There are a plethora of theories relating to imperialism, within this assignment, I will use these theories to shed some light on the current instability in Hong Kong and its disagreement with China. I will also elaborate on any implications this may have for the people from Hong Kong, whilst providing examples.
Imperialism is defined as a policy by which a nation can extend its authority through territorial gain, or through the establishment or advancements of both economic and political dominance over another nation.
Imperialism is rooted in inequality, within and between nations, this is typified by the wealth of natural resources in African countries and lack thereof in First World countries.
This rattling and deplorable plague has subsequently left many Third World countries at the mercy of Imperialism, despite harbouring a wealth of resources, and this because of a lack of economic and technological advancements in Third World countries, as opposed to those of First World countries. This inexplicable imbalance affects not only people’s living conditions, but it also renders their power to decide over those living conditions to be ineffectual. The resistance of this inequality to change is also at the forefront of why imperialism is still active in this day and age.
The world comprises of what is known as the Centre and the Periphery.
The Centre is what we have come to forebode as First World countries. These are the economically rich and technologically advanced countries, they are also dubbed the developed countries.
The Periphery is what we have come to know as the Third World countries. These are the countries that have a lot of natural resources, but do are not as economically stable nor as technologically advanced as First World countries. They have been dubbed the developing countries.
Imperialism is conceptualised as a convoluted and eccentric system of ascendancy, which rationalises itself on a foothold, in which a Developed nation sets up its very own centre in the Centre of the developing nation. A prime example would be the establishment of Cisco systems in 1989, in South Africa. Every nation has its own Centre and a Periphery.
The dawn of Imperialism is epitomised by the colonisation of the Americas between the 15th and 19th centuries. This imperialistic expansion brought forth a mass destruction of indigenous societies and cultures, this is because it was acquired through military force. The expansion of European powers during the late 19th and early 20th century in Africa is still felt in many countries in Africa. A broader definition of imperialism is the expansion of a nation’s rule over another country, usually attained by use of military force, to gain unimpeded control over that particular nation.
There are 5 theories of Imperialism and they include:
In the Conservative Economic Theory, A developed nation sees imperialism as a way to assert its already successful economy and social edict by procuring new “untouched” markets for its exported good. By doing this, the developed country is then able to conserve its employment rate and labour structure without affecting the economy. The developed country can also redirect any social issue of its urban population to the any one of the colonial nations it has captive, case in point would be the Establishment of a ‘China Town’ in every Central Business District of every capital city of the world.
Ideally, this concept stems from an assumption of ideological and racial superiority, exercised by the dominant country onto the captive colony. This theory is the most notable of the lot as it is currently being exercised by Asian and European shop owners in South Africa. They maintain order by employing ‘their own’ and preserving their cultures, values and language in their stores.
Growing wealth and maturing capitalism in the dominant nation’s leads to the production of more goods than the population of that nation can consume, meaning that there is an economic surplus or in layman’s terms, excess supply. When this happens, leaders of that nation then view imperialism as a method to cut on production by reducing its expenses and increasing its profits. This is achieved by balancing supply and demand. In certain instances, the wealthy nation may avoid resorting to imperialism, instead it will opt to solve its under-consumption problem internally through liberal legislative means. These include the imposition of wage control, this also helps, as it places a ceiling on wages to curb inflation.
Karl Marx’s economic Theory was based on the idea that capitalism should be overthrown by socialism and then later be succeeded by communism. Marx believed that society should distribute goods and services according to a person’s ability rather than his need for it. Meaning that every person should work for what they want. Marx also believed that the rich should be the ones that control the means of production.
Vladimir Lenin’s economic theory is based on Marx’s theory, however his focuses on availing the working class with education and organisation to overthrow capitalism.
Both Marx and Lenin were firm believers in communism because its ultimate goal was to create a society under one rule. There are many similarities between communism and imperialism, but the most glaring one of all, is that if either one (Communism and Imperialism by The USSR) was achieved globally, there would be one outright leader of the world.
The Political theory views imperialism as no more than the inevitability of a developed nations attempt to maintain their stance in the world’s balance of power. This theory declares that the true purpose of imperialism, is to uphold a nation’s military and political prowess, while doing away with any vulnerability that may arise. This means focusing solely on building an impenetrable military force that will assert its dominance over other nations.
This theory imperialism serve no actual economic nor political purpose, instead, it is an age-old behaviour between nations whose political agendas have been overrun by what they deem as the warrior class. It has also been deemed a pointless manifestation that was originally created to gratify an actual need for national defence, i.e. the creation of a military wing within a nation’s defence force. This warrior class tends to eventually manufacture crisis and in order to perpetuate its existence, imperialism is brought it to deal with it and eventually diffuse it.
Galtung describes five kinds of imperialism: economic, political, military, communication, and cultural imperialism. Of the aforementioned five, four are still dominant today and according to Galtung, no one type of imperialism is more important than the others. This means that in order for a wealthy nation to truly stomp its authority on another, and indeed there is an almost complete utter certainty of any one type of imperialism being converted into another, it should make provision, and use two or more kinds of imperialism structure to assert its dominance over that nation.
To fathom the root of Hong Kong’s separation from China, one must reflect upon the Opium Wars that were waged between Great Britain and China from 1839 right up to 1860. During these trade wars, China was forced to surrender both a part of the Kowloon and the Hong Kong Island to Great Britain. Britain then began negotiations with China over the major land expansion of its now Hong Kong Colony and then proceeded to sign a 99-year lease with China that ended in 1997. This meant that Great Britain would have to cede Hong Kong, returning it to Mainland China, this prompted it to be called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.
Formally known as the People’s Republic of China, this East Asian superpower boasts the largest population in the world, with a population of over 1.4 billion people. Governed by the Communist Party of China, which possesses legal power over 22 provinces, with 5 regions being independent, including Hong Kong. China also has arguably one of the largest economies in the world, it is only rivalled by the United States. According to the World Bank, China boasts an economy of $13.6 trillion, this economic prowess was built by heavy industry development. This meant that China had to ramp up its very own industrial and service output throughout the years. The only hindrance being the current trade wars that it is engaged in with the United States, China’s GDP grew at a measly 6.6 percent, this is by far the slowest pace in which the Chinese economy grew by in well over 28 years.
The issue that takes precedent and has the most significance between Hong Kong and Mainland China, is the difference in Government. China is a communist nation and is ruled by a single party, whereas Hong Kong adopted the rule of democracy, albeit a limited democracy. Hong Kong and Mainland China both share the President of China as their head of state however each has its own head of government.
The rationale of “one country, two systems” allows for the coexistence of both socialism and capitalism structures under “one country”, that “one country, being mainland China. This rationale has granted Hong Kong the liberty to proceed with its free enterprise system, meaning that Hong Kong determines the prices, products and services, not China. The businesses in Hong Kong are free of Government Interference and control, meaning that most if not all businesses in Hong Kong, are privately owned. Instead of merging itself with the communist structure in China, Hong Kong as independent finances and the People’s Republic of China does not interfere nor does it try to manipulate any of Hong Kong’s tax laws nor their levies.
Hong Kong utilises its own monetary, financial, trade, customs and even foreign exchange policies. This means that although Hong Kong is very much part of China, it uses it’s very own currency, called the Hong Kong Dollar. This currency is placed under the Linked Exchange Rate System to the US dollar.
Hong Kong is said to have the freest and the 35th largest economy in the world, with an estimated GDP of around $363 billion in 2018. The Hong Kong economy experienced a magnificent transition in the decade past, as services leapfrogged other factors in the City, with manufacturing switching base to the mainland. This rendered Hong Kong’s economy as a low tax rate, free trade and low government hindered economy. China’s GDP is extremely dependent on manufacturing, this means that Hong Kong would have to surrender their biggest contributor of GDP to compensate for China’s lack.
Hong Kong is viewed by many as an entrée to China because of the strong economic ties between China and Hong Kong. Even in times of strained diplomatic relations, the two economies have been able to coexist and boost each other. This has resulted in exceptional economic relations, with an annual bilateral trade, valued at over $500 billion. As of December of last year, 22 of the 152 licensed banks in Hong Kong were of China’s pursuits and around 200 companies from China had built regional headquarters in Hong Kong. This is further cemented by the fact that China is Hong Kong’s largest trading partner and its second largest source of inbound direct investment.
The Current State in Hong Kong and how imperialism has affected it.
The instability that Hong Kong is currently facing can be attributed to its origin. Hong Kong is a stupendous City, known for being an international financial hub and business centre, and an amazing tourist destination. Formerly known for being a British colony, Hong Kong’s pro-democratic activists, wish to remain separated from other Chinese cities because of Beijing’s constant interference. This has ploughed the region into an identity crisis, some have even gone as far as to call Hong Kong a de facto country. The relationship between Hong Kong and China is far more complicated than most people can fathom. It is headed by the five factors for which imperialism is built upon, mainly politics, economics, international trade, rules and regulations, laws and most importantly, its people. “Hong Kongers” as they are known, spent many years living under British Rule, this implored them to take heed to China’s meddling in their political affairs. Living under British Rule made Hong Kong suspicious of China’s true intentions.
Mainland China and Hong Kong have an economically complimentary relationship, even though their political differences remain entrenched. The 100 year old separation between what is now known as the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong has created a wealth gap that cannot be easily mended. Before Hong Kong and China can truly unify and regard the two as one state, there are significant differences that need to be overcome. Despite the separation from Mainland China, Hong Kong’s systems and rights being protected and guaranteed by Basic Law, Mainland China tends to assert its authority in local Hong Kong Politics. In 2014, this interference incited a mass scale protest and demonstration against China’s proposed reforms for the elections of the Chief Executive. The Umbrella Protests as they were formally known, were the largest protests that the region had ever witnessed. The protestors were complaining about the fact that only candidates who had aligned their political interests with China would be backed and allowed to run, this would mean that Hong Kong’s interests would be put behind those of China.
These protests failed to achieve any grants from Beijing because Hong Kong has its very own legal and judicial systems, this includes a generic police force, territorial administration with no political power, and public servants. These systems are broadly based on the British common law model because, for a time, Hong Kong was under British rule. Hong Kong also adopts the Chinese customary law model when they deal with matters relating to family or land tenure and acquisition as an asset.
In 2019, residents of Hong Kong, took to the streets again to protest against the extradition bill that would have given China the right to extradite Hong Kong residents to China. These protests were sparked when a rally they had against the bill were blatantly ignored by their leader, Carrie Lee, who they believed was accountable to Beijing and not their interests. The bill was suspended and was eventually withdrawn by the chief executive of Chinese government. Critics dreaded that the bill would greatly weaken and undermine Hong Kong’s judicial system. Members of Amnesty International predicted that if the bill had come to pass, it would have granted and extended the power and authority of the Mainland to target those that opposed the bill to begin with. Human Rights Activists, journalists, NGO workers and everyone else in Hong Kong. Protestors of the Bill believe that the Chinese government is utilising Economic incentives and propaganda to push their agenda, this agenda does not serve the interests of the people in Hong Kong, only those in Beijing.
The protests in Hong Kong are a direct result of China’s inability to uphold a political agreement between the two regions. According to reports, China’s involvement in Hong Kong’s political affairs sparked an outrage, because it is believed that China did not respect the Hong Kong’s autonomy under the terms of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China. China is believed to be asserting their power instead of delivering on their democratic commitments to the people of Hong Kong. According to Martin Lee, who is a founding member of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, the Basic Law was designed to ensure that China would allow the people of Hong Kong the right to vote without meddling in their affairs. Many people in Hong Kong believe that their freedom is under threat with the constant interference from China, this has caused an identity crisis within the region. The growth of income inequality and it having one of the most expensive property markets, are just a few of the issues that imperialism has left China in
There are a number of implications that the disagreement between China and Hong Kong could come to the fore. One of the reasons of the protests is believed to be the uncertainty of what will become of Hong Kong in 2047. The people of Hong Kong believe that Hong Kong should be an autonomous state sooner rather than later. This is because there is a lack of clarity of what will happen when the “one country two system policy runs its course and expires. This caused a rise in violent protests, and due to the severity of the protests, China could retaliate by cutting of its inward investment to Hong Kong. This would mean that Hong Kong’s would lose its largest trade partner and its second largest investment contributor. It would also mean that Hong Kong would have to forego the customary Chinese law, and adopt another nation’s law to deal with matters relating to land procurement and family disputes.
Another implication is that China has begun to project more power, with the increasing possibility of more violent clashes between Hong Kongers and Mainlanders. Certain factions in the Chinese government view the protests as a direct challenge to their leadership, the protests also go against Hong Kong’s reputation as a region or order. This has cited officials in the Chinese government condemning the protests as acts of terrorism, and have proceeded to deploy the Chinese police across the border to conduct what is said to be a large-scale exercise to curb the protests. These protests have also resulted in flights being cancelled, hurting its tourism sector. A civil war could break out between the two regions, as officials from the communist party have publicly stated that Hong Kongers should not deem silence for weakness. Although Hong Kong may bear the brunt of the conflict, China is not economically inclined to lose Hong Kong. Hong Kong remains a mammoth financial hub and a source of foreign capital, its stock market is said to be larger than London’s.
In Truth, China cannot afford to lose Hong Kong because of the economic benefits that come with having it as a region, the same goes for Hong Kong. It cannot afford to lose the former because China provides Hong Kong with a massive inward investment that has benefited the people of Hong Kong immensely. Although there is an estimated 64 billionaires living in Hong Kong, the US-China trade war has also eroded an already falling economy, plunging an estimated 1.4 million people into living below the poverty line. The trade war has been unfavourable to Hong Kong because, although it is a semiautonomous region, it is still viewed as a part of China, and that has had an extremely negative impact on trade and tourism in Hong Kong.