The Politics of China–Hong Kong Relations

The Politics of China–Hong Kong Relations

Living with Distant Masters

Peter W. Preston

In 1997 the British state relinquished control of Hong Kong and at this moment an established prosperous community was faced with reordering its sense of itself and its links with the wider world around the authority of Beijing. This book seeks to uncover the political logic of the process. Four issues are pursued: the manner of embedding a new political settlement, the business of governing the territory, the issue of democracy and the likely future of the extant form-of-life.

Chapter 5: Imagining routes to the future

Peter W. Preston

Subjects: asian studies, asian politics and policy, politics and public policy, asian politics


The future of Hong Kong depends upon two crucial sets of players: the local elite and the elite in Beijing. The contribution of popular pressure in Hong Kong is significant, but in the absence of an effective mechanism to translate such opinion into law and practice it will remain both secondary and a source of low-level instability. The future, presently, depends on the actions of elites. Here the situation is not encouraging: the local elite seem unable to formulate a coherent project for the future and for the elite in Beijing the key concerns are national – these revolve around the party’s preoccupation with stability. Hong Kong thus looks set for a lengthy period of ‘muddling through’ interspersed with expressions of popular disenchantment. It does not seem to be a satisfactory or sustainable prospect, and sooner or later the elites will have to settle these matters and do so in a fashion that commands widespread support amongst the population of Hong Kong.

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