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China’s Civilizational Challenge

Far from enabling China’s peaceful reunification, the “one country, two systems” model for governing Hong Kong is undermining it. Perhaps this was inevitable: the Chinese state, built on a millennia-old paradigm of political order, cannot cope with intergovernmental conflict.

KUALA LUMPUR – China’s “one country, two systems” formula in Hong Kong is failing miserably. After more than six months of large-scale pro-democracy protests – including violent clashes with police – the city’s voters dealt a powerful blow in November to pro-mainland parties, which lost 87% of seats to pro-democracy rivals in district council elections.

The significance of that election should not be underestimated. While district councils have little power, they select some of the 1,200 electors who choose Hong Kong’s chief executive. In the next election, pro-democracy parties will fill nearly 10% of those seats.

The election also had important symbolic implications. District councils are elected in a fully democratic process (compared to only half the seats in Hong Kong’s legislative council). With an impressive 71% turnout, the election was widely seen as a vote of no confidence in the embattled China-backed chief executive, Carrie Lam.

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