Stephen Young, Taipei Times
In time, relations between Beijing and Taipei also began to thaw. I remember coming across Taiwan tourists visiting China in the late eighties. Later on, I followed the flow of Taiwan business and capital into the China market in the nineties, as Deng’s economic policies offered opportunities for astute businessmen to make money in the mainland.
China grew economically while Taiwan prospered and democratized. As the cost of labor increased in Taiwan, local businesses began shifting their manufacturing and assembly operations across the Taiwan Strait, to take advantage of cheaper labor costs and reliable partnerships. It seemed like a “win-win” for everyone involved.
On June 30, 1997, the Union Jack finally came down over Hong Kong. But the newly minted “Special Autonomous Region” (SAR) that replaced British sovereignty after 1997 continued to flourish. Rudimentary democracy was instituted there, with the promise that this trend would continue and deepen in the coming years. Some felt that Hong Kong’s return to Beijing sovereignty had been so successful that its gradual transition into a fully Chinese political entity by 2047 would become anticlimactic.
Enter Xi Jinping (習近平). Mr. Xi — son of a high-ranking PRC official, who like his father had suffered during the Cultural Revolution before being rehabilitated, quickly rose through the ranks, and became China’s top leader in 2012. Over the past six years, he has amassed control of the political, military and economic levers of power, becoming today the most powerful Chinese leader since Deng. Many believe Mr. Xi’s real ambition is to become the second Mao of China, eclipsing other leaders who never rose beyond the position of first among equals in a loose collective leadership.