The 20th anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the transition that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China has undergone since 1997 is the city’s relocation to the centre of Chinese politics. For most of the colonial era, Hong Kong rarely presented itself as a political subject – much less one with the capacity to impact significantly on national, regional, and even international politics. Immediately following the ‘handover’, the initial stability inherent in ‘one country, two systems’ hid important shifts in the political economy of Hong Kong that now shape a polarised city and threaten to destabilize it. The mixed legacy of British rule, the reconfiguration of power relations between state and business elites and the emergence of a hybrid regime that faced down the Umbrella Movement are themes that have combined to politicize Hong Kong and the people who live in the city. They have generated manifestations of civic identity that now challenge traditional ethnic, pan-Chinese identities on which both the Beijing government and the pan-democratic camp had traditionally relied on to frame their differences.
This collection of five papers previously published in China Quarterly marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty. Individually, they serve as examples of the rigorous scholarship that the China Quarterly strives to maintain. Collectively, these papers re-affirm the importance of area studies in general and China studies in particular. More than the sum of their parts, they provide an overview of the extraordinarily complex processes of social, economic and political relations that have characterised a post-colonial city of less than eight million inhabitants with the potential to influence a country of over one billion.