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On Hong Kong identity

It’s a bit tricky to apply a label to Hong Kong that fully conveys its geographic, cartographic, and political status. It’s not a country, though it demonstrates aspects of countryhood. It has its own currency, judiciary, and immigration office, for example. (A Hong Kong visa is entirely separate from a mainland China visa.) It’s not a city; though it certainly has wildly built-up urban areas, it also contains small villages that are clearly separate from each other. It’s not really a “metropolitan area,” at least not as Americans would think of that term, because some of the rural areas are reallyrural—they’re not suburbs, but yet those rural areas aren’t very far at all from the densest of the city.

Politically, it’s both part of China and not. The “one country, two systems” model allows for the separation of the currency, judiciary, and all that, but HK does not conduct its own diplomacy nor does it have its own military. Hence Hong Kong, like Macao—an easy one-hour ferry ride from HK across the Pearl River Delta—is a “Special Administrative Region.” You see the abbreviation HKSAR all over the place here. Continue reading

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