Liaoning, China’s first operational aircraft, arrived in Hong Kong Friday morning (July 7, 2017), just days after the Chinese President Xi Jin-ping warned the city against independence forces. As protests raged on behind him, he warned Hong Kong that challenges to the Beijing government was “impermissible”. The political climate around Hong Kong and Beijing has grown stiff, with more and more people following in the footsteps of Liu Xiaobo and calling for independence and democracy.
Ever since Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) has been present but keeps a low profile at almost all times. Hence, this marks the significance of the public appearance of the Liaoning after Xi’s departure; an unprecedented show of military force and power. It’s also a political gesture, showing to Hong Kong and the rest of the world that Hong Kong is, indeed, very much part of China. Not only that, but the aircraft carrier (a big military symbol) helps raise national sentiment and pride. The fact that it’s open to the public only highlights China’s soft power.
The history of China’s first aircraft carrier
It is impressive, to say the least.
The 300m aircraft carrier was bought from Ukraine in the 1980s, and it’s part of Beijing’s plan to boost its military presence worldwide. China’s military budget is rapidly increasing, and is currently the second largest in the world. Although China’s military technology is lagging behind, it is quickly gaining a leg in the race. While many aircraft carriers (i.e. the ones in the US) take around five years to build, China’s second aircraft carrier is estimated to be finished in three.
With over 10 cafeterias, a library, a convenience store, a TV station, a band and more than 20 ethnicities on board, the Liaoning is certainly impressive.
But the Liaoning was not the only action China used to secure Hong Kong.
COSCO and OOIL
China’s shipping giant COSCO has secured a $6.3 billion deal to buy its Hong Kong rival, OOIL. This would make Cosco the third biggest shipping company in the world.
With OOIL’s share price popping 19% to $71.45 HKD and COSCO offering $10.07 per share, OOIL’s founders have accepted the deal.
China is already the world’s biggest exporter for manufactured goods, and securing its hold on OOIL brings its influence one step further.
My take on these events:
I think that both of these events once again link back to the fact that “one country, two systems” just isn’t working very well. China feels the need to solidify its control over Hong Kong, which is understandable as protests raged the streets just days before. Through both force and softness, China is determined to make the “one country, two systems” policy work. But will it succeed?