Suzanne Pepper is a Hong Kong-based American writer with a long-standing interest in 20th century Chinese politics. Her early research on the 1945-49 civil war between the Chinese Communists and their Nationalist adversaries was initially inspired by the challenges it created for U.S. foreign policy. Today the Cold War may have run its course but China’s communist revolution has not. The last remnants of those old conflicts are being played out in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as Beijing strives to bring these last peripheral areas under its rule. The challenges created by communist victory in 1949 naturally exist on a very different scale from those presented by China’s national reunification today, but one theme has remained constant throughout. Questions about dictatorship and democracy that Chinese intellectuals debated so eloquently in the late 1940s are now drawing new generations to the same debate, while the Communist Party’s past military drive for preeminence continues by other means.
As a long-time Hong Kong resident, Suzanne Pepper has been an attentive observer of this debate, and its progression through Hong Kong’s first decade under Chinese rule is recorded in her book, Keeping Democracy at Bay (2007). Since 2007, however, pressures to wean Hong Kong from its commitment to Western-style democratic values have intensified and arguments about the superiority of Beijing’s unified one-party rule have grown more insistent. Hong Kong’s existing way of life was supposed to remain unchanged for 50 years from 1997, but Beijing seems to be growing impatient. Suzanne’s hkfocus blog will focus on this developing story as Hong Kong’s democracy movement struggles to maintain its coherence amid the growing pressures for full integration within the Chinese political system.