Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts “Bless and Keep the SAR … Far Away from Us”: Taiwan’s Hong Kong Phobia, Five Years On

“Bless and Keep the SAR … Far Away from Us”: Taiwan’s Hong Kong Phobia, Five Years On

On July 1, 1997— the day of Hong Kong’s reversion to China— Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui pointedly declared to a group of foreign journalists and scholars (the latter in Taipei for a conference on Hong Kong’s handover), “Taiwan is not Hong Kong.” Exactly half a decade later and fully in step with the position articulated by Lee’s successor Chen Shui-bian, senior Republic of China officials, policy mavens from Taiwan’s major political parties, and prominent Taiwanese scholars earnestly made precisely the same point to a visiting delegation of American academics.

Why such concerted and enduring efforts from Taiwan to distinguish the former British colony from the island republic? First, the PRC has pushed the opposite view very hard. Beijing’s insistence that Hong Kong and Taiwan are closely analogous cases is a significant element in the PRC’s strategy for reintegrating Taiwan on terms that China’s leaders find acceptable (or at least for preventing further drift toward Taiwanese independence). Second, many of the contrasts between Taiwan and Hong Kong that Taiwanese sources emphasize are not merely true but are also key elements in Taipei’s political strategy for securing the international support that is crucial for the preservation of Taiwan’s autonomy. Third, fighting the Hong Kong analogy is important on Taiwan because similarities between the two cases do exist and may be growing in the perceptions of other states and in reality. Those are developments the effects of which Taiwan’s proponents of autonomy, the status quo or independence understandably feel compelled to resist.

Rebutting Beijing: “Taiwan Is Not Like Hong Kong, and a Good Thing Too … .”

Beijing’s long-standing position holds that the Special Administrative Region form— first used in post-reversion Hong Kong— will be the vehicle for Taiwan’s return to China. The SAR structure was crafted to implement Deng Xiaoping’s conception of “One Country, Two Systems,” which initially was devised to address Taiwan’s reintegration. PRC leaders only later adapted the notion for Hong Kong when the British crown colony’s future came somewhat unexpectedly onto the agenda long before there was any hope for progress in cross-Strait reunification.

Throughout the Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin eras, the SAR format has remained at the core of Beijing’s proposals for resolving the Taiwan question. For much of the period, the PRC’s explicit position has been that a Taiwan SAR should be created. It is politically telling— if not meaningfully constraining— that the PRC’s constitution provides for the creation of SARs but for no other, more generous mechanism for providing autonomy and continuity to recovered territories. In recent years, China’s efforts to make the proposed deal more attractive to Taiwan largely have been matters of sweetening the terms of what still has been an SAR formula. Beijing has promised that a Taiwan SAR could enjoy much that the Hong Kong SAR (and the Macau SAR, for that matter) could not, including, for example, Taiwan’s keeping its democratic political system and parties, its flag, and its separate military (so long as this does not threaten the PRC).

Newer tinkerings with the language of the PRC’s cross-Strait policy have not altered the basic commitment to the SAR model. Qian Qichen— vice premier, former foreign minister and major player in the negotiations over Hong Kong’s return— has floated formulations suggesting that the mainland and Taiwan both “belong to” or are “include[d]” in a single China, and that “anything” can be discussed under the “one China principle” (once the leadership in Taipei accepts that principle). In this, there is no abandonment of the SAR model that has been so firmly entrenched in more formal and concrete official pronouncements from Beijing. Notably, official PRC media and spokesmen— who generally have shown great alacrity in denouncing Taiwanese leaders’ intolerable positions, insincere gestures of accommodation, or duplicitous mischaracterizations of PRC positions— have been strikingly quiet in response to Taiwanese claims that the “One Country, Two Systems” model— with its presumptive institutional manifestation in an SAR— remains Beijing’s blueprint for Taiwan.

The PRC has asserted close parallels between Hong Kong and Taiwan not only in terms of the acceptable arrangements for reunification but also with respect to the history and underlying conditions in the two cases, in part to strengthen Beijing’s case for reintegration under similar SAR-style frameworks. In the widely and repeatedly proclaimed view from the PRC, Taiwan and Hong Kong are both truly, inevitably and non-derogably part of a single China, the sole legitimate government of which is the regime now headquartered in Beijing. They are populated by Chinese who are part of a people of 1.3 billion who share ethnic and linguistic ties, a rich and proud culture, and a millennial history. Hong Kong and Taiwan moved beyond the exercise of Chinese sovereignty through the same illegitimate means: the imperialist depredations of the nineteenth century, specifically the “unequal treaties” that foreign powers (Britain in the case of Hong Kong and Japan in the case of Taiwan) forced upon the Qing government after a decrepit imperial China suffered humiliating military defeats. The recovery and reintegration of the two territories is a domestic concern for China in which no foreign interference can be proper or permitted. Just as China’s decision to accept a Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong was essentially a unilateral act of grace and administrative convenience upon which Beijing’s rights to take back the territory did not depend, so too the reunification of Taiwan is a matter left over from China’s civilwar in which intervention by outside powers (i.e., the United States) is utterly unacceptable and analogies to the “international” or “two-state”-based process of German or potential Korean reunification are wholly misplaced.

The point of all this, of course, is not just to explicate current PRC policy or to debate the historical record. Beijing’s goal is to persuade relevant opinion— on either side of the Strait and in the wider world— that Taiwan should be and always has been (and therefore again should be) like Hong Kong. For proponents of autonomy or independence for Taiwan or continuity or continued development of Taiwan’s newly emerged political order (and perhaps its economic systems as well), the prospect that Beijing’s strategy might succeed provides ample reason to insist loudly and often that the PRC’s proffered parallel is wrong and intolerable. From their perspective, an “SAR plus” offers Taiwan too little, and a good deal less than it now enjoys. Promises that a Taiwan SAR would be as accommodating and secure as what the PRC accepted in the foundational documents for the HKSAR are even less appealing. In a much-expressed Taiwanese view, the PRC did not pledge enough substantively or procedurally (in terms of the constitutional or international legal entrenchment of guarantees of continuity and autonomy).

Bleaker still is the prospect that reintegration under the “One Country, Two Systems” or SAR regime would follow a trajectory akin to what has befallen post-reversion Hong Kong. Indeed, scholars and officials in Taiwan now routinely lament what five years of PRC sovereignty have wrought in Hong Kong. They rue the evisceration of the territory’s nascent democracy. They point to the reelection of the SAR’s wildly unpopular Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa by a tiny selectorate more responsive to Beijing than to the people of Hong Kong. They cite the adoption of electoral laws that systematically disadvantaged “pro-democracy” candidates running for an SAR legislature that has precious little power anyway in the SAR’s executive-dominated system. Some note the anti-democratic restructuring of local boards and councils where the territory’s first shoots of electoral politics had sprouted in the 1970s and 1980s.

These Taiwan sources also deplore fading feistiness in Hong Kong’s media and academic community, both battered by the forced or exasperated departure of some of their most outspoken members and some of Beijing’s sharpest Hong Kong critics. In such developments, Taiwan commentators perceive an undermining of Hong Kong’s once-strong regard for civil liberties, a slide they also see reflected in the SAR government’s frosty attitude toward Falun Gong activists whom Beijing has placed high on its list of public enemies. They find the proud tradition of judicial independence and the rule of law at risk in the SAR, amid reports of rising corruption, signs of favorable legal treatment for the well-connected, and he reversal of the SAR Court of Final Appeal’s decision that would have granted mainland offspring of local residents the right of abode in the SAR.

In many of these developments, leaders, spokesmen and observers on Taiwan discern the heavy hand of interference from Beijing, extended in a manner that is inconsistent with and that threatens to betray the vow to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy embodied in the “One Country, Two Systems” policy and he Joint Declaration and the Basic Law for the SAR.

Some also point to Hong Kong’s distressingly poor economic performance in the post-reversion era. But this argument is considerably more muted, given the obvious role of factors unrelated to PRC rule (such as the Asian Financial Crisis and, later, the Wall Street-led slide in global equities markets) and Taiwan’s own recent economic troubles (including the first year of negative growth in many decades). These eclectic arguments from Taiwan all converge in the same basic agenda: contrary to what Beijing has insisted to the world with distressing effectiveness, Taiwan is not like Hong Kong and should not be consigned to the SAR’s sorry and un-Taiwan-like fate.

Taiwan’s Affirmative Case: “Taiwan Is Not Like Hong Kong in Ways the World Should Care About … .”

Taiwanese protestations that “Taiwan is not Hong Kong” have gone beyond countering the PRC’s claims with accounts of why a Hong Kong SAR-like solution would be bad, unacceptable and destructive for Taiwan. Officials, politicians and public intellectuals in Taiwan have placed special emphasis on issues where the differences between Taiwan and Hong Kong that resonate especially strongly with values, principles and assessments of interest hat the international community— and particularly the U.S.— seem to take seriously.

In one key strand of this line of argument, Taiwan sources invoke Taiwan’s democratic institutions and its liberal and democratic political culture. Although these are of relatively recent vintage, they are far more developed and firmly rooted in Taiwan than were those that the British authorities introduced or allowed to emerge during the twilight of colonial rule in Hong Kong. As recent Taiwanese assessments often pointedly put it, something like Tung Chee-hwa’s undemocratic reelection as the SAR’s Chief Executive is unimaginable in contemporary Taiwan. Moreover, Taiwan has developed strong protections for its citizens’ human rights, in contrast to Hong Kong where Taiwanese assessments see civil liberties as having come under siege in recent years and where prior protections might be criticized for having depended on the discretion of London’s agents in administering a formally illiberal set of laws.

Taiwan analysts and advocates further stress that Taiwan has governed itself separately and exercised full sovereignty over its territory and people for more than half a century, unlike Hong Kong which moved directly from British imperial possession to PRC SAR. Some more ardent or radical assessments go a bit further, asserting that central Chinese authorities never meaningfully exercised sovereignty over Taiwan, or at least did no better on this score than several other sets of rulers (including the Portuguese, Dutch, dispossessed Ming loyalists, Japanese and the founders of an abortive Republic of Taiwan)— a sharp contrast to China’s relatively undisputed and secure hold over Hong Kong prior to the nineteenth-century treaties ceding and leasing the territory to Great Britain.

In a broadly related argument that has been less fully exploited to support the conclusion that Taiwan is not like Hong Kong, Taiwanese leaders and commentators have elucidated bases for a claim that the inhabitants of Taiwan, unlike their Hong Kong cousins, are a distinct people with the right to self-determination. This matters because the right to self-determination has been a pillar of the postwar international legal and political order and can imply a right to independent statehood. Thus, much of the talk of national identity on Taiwan emphasizes the shared experiences of the people of Taiwan that bind together what have raditionally been called Taiwanese (both of Fujianese and Hakka extraction), “outside province people” (mainlanders who came to the island with the retreating ROC forces and their descendants) and aboriginal people (who belong to groups not found on the mainland). And, the argument continues, these factors that make this diverse group “‘people’-like” also separate it from the Chinese people in the PRC.

The contrast with what many in Taiwan see as the answer to the “identity question” in Hong Kong then follows ineluctably and sometimes explicitly: Hong Kongers never developed anything so approaching a national identity. Indeed, it would have been remarkable if they had, given several adverse features that made Hong Kong unlike Taiwan including: the high percentage of Hong Kong’s population who were recent cross-border migrants; the dense and enduring ties of affinity and dependence that bound many of the erritory’s residents to their old home areas; and the inhospitable atmosphere for national identity-creation produced by protracted colonial rule and, at the end, the shadow of Sino-British negotiations that accorded Hong Kong residents no role and that ruled consideration of independence out of bounds.

Some of the most prevalent Taiwanese explanations of why Taiwan is not like Hong Kong are more attuned to matters of realpolitik. They point to characteristics that make Taiwan a viable independent state or state-like entity, but that Hong Kong could never have hoped to achieve. They stress that, unlike the former British colony, Taiwan maintains considerable independent military capacity for self-defense, enjoys a formidable natural barrier to invasion, escapes the vulnerabilities that follow from direct dependence on mainland sources for such necessities and electricity and water, and possesses considerable state-like international status including formal diplomatic relations with twenty-seven countries (at latest count) and the functional equivalent of such relations with scores more. Such assertions are in part a warning about the tangible costs to the immediate participants and, indirectly, to the international system of any PRC attempt to coerced reunification. But they also seek to tap into international systemic values, which resist forcible annexation of one  state by another while acquiescing in most uses of force in intranational disputes or, arguably, in international disputes where the weaker party’s prospects for continued separate existence seem hopeless.

The hope in articulating this particular list of ways in which Taiwan is not like Hong Kong is, of course, that the U.S. and other states will feel compelled or shamed or at least driven by calculations of enlightened self-interest into resisting PRC pressure to abandon an entity with these characteristics to domination by a regime that does not implement democratic, human rights or self-determination norms at home and that has shown its unwillingness to permit them to persist or develop in Hong Kong.

Taiwan’s Problem (I): “But Taiwan Is Sort of Like Hong Kong … .”

Insisting that Taiwan is not like Hong Kong has been so important for Taiwan in part because the struggle to persuade the world that Taiwan-Hong Kong analogies are misplaced (and that this matters) is something of an uphill battle. It must overcome a widespread view (bolstered by Beijing) and some uncomfortable (and perhaps worsening) facts that give support to Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is indeed in relevant respects similar to Hong Kong.

Proponents of autonomy, the status quo or independence for Taiwan worry openly over the PRC’s gains in getting other states to accept a “one China” policy that regards the PRC as the sole legitimate government of a single China and Taiwan as a part of China not entitled to independence or full membership in the international community or robustly state-like status. In this context, any sign of rising world acquiescence in the view that Taiwan is like Hong Kong understandably raises serious alarm on Taiwan, given international acceptance of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule and sharply declining foreign concern with the disturbing developments that aiwanese commentators descry in the SAR. As many Taiwanese sources see it, the widely held misperception that things have generally gone well in post-reversion Hong Kong magnifies the risk that the international community will acquiesce in PRC pressure on Taiwan, viewing Taiwanese fears of the consequences of reversion as exaggerated.

The problematic reception accorded to claims of a “Taiwanese” identity have not helped the fight to deny the Hong Kong analogies that Taiwanese critics see as pernicious and dangerous. The world at large does tend to view the inhabitants of Taiwan and Hong Kong as “Chinese,” or at least as more Chinese than anything else. For the segment of international opinion somewhat more attuned the demographics of greater China, an additional but equally unhelpful assessment also has wide currency: that ethnic, linguistic and historical divisions among the island’s inhabitants may remain almost as significant as cross-Strait distinctions in identity— perhaps not wholly unlike distinctions based on recency of arrival that produced discernible cleavages within Hong Kong’s ethnic Chinese population and that left some with feelings of deep identification with the mainland.

Moreover, the potential force of “identity politics” arguments is blunted by the presence of a considerable constituency on Taiwan that is at least rhetorically and in some cases sincerely committed to reunification with the mainland, if only in the very long run. Two of the three largest political parties (the Kuomintang and the People’s First Party, whose standard-bearers together garnered a solid majority of the votes in the presidential election that put the Democratic Progressive Party’s Chen Shui-bian in office) officially favor some form of eventual political integration with the mainland and have discussed seriously various models for pursuing it. Contrary to what some of the most thoroughgoing Taiwanese critics of Hong Kong-Taiwan parallels assert, there remains a significant sense of “Chineseness” and Chinese nationalism in Taiwan that is not entirely dissimilar to sentiments in Hong Kong that sometimes made life difficult for the territory’s democrats and helped build a constituency for so-called “pro-Beijing” parties and leaders.

To the extent that most of the residents of Taiwan would prefer to claim that they are a separate people who want their own state, that message of salient difference from Hong Kong (where thoughts of establishing a separate state for a distinct people never emerged) reaches the world only in a muted and ambiguous form. Even the most ardent advocates of Taiwanese nationalism and independence understand that it is too risky for Taiwan to provoke the PRC with a referendum on independence or some similar gesture, or for ROC presidents to embrace the pro-independence lines that their parties endorsed before the Party’s leader held office (in the case of the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian) or after he left it (in the case of the newly-founded Taiwan Solidarity Union’s Lee Teng-hui, who had been a KMT member when he held Taiwan’s top post).

In a world where realist analyses plausibly account for much international behavior, another serious threat to Taiwanese goals lies in perceptions at Taiwan’s long-term prospects for resisting Beijing’s pressure are not materially better than Hong Kong’s were. While the clear understanding that Hong Kong could not be defended effectively if the PRC chose to take it back cast a long shadow over the negotiations concerning the territory’s post-1997 status, some assessments of trends in the cross-Strait military balance have begun to assert that Taiwan could face a similarly bleak situation in the not-too-distant future. Such a conclusion, if widely accepted, could be expected to have a devastating effect on the international support on which Taiwan depends.

At a less apocalyptic but more insidious level, Taiwan faces the peril of being seen as too Hong Kong-like in its formal international standing as well. Diplomatic relations with a couple of dozen minor states (almost all in Africa and Central America), extensive but largely commercial informal relations with most major countries, membership in most international organizations for which statehood is not a criterion, and separate participation in many bilateral and multilateral treaty regimes can seem to much of the world fundamentally indistinguishable from the autonomous and largely trade-focused foreign relations and engagement in the international order that Hong Kong has maintained, first as a British colony and later as an SAR.

While such military and diplomatic concerns are significant, the most powerful and perilous parallel between Hong Kong and Taiwan— and perhaps he most widely recognized one— lies in extensive and expanding economic integration with the PRC. One of the principal reasons that the world has accepted Hong Kong’s return to PRC rule (and the post-reversion developments that Taiwanese observers, as well as Hong Kong liberals and democrats, see as eroding the SAR’s political autonomy and distinctiveness) is that Hong Kong’s economy had become deeply enmeshed with the PRC’s by the time reversion drew near (even though this had not yet occurred by the time of the Sino-British negotiations sealing the territory’s fate). With the advent of ever-bolder Chinese policies of economic reform and opening to the outside world, the PRC had become the number one destination for foreign direct investment that flowed from or through Hong Kong. Most of Hong Kong’s manufacturing capacity had migrated to the neighboring Chinese province of Guangdong. The PRC was securely ensconced as Hong Kong’s largest trading partner. Huge numbers of Hong Kong businesspeople began to work or live some or much of the time on the PRC side of the border.

In the late 1980s, Taiwan began to head down the same path, and now has gone so far that all of the foregoing characterizations of Hong Kong are true or at least plausible with respect to Taiwan today. The risk thus grows that key constituencies in Taiwan and abroad will increasingly regard Taiwan as, in these highly relevant respects, being like Hong Kong, and thus more likely destined to a similar lot. Already, officials and observers across Taiwan’s wide political spectrum openly speak (with attitudes ranging from guarded optimism to high anxiety) of the possibility hat the island’s powerful business community will become more like Hong Kong’s and that the politics of Taiwan’s mainland affairs policy will follow suit. Taiwanese assessments are obvious and blunt: With their assets increasingly located in Fujian and Shanghai and their fortunes dependent on smooth cross-Strait relations, many of Taiwan’s richest and most influential firms and magnates may be led by pressure from Beijing or assessments of their new self-interest to support extensive accommodation of PRC demands and relatively rapid movement toward political integration or reunification, much as Hong Kong’s tycoons emerged as one of the most reliable and effective “pro-Beijing” groups in the colony and, later, the SAR. Such concerns doubtless rose a bit when the head of Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office recently suggested that Taipei should dispatch a handful of named Taiwanese industrialists to pursue negotiations on cross-Strait issues.

With the stakes potentially so high and so many conditions and trends so unfavorable, it is hardly surprising that so many voices from Taiwan have been wide-ranging, often creative and consistently zealous in arguing that perceived similarities between Hong Kong and Taiwan are less extensive and real ones are less salient than they may appear to be.

Taiwan’s Problem (II): “Maybe We Shouldn’t Be So Harsh About Hong Kong … .”

The Taiwanese campaign to deny that Taiwan is assimilable to Hong Kong has faced an additional set of constraints, born of a perfectly sensible Taiwanese ambivalence about Hong Kong’s situation. Although an unmitigatedly bleak description of Hong Kong’s circumstances would seem to advance the core agenda of convincing various audiences that Taiwan is not like Hong Kong and should not be consigned to its grim plight, factors ranging from cold calculations of interest to senses of moral obligation counsel Taiwan’s leaders and advocates not to paint too dark a portrait of the SAR.

A too-shrill account of Hong Kong as a cautionary tale of the horrible end that awaits any territory returned to China can be, to Beijing’s ears, tantamount to Taiwan’s flat rejection or infinite postponement of consideration of reunification. And that is something which the PRC has explicitly identified as a causus bellum and which, in any event, can roil cross-Strait relations more than responsible opinion on Taiwan wishes to do. A too-dire assessment of conditions in the SAR also might play badly with the wider world community. Given the widespread perception that (aside from the economic problems that can hardly be blamed on the PRC) Hong Kong has fared reasonably well during its first five years as an SAR, Taiwanese doom-mongers risk being dismissed as Chicken Little or the boy who cried, “Wolf!” if they go too far in expounding on Hong Kong’s troubles.

Denigrating Hong Kong as plagued by precipitous declines in democracy, legality and protection of rights and liberties also can weaken important specific elements in Taiwan’s strategy for securing international sympathy and support. A Taiwan that presents itself as essentially alone in the Chinese world in embracing and implementing such values is at greater peril of being dismissed as a fragile and besieged fluke rather than being recognized as the leading edge of a strong, even irresistible historical trend. The very different tactic of depicting democratic, human rights and rule-of-law values as remarkably resilient in Hong Kong, despite the adverse circumstances of the SAR structure and PRC rule, offers a plausible and promising way to mitigate this problem. It also makes more credible the attempts to characterize some troublesome features of Taiwanese democracy and legality (including vote-buying, an unstable party system and the like) as growing pains rather than symptoms of a more serious illness that might threaten the survival of Taiwan’s still-young political order.

For the many on Taiwan who see reunification as an eventual goal, a regrettable inevitability or an option that cannot yet be definitively dismissed, putting the worst face on the Hong Kong experience is not entirely appealing. The implicit adumbration of so miserable a possible future for Taiwan can be depressing, even dangerously demoralizing. And, while it could help Taiwan to strike a hard bargaining position with the PRC, it could also sour the atmosphere, making Beijing more intransigent and cross-Strait negotiations even more difficult.

Moreover, there is in Taiwan a great deal of genuine sympathy and sense of connection with Hong Kong (if not the SAR regime). Much articulate opinion on Taiwan regards Hong Kong democrats and liberals and the defenders of Hong Kong’s traditions of legality and individual rights as compatriots in the broad movement that has come to fruition in Taiwan during the last decade and a half. The near-coincidence of Taiwan’s first major steps toward democracy and the 1989 Tiananmen Incident that sparked pressures for democracy and human rights guarantees in Hong Kong forged this sense of connection at an early date and gave it deep roots.

Today, many of the same voices in Taiwan that insist that Taiwan is not Hong Kong also express a sense of continued linkage between the two entities’ trajectories and fates. They typically regard the Chinese leadership’s lust to recover Taiwan as the principal check on Beijing’s moves to assimilate Hong Kong more fully into the PRC system. They find deeply frustrating the world’s failure to perceive that a major reason things are not much worse in Hong Kong is that Beijing understands the importance of not scaring the world (or the more malleable segments of opinion in Taiwan) into stiff resistance to Beijing’s pressure for bringing Taiwan under its rule. Still, officials, political leaders and mainstream observers in Taiwan cannot bring themselves to root for the worst in Hong Kong even though on some accounts it might be in their interest. And they bristle at foreign suggestions that they secretly want Hong Kong to fail.

Such pulls of political solidarity and moral sympathy, and complex and sometimes conflicting calculations of Taiwan’s interest in purveying a more or less distressing image of the SAR have been among the many factors that have made claiming that “Taiwan is not Hong Kong” a far more delicate and maddeningly complicated task than the deceptively simple phrase suggests.

The Importance of Being Earnest

In arguing that Taiwan is not Hong Kong, Taiwan thus must fight with one hand tied behind its back (given the many arguments potentially distinguishing Taiwan from Hong Kong that responsible and influential Taiwanese sources dare not or cannot make or feel ambivalent about making).

It must also shovel against the tides (given the formidable pressure and powers of persuasion deployed by Beijing, and the signs of indifference, inattention or acquiescence from the international community). To some extent, it may even be whistling past the graveyard (given the many ways in which Taiwan is undeniably like Hong Kong and the still-more-numerous ways in which world sees Taiwan as being like Hong Kong).

This may make the work of insisting that Taiwan is not Hong Kong daunting and perhaps disheartening. That does not, however, make it futile or likely to be abandoned. Unless or until the PRC is willing to be a good deal more reckless or U.S. power and interest in the region plummet, much of the battle for Taiwan’s autonomy will be waged at the margin and in the realm of influencing beliefs and perceptions, where it matters a lot whether policy-makers and their constituencies in Taiwan, the United States and elsewhere think that Taiwan is— or is not— like Hong Kong. In such circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the refrain “Taiwan is not Hong Kong” has regularly and audibly issued forth from Taiwan for many years, and there is little reason to expect it to stop.