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Write Hong Kong and carry Taiwan over

What's behind the Hong Kong protests

Write Hong Kong and carry Taiwan over

For the past six months, protests and demonstrations against the current administration of the Special Administrative Region have been underway in Hong Kong. Having their demands satisfied, the protesters did not even consider to stop the conflict. Rather the opposite, the level of aggression and confrontation intensity have reached their climax. Havoc and traffic collapses caused by highway blocking have become a common sight.  Violence culminated in the demonstrators' dousing a disagreeing bystander with petrol and setting him on fire. The police does not leave any favor unanswered. It even came to the use of firearms.

What's the protesters' objective at the end of the day? It is starkly obvious that instigators of the ongoing clashes aim to provoke Beijing into providing the toughest response, with Washington certainly being the beneficiary, with its outspoken support for "justice and democracy fighters."

Certainly, an important element of the political profit America is counting on if its plans in Hong Kong are implemented, is imputation against of the "One country, two systems" policy. Introduced in 1979, Deng Xiaoping's new approach to solving territorial problems was embodied in the creation of Special Administrative Regions in the former colonies of Hong Kong and Macau. At the same time, with respect to these territories' importance, Beijing considers them as pilot projects, making no secret of its basic priority, namely the accession of Taiwan. At recent celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of PRC establishment, Xi Jinping said China would promote the peaceful development of relations between the two shores of the Taiwan Strait, unite all its sons and daughters, and keep striving for a full consolidation of the homeland.

Unlike other countries with similar environments, China regards the Taiwan issue as fundamental, ultimate and thorny. The challenge of uniting the homeland is not an idée fixe, but a great and sacred mission without any time fences. The history of a seventy-year confrontation between the mainland and the island is replete with bright and sometimes dramatic episodes.

The first years of the parties' confrontation were notable for atrocity all the way to armed conflicts involving aircraft and fleets. Beijing and Taipei each taken separately pursued a "one China" policy, posing as the only Chinese state. The irreconcilable opponents' stances softening occurred after the death of Taiwan's first President Chiang Kai-shek in 1975 and the beginning of Deng Xiaoping's reforms. Air and maritime traffic were established between Taiwan and China. Taiwanese businessmen began to invest in the economy of mainland China. At that, Hong Kong, with its traditionally close ties with Taiwan, had often acted as a mediator in fence-mending between Beijing and Taipei.

Later on, the development of relations between China and Taiwan resembled a "swing of the pendulum" and largely depended on who held the reins of power on the island. The matter is that Taiwan's two key political forces – the Kuomintang and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) – have fundamentally different stances in relation to the PRC. The Kuomintang, the party of Sun Yat-sen's heirs who fled to the island in 1949, advocates a dialogue with Beijing, while the DPP, the party of "native Taiwanese", is an ardent supporter of an independent Taiwan and does not tolerate any contacts with the mainland. Coming to power by turns, the two parties adjust the country's foreign policy to their program directives. China has traditionally supported the Kuomintang, and Washington – the DPP.

The historic Singapore meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou in November 2015 was the first since 1949, with the parties expressing their intention to resolve the 60+ year long political dispute. The Taiwan issue is exceptionally relevant to Xi Jinping, who, when being the Governor of the Fujian Province (bordering Taiwan across the Strait) in 2000-2002, has done a lot to help the Xiamen special economic zone look to the development of trade and economic ties with Taiwan.

Starting in the 2000s, as China moved into geopolitical leadership, Taiwan's policy of soft integration into China's economic space started to pay off. The flow of investments made a U-turn and rushed from the mainland to the island. China became attractive to the Taiwanese in terms of getting high-paying jobs and implementing major projects. The 2018 China-Taiwan trade turnover exceeded $150 billion, and opinion polls for the first time showed the excess of the number of Beijing-friendly respondents over those negatively predisposed.

An alarming signal to the opponents of China's unification policy was the ruling Democratic Progressive Party's major defeat inflicted by the Kuomintang in the midterm elections of November 2018. Amid the intensified struggle, both parties started preparing for the 2020 parliamentary and presidential elections they consider crucial for the state. During the election campaign, the DPP is actively exploiting the factor of Hong Kong in its fight against the key opponent. Ma Xiaoguang, a spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, bluntly stated that Taiwan's DPP was trying to take political advantage by undermining the stability and prosperity of Xianggang. He accused Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen of campaigning for Taiwan independence and stressed that supporting violence has nothing to do with the ideas of freedom and democracy.

Thus, analyzing the root causes for the protests in Hong Kong, we can forecast their continuation. However, the demonstrators are unlikely to ignite "Tiananmen 2.0".  The Chinese authorities are showing patience and endurance. It is revealing that the PLA soldiers began to clean the streets and squares of Hong Kong, generating sympathy with the residents who had frown sick and tired of the riots by activists whom they dubbed "black terrorists" due to the color of their clothes.

As for Taiwan, sooner or later the issue of unification of Beijing and Taipei will be undoubtedly closed in one form or another. A great deal of work has been done along the way to Taiwan's reunification with China.

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