At the beginning of 2019, I listed seven China-related stories worth following throughout the year. Some became big headlines—the Uighur detentions, the U.S.-China trade war, and Chinese influence overseas. Others are perennial issues, such as Taiwan’s relationship with China and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Still others represented the trend of greater control in the country, such as the government crackdown on Christians and forced disappearances.
What I didn’t foresee was 2019’s biggest China-related story: Hong Kong’s pushback against mainland China’s encroachment. Who would have thought a controversial extradition bill would unleash pent-up anger within Hong Kongers and lead to a protest movement still going strong in its eighth month?
As we begin 2020, I’ve picked seven China stories worth watching in the new year.
1. Hong Kong: The 1-million-strong New Year’s Day protest shows the movement’s momentum is continuing into 2020. That’s because even though the Hong Kong government has withdrawn the extradition bill, it refuses the demand of the people to set up an independent investigation into police brutality or to allow direct elections. Young Hong Kong protesters view this as a fight for survival, so arrests and increasingly harsh police actions have done little to dampen their enthusiasm.
2. Taiwan: The upheaval in Hong Kong has shown the self-governed island of Taiwan a terrifying picture of what could happen if the island accepts China’s “one country, two systems” policy. As a result, incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen—who has been vocal in her criticism of the Chinese government—rose in the polls and is expected to win tomorrow’s presidential election. If Tsai wins a second term, Beijing will likely continue isolating Taiwan on the international stage and luring away diplomatic allies (Taiwan currently has only 15).