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China, Hong Kong and Taiwan: Running Dogs, Democracy, and More

by Elizabeth C. Economy
January 25, 2012

Kong Qingdong, a direct descendant of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, stands in front of a painting depicting celebrities and world leaders, including a dancing Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, at the Confucius Peace Prize ceremony in Beijing on December 9, 2011. Kong Qingdong, a direct descendant of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, stands in front of a painting depicting celebrities and world leaders, including a dancing Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, at the Confucius Peace Prize ceremony in Beijing on December 9, 2011. (David Gray / Courtesy of Reuters)

Kong Qingdong has gone viral. The Peking University professor of literature and descendant of Confucius has become an overnight celebrity with his televised rant against Hong Kong. In a televised interview, Kong rails against non-Mandarin speaking Hong Kongers, denounces their rule of law system, and calls them “running dogs,” a Maoist-era epithet that typified the class warfare of the 1950s and 60s. What induced this attack was a momentary interchange on a Hong Kong subway between a Hong Kong resident and a mainland woman, in which the Hong Konger told the woman that her child should not be eating on the subway.

While these two events may pass quickly into the Internet ether, what they signify will not—namely how will Hong Kong, China, and even Taiwan come to terms? By all reports, Hong Kong is being flooded by mainland tourists—a good thing if you want to keep your economy buoyant in these difficult times, not such a good thing if these “tourists” are overwhelming your public transportation, schools, hospitals, and more because those things don’t work as well where they come from. So resentment, for obvious reasons, is rising. At the same time, many in Hong Kong are concerned about their freedoms. Despite “one country, two systems,” the right to vote, freedom of expression, and the rule of law all seem perpetually at risk as a result of Beijing’s own political insecurities.

The mainland, in turn, views Hong Kong with a mixture of admiration and envy for its world class services and well-run bureaucracy as well as occasional irritation with the island’s ongoing complaints about mainland rule. When a 2011 University of Hong Kong poll revealed that Hong Kong residents identified more closely as Hong Kong citizens than as Chinese citizens, mainland officials and the media launched a broadside against the poll and its backers.

At the time of the handover, there was much speculation over whether the mainland would change Hong Kong or Hong Kong would act as a model for the mainland. Almost fifteen years on, it seems that neither is the case. Instead, both Hong Kong and the mainland talk about another model—Taiwan. Its recent presidential election caused a stir in the mainland, forcing even the mainland’s nationalistic Global Times to admit, however grudgingly, that the election “touched a nerve of the Chinese mainland,” and the questions that “overwhelmed the Internet” was: “Why can’t the same style of elections be held here?” The Global Times answered its own question by saying the price for stability and unity is a lack of democracy or more to the point, you can’t have everything. Still, not everyone is convinced. Wealthy mainland businessmen who observed the elections in Taiwan were favorably impressed, with one reporting “This is an amazing idea, to be able to choose the people who represent you.” And with up to 250 million mainland microbloggers watching the election and all chattering on the Internet, Taiwan may well become the tail that wags that running dog.

 

 

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Rsrs

    Actually, the MTR eating incident becomes this state is because the mother and her friends teased the bad Mandarin of Hongkonger, who tried to tell the mother not to eat in Mandarin.

    Look at the personal note from the man.
    http://goo.gl/EoIv9

    And it is common that Hong Kong health care workers are abused simply because they can’t speak Mandarin fluently.
    http://goo.gl/OZAJE

  • Posted by Kaplan_BJ

    Kong Qingdong was a major Chinese celebrity LONG before this incident. He wouldn’t have been booked on v1.cn if he weren’t a major celebrity already, notable for saying this kind of thing. No surprise, though, that Economy makes this mistake: this blog was sourced entirely from the NYT and WP (and the English-language edit of the Global Times), if the links are any guide. Economy might have a more nuanced understanding if she bothered to look at primary sources IN CHINESE. Otherwise, she adds nothing.

  • Posted by Andy

    It’s interesting that people like Jackie Chan, who derided Taiwan’s democracy, are staying quiet now.

  • Posted by Mind Power Mojo

    “…an amazing idea, to be able to choose the people who represent you….”

    It’s been a long, slow process, that’s for sure. But if anything an bring the isle and the mainland together in a cohesive and peaceful manner in some form or another, it is this.

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