Hong Kong, Taiwan
THE Communist Party’s strategy for bringing the self-governing people of Taiwan into its fold has long been tricky seduction. Ply them with money and favours (and tourists from the mainland) if they play along, and with threats of cutting them off if they don’t. Let them see how happy and prosperous the people of nearby Hong Kong are under Chinese rule.
That strategy is faltering. China is not winning hearts and minds in either Taiwan or Hong Kong. On November 29th voters in regional and municipal elections in Taiwan delivered a drubbing to the ruling Kuomintang party (KMT), which under President Ma Ying-jeou has forged closer economic links with Communist leaders in Beijing but has failed to soothe widespread dissatisfaction with the economy. More than 60% of the 23m people of Taiwan will now be governed by mayors who belong to or are supported by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which opposes union with China. Mr Ma is now an unpopular lame duck serving his second (and final) four-year term, and the DPP has the early advantage in the presidential election due to be held in early 2016.
The electoral rout of the KMT is even more worrying to Chinese leaders seen in the context of Hong Kong, where protesters have been demanding more democratic elections than promised for 2017, when the position of chief executive comes up for a popular vote. After two months of huge demonstrations, the protests seem to be near an end following violent clashes between police and demonstrators. Leaders of one protest group, Occupy Central with Love and Peace, have called for protesters to go home. Two encampments, one of them outside the government’s headquarters, remain. But Hong Kong’s leaders have wisely waited for public opinion to sour. On December 1st Joshua Wong, an 18-year-old from the student group Scholarism, turned to a new tactic: a hunger strike. Three founders of the protest movement, however, turned themselves in to the police. They were released without charge.
Anti-mainland sentiments still run high. A poll in October by Chinese University of Hong Kong found just 8.9% of respondents identifying themselves solely as “Chinese”, the lowest figure recorded in the survey—and way down on 32.1% in 1997, the year of Hong Kong’s handover. Nearly two-thirds identified themselves as a combination of Hong Konger and Chinese, but another 26.8% said they were just Hong Kongers, the highest share since 1998.