Ian Rowen: Simulating territory: the rise and demise of Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan as an imaginary regional formation


Ian Rowen is Professor at National Taiwan Normal University (ShiDa) 台師大教授。Geographer by training. Author: One China, Many Taiwans (@CornellPress, out Jan 2023) http://bit.ly/3QCrKss


New article: Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan have totally different histories and governance, Yet, they are imagined as one through the phrase 港澳台, which simulates a regional formation to serve a strategy of irredentism. 1/10

In 1998, PR China set up a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Office of Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan 港澳台司, that claimed responsibility for managing all three different regions. In so doing, it fabricated an imaginary regional formation, 港澳台, out of thin air. 2/10

By performing 港澳台 Hong Kong-Macao-Taiwan as a regional formation, the PRC pursues a strategy of irredentism in the subjunctive mode, acting *as if* Taiwan was already subject to its rule. Issuing identical ID cards to Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan people is one tactic. 3/10

Another tactic to enact the 港澳台 Hong Kong-Macao-Taiwan regional imaginary is citing it in print and public spaces, as seen here in this Shanghai bookshop I browsed in 2014 while preparing for my group tour to Taiwan, detailed in my @cornell book: https://cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/9781501767692/one-china-many-taiwans/#bookTabs=1 4/10

Travel booking engines like Ctrip group together “中国港澳台 China Hong Kong-Macao-Taiwan” as if they’re similar destinations, intensifying the simulation of their similar sub-sovereign status. (see more on this in @Geopolitics_Jl : https://tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14650045.2022.2027914 ) 5/10

The United Front Work Department projects the imagined territory back in time! Before 1998, PRC officials didn’t refer to 港澳台 Hong Kong-Macao-Taiwan as a fixed formula. Afterwards, statements by Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin were reattributed in new 港澳台 collections. 6/10

Needless to say, Xi Jinping incessantly recites the ‘港澳台 Hong Kong-Macao-Taiwan’ cliche. His party stenographers duly spread the word, as seen here in this New Year’s greeting on Xinhua. 7/10

However, the more the PRC clamped down on HK and hardened toward Taiwan, the more it spooked civil society in both: The authoritarian intensification of the territorial simulation of “Hong Kong-Macao-Taiwan” dialectically accelerated its annihilation. 8/10

With Hong Kong and Macao self-determination movements snuffed out by ‘National Security’ Laws and Taiwan clearly going its own way, the imaginary “港澳台 Hong Kong-Macao-Taiwan” formation is being eclipsed by the “Greater Bay Area”, which omits Taiwan. 9/10

For more, see the paper! 50 free e-prints available here. DM me if they’re all used up and I’ll send you a paper. 10/10



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