Hong Kong’s impressive public protests, and the shift of Taiwan’s electorate away from cross-straits relations, are consequences of China’s slide back to a full-set dictatorship.
But today’s distinction is very different from what it was in Deng Xiaoping’s and Hu Jintao’s days: then, getting along with the neighborhood (zhoubian waijiao) was a way to loosen the perceived encirclement by the West. Taiwan and Hong Kong were the first to benefit from this for a few years after 1989. Under Xi, China is vastly increasing the pressure on both Hong Kong and Taiwan, even as it conducts talks with the United States on its other core objective – keeping global trade open. Is this because China is weaker or stronger?