When the recent spat between Hong Kong and the central government on how the island state should elect its leaders has proven anything, it is that Hong Kong lost the importance it used to have, says economic analyst Arthur Kroeber in Gulf News.
China’s willingness to tolerate opposition in Hong Kong has declined in tandem with the territory’s perceived importance to the Chinese economy. When Chris Patten, Hong Kong’s last colonial governor, assumed his post in 1992, China’s economy was only about five times bigger than Hong Kong’s. Today it is 35 times larger.
“It has clearly become an asymmetric relationship,” says Arthur Kroeber at GaveKal Dragonomics, a consultancy. “In the 1990s Hong Kong was much more important to Beijing because China needed a lot of money and expertise from Hong Kong and they really depended on Hong Kong infrastructure, such as its port.”
Beijing also trod more carefully during much of the 1990s because a smooth transition of power in Hong Kong was critical to the restoration of its international standing after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
But 25 years on, a newly assertive Beijing appears unfazed by the opinions of others. Kroeber says there is “little concern in Beijing about how its Hong Kong policies will appear to the rest of the world”.
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