Rethinking Hong Kong's Governance Crisis Under Chinese Sovereignty: The Failure of the State-Business Governing Coalition After 1997


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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  • Chi Hang FONG


Awarding Institution
Award date10 Jul 2012


In post-handover Hong Kong, state-business governing coalition is not a solution to our governance problem, it is itself a problem. To restore effective governance in the HKSAR, the old way of maintaining governance through a state-business governing coalition will not do. It is time for the realignment of a new governing coalition in the territory.

Contemporary comparative studies on hybrid regimes pointed out that the capacity of authoritarian states to maintain effective governance and political stability is largely determined by its power to engineer a viable governing coalition. In this connection, since the British colonial era the political order of Hong Kong has already been built upon the foundation of a state-business governing coalition. The effective functioning of the colonial state-business governing coalition had even prompted the Chinese Government to believe that it could adopt the same political formula to govern Hong Kong after the handover of sovereignty in 1997. As a consequence, Beijing leaders had deliberately kept the configuration of colonial state-business governing coalition largely intact when they crafted the post-handover political order during the transitional period of 1980s and 1990s.

However, after 1997, Hong Kong has been undergoing political and socio-economic transformation and the enabling conditions that endowed a viable state-business governing coalition in the colonial era have been gradually eroded. On the one hand, fragmentation of agents of business interests and growing disconnection of business sector from the local community have undermined the intermediary role of co-opted business elites, resulting in fragmented linkages between the state, business and society. On the other hand, the institutionalization of business power under the HKSAR political system and the business sector’s increased access to the sovereign state have equipped the local capitalists with unprecedented political leverages, undermining the relative autonomy of the post-colonial state.

The changing political and socio-economic environments after 1997 have eventually plunged the post-colonial state into the crisis of state embeddedness and crisis of state autonomy. As a consequence, after the handover the state-business governing coalition not only fails to consolidate a stable political support base for the post-colonial state, it even provides a fertile ground for breeding new governance problems such as growing pressure of business capture, increasing public suspicions of government-business collusion and aggravation of class conflicts. In the post-handover period, the state-business governing coalition has already become a political burden rather than a political asset to the Hong Kong Government. In fact, the lingering of governance crisis in the post-1997 period has fully demonstrated that although the formula of state-business governing coalition was once a solution for the colonial administration in the past, it is now a problem for the post-colonial state.

To restore effective governance in Hong Kong, the whole political order in the territory has to be revamped so as to enable the post-colonial state to rebuild its governing capacity. Without the realignment of a new governing coalition in the HKSAR, the Hong Kong Government will continuously be trapped in a crisis of governance in the years to come.