The Death of ‘one nation, two systems’?

As Hong Kong marks the twenty-third anniversary of the territory’s handover from Great Britain to China, reaction to the new national security law from abroad has put the Chinese government on the defensive. The international community is deeply concerned that the law will undermine the ‘one nation, two systems’ principle that has dominated the Mainland-Hong Kong relationship since the handover. Some nation-states have already reached the conclusion that ‘one nation, two systems’ is now dead. These are nations considerably more concerned with China’s overall strategy and moves around the entire gameboard more so than the fate of Hong Kong. Despite the level of outrage being directed at Beijing by diplomats across the globe, there is little the international community can do. Sanctions, embargoes, and political pressure will not hurt China unless backed firmly by a coalition of world powers. This scenario does not seem likely to become a reality in the coming weeks and months.

The first arrests have been made in Hong Kong under the national security law. Hong Kong’s police have not displayed any reluctance in enforcing the new law. 300 arrests were made in the protests that broke out following the law taking effect on Wednesday. Whether or not the protests continue is a moot point. The die has been cast, and Hong Kong’s future has been decided by China’s leaders.  For twenty-three years the West has hoped that China would become more like Hong Kong, and the influence of capitalism there would entice Beijing to become more liberal and open. Instead, it appears the exact opposite has taken place. Reluctantly or not, Hong Kong will become more like China. The first step down this road has now been taken and there’s little chance of the city once regarded as the symbol of capitalism, and globalism ever returning to the way it was just a couple short years ago.

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