems': Chapter 19 (Sunday, October 20, 2019) Shirley Ze Yu on Hong Kong and the Construction of Post-Global Empire


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“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),  book information including free chapters  and the access to all video conversations HERE.

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 Chapter 19 (Sunday, October 20, 2019) Shirley Ze Yu on Hong Kong and the Construction of Post-Global Empire. 

This Chapter considers the emerging wider context in which the protests in Hong Kong were being situated now several months into what appeared to be a failure of resolution of the issues that separated local, international, and national actors. The framework of this consideration was a short essay written in mid-October by Shirley Ze Yu, “China would rather see Hong Kong lose its role as a financial gateway than ever cede political control.” The essay provided an important perspective on the way that Hong Kong might be incorporated into the emerging system of global trade and investment in the post-global era. That incorporation planning, in turn, substantially changes the way that the protests might be understood (in terms of its challenges) by the central authorities. What the transition produces remains to be seen, but its character is already being felt in the movement toward the post-global merchant empires of the Belt and Road Initiative and the America First model, and by whatever names they will style themselves in the near future. Within those broad macro change trajectories one encounters an almost endless series of micro points of explosions--the way that earthquakes evidence specific nodes of motion along much larger tectonic plates. 

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The situation in Hong Kong is one of those micro explosions; the US-China trade realignments (and the inevitable decoupling that they represent) is another. The tragedy of these micro explosions is that while they follow their own logic--in the case of Hong Kong, those of the emerging internationalist cultural expectations built into the rhetoric of protestors, against that of the central authorities--they are inevitably trapped within the confines of the tectonic plates of longer term trends against which the possibilities of local events are constrained. For Hong Kong that means, as it has since the 1840s, that the city-not-exactly-a-state remains trapped between imperial systems whose evolution both fuels the narrative of the actors, and constrains the scope of potential outcomes. More specifically, for Hong Kong's role in China's post-global imperial Leninist political-economic model it appears to mean a transformation from jewel of the Pearl River Delta to a small part of the Pearl River delta economic zone. One got a taste of this in the context of the central authorities’ plans for Shenzhen. Now it comes much more to the foreground.



The video of the conversation about Chapter 19 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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