"One country, two systems" is renewed in Hong Kong
In 1842, Hong Kong was acquired by the British Empire following the Treaty of Nanking. In 1860, the Kowloon Peninsula was gained, and in 1898, Lantau Island and the adjacent northern lands (which became known as the New Territories) were also ceded. The latter was established under the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory, granting Britain a 99-year, rent-free lease on the region.
In 1984 – as the expiration date neared – the governments of the United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China (PRC) concluded the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the Question of Hong Kong, under which the sovereignty of the leased territories, together with Hong Kong Island, would be handed back to the PRC. This transfer took place on 1st July 1997, officially ending 155 years of British colonial rule.
As part of this handover, a principle known as "One country, two systems" would be implemented. This was proposed by Chinese paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, in the negotiations with British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. In essence, it allowed Hong Kong to retain its own separate political and financial system under a high degree of autonomy, while the rest of mainland China would continue the practice of socialism. Chapter 1, Article 5 of the Hong Kong Basic Law – the constitutional document of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) – stated as follows:
"The socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years."
This same principle was applied to the former Portuguese colony of Macau – two years later – with an expiry date of 2049. The two SARs of Hong Kong and Macau were responsible for their own domestic affairs including: the judiciary and courts of last resort, immigration and customs, public finance, currencies, extradition and human rights. They could formulate their own policies on education, culture, sports, social welfare and related systems within the framework of the basic laws. In general, residents would continue to enjoy greater freedom and civil liberties than people living in mainland China. Foreign affairs and national defence of the two SARs, however, were handled by the Central People's Government in Beijing.
Some international observers and human rights organisations expressed doubts over the future of the relative political freedoms enjoyed in Hong Kong, and the PRC's pledge to allow a high degree of autonomy. Concerns were raised, for example, that proposals in Article 23 of the Basic Law in 2003 (withdrawn due to mass opposition) may have undermined autonomy. Nonetheless, the governments of the People's Republic of China and Hong Kong both considered the system to have been successfully implemented, quoting official reports from both the United Kingdom and the United States.
In subsequent decades, Hong Kong continued to develop as a major global financial centre – but faced uncertainty over its future. Exactly what would happen beyond 2047 (Hong Kong) and 2049 (Macau) was never publicly stated; none of the constitutional documents gave any indication. Among the issues now arising was that of land leases. Almost all private land was held on leases of 50 to 999 years. When granting these leases, the government had not deemed it necessary to set expiry dates of 30th June 2047. Developers and property owners were now increasingly concerned that the validity of government leases was not absolutely certain.*
A number of legal experts claimed that these concerns were overstated, however. Even if Hong Kong were absorbed back into the Chinese mainland, private property rights were explicitly protected under the Chinese constitution, with a long-established legal framework for granting land leases in other parts of the country. Article 123 of the Hong Kong Basic Law also made no mention of a 30th June 2047 expiry date. It could therefore be argued that the Hong Kong SAR government had the authority to renew leases independently of the Chinese government in Beijing.
Chapter 1, Article 5 of the Hong Kong Basic Law was more ambiguous in its wording and somewhat open to interpretation. A specific period of 50 years had been given for "the previous capitalist system and way of life," suggesting that it might be changed after this period. Scholars from the University of Hong Kong voiced agreement on this point, stating that: "[t]he destination is indeed 'to assimilate Hong Kong into the mainland politically, legally, culturally and ideologically,' – using force if necessary – at whatever place may exist there in 2047."
However, the first part of the clause affirmed "the socialist system and policies shall not be practised in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region." Therefore, it did not necessarily imply that "one country, two systems" would automatically end after that 50-year period. Debates raged in civil society, the political arena, academic circles and the business community over the long-term future of Hong Kong.
In the end, a new agreement was forged between Hong Kong and mainland China, allowing the status quo to essentially remain in place. The reference to 50 years in Chapter 1, Article 5, was interpreted as meaning only a "minimum" period, rather than a limit. Policy makers noted that reformist leader Deng Xiaoping himself had stated: "[a]s a matter of fact, 50 years is only a vivid way of putting it. Even after 50 years, our policy will not change either. That is, for the first 50 years it cannot be changed and for the second there will be no need to change it."
In any case, mainland China has become more Westernised and capitalistic than ever.* By 2047, the differences between it and Hong Kong have narrowed considerably. While Hong Kong retains economic, legal and political independence from Beijing, they now share commonalities in many areas. Even if Hong Kong were to reunify with the mainland, there would no longer be much of a socialist system to merge with.
Fully autonomous, intelligent military aircraft
Most of today's jet fighters are now entirely computer controlled. These unmanned planes have fully autonomous capability from the moment they take off, to the moment they land. A combination of strong AI, swarming behaviour and hypersonic technology is employed to create near-instantaneous effects throughout the battlespace.*
The growth of network-centric warfare and the increasing complexity of enemy types, movements and environmental factors has led to major advances in target recognition technology and collision avoidance systems. This allows whole squadrons of pilotless planes to synchronise, attack from multiple vectors and regroup in seconds. Further autonomy is provided by auto air refueling, self-repair and other systems.
With the emergence of AI, personnel costs have shifted from operations, maintenance and training, to design and development. Machines can perform repairs in-flight (including the use of "self-healing" nanotechnology composites) while routine ground maintenance requires little or no human labour, being done mostly by robots. New tactics and information can simply be programmed into the aircraft, or they can "learn" from others in the swarm.
With their hypersonic engines, inhuman reaction times and improved weaponry, these craft would run rings around human pilots of earlier decades. Following the retirement of the F-35 Lightning II, manned fighter planes are now essentially obsolete.
Unmanned probe to 2060 Chiron
2060 Chiron is a minor planet found in the outer Solar System.* Discovered in 1977, it became the first in a new class of objects known as centaurs – small bodies orbiting between Saturn and Uranus – and named after the race of half-man/half-horses from Greek mythology, in recognition of their dual comet/asteroid nature.
2060 Chiron has a radius of around 145 miles (233 km) and a parabolic orbit going from just inside the orbit of Saturn (8.5 AU) to just outside the orbit of Uranus (19 AU). With an orbital period of 51 years, it reaches perihelion in 2047.* As part of the recent exploration of the Kuiper Belt,* an unmanned robotic probe has been sent to intercept it, arriving this year.
The mission returns vital data about Chiron's size, shape, polar obliquity, atmosphere, surface morphology, composition, internal structure, surface activity (including the nature of Chiron's outbursts), and its origin. NASA had been planning for such a mission as far back as 1994.*
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1 What Will Happen to Hong Kong Kong after 2047?, Danny Gittings:
Accessed 25th May 2014.
2 See 2055.
3 United States Air Force Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight
Plan 2009-2047, GlobalSecurity.org
Accessed 14th August 2010.
4 2060 Chiron, Wikipedia:
Accessed 8th July 2012.
5 The Chiron Perihelion Campaign, NASA:
Accessed 8th July 2012.
6 See 2036.
7 A Low-Cost Mission to 2060 Chiron Based on the Pluto Fast Flyby, NASA:
Accessed 8th July 2012.