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State-Business Relations in Hong Kong through Executive Council, 1982-2005: A Network Perspective

State-Business Relations in Hong Kong through Executive Council, 1982-2005: A Network Perspective

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Published by Eric Tsui Sing Yan
State-Business relations play a significant part in the study of politics of Hong Kong. After the handover in 1997, controversies about the so-called “State-Business collusion” created political turmoil, although few commentators have knowledge about State-Business relations. This is also a significant issue in political theories, as political theorists disagreed about the degree of state autonomy under business influence. In the scenario of Hong Kong, while some scholars argued that the polity of Hong Kong is a synarchy of bureaucrats and business elites, some suggested that it is a bureaucratic state. Existing empirical evidence is insufficient to provide conclusive answers to these debates.

To figure out how the state interacted with the business sector, we would need to measure the relative power of these two parties. The study tried to estimate the decision-making power of the state and the business sector using the technique of social network analysis. The methodology has been used in the study of politics for decades, and it enables analyses to be conducted while official data are limited. Following the conclusion of Burt's (2005) network studies on social capital, the sum of brokerage and closure of social actors within a social network was used as the indicator of power. In the study, Executive Councilors were treated as representatives of the state or the business sector within the central decision-making body of Hong Kong, and their brokerage and closure were scored. The sum of the scores was used to estimate the relative power of the state and the business.

It was found that business influence on politics, after a period of state-business synarchy, had declined significantly since late 1980s. Although businessmen dominated official posts in the government in the first few years after the handover, their rule remained ineffective, and bureaucrats resumed control after a series of legitimacy crises. The decline of business influence was associated with the fragmentation of business community, which was a result of changing economic structures, fluctuations in Sino-British relations, and Beijing's united front work towards the business sector.
State-Business relations play a significant part in the study of politics of Hong Kong. After the handover in 1997, controversies about the so-called “State-Business collusion” created political turmoil, although few commentators have knowledge about State-Business relations. This is also a significant issue in political theories, as political theorists disagreed about the degree of state autonomy under business influence. In the scenario of Hong Kong, while some scholars argued that the polity of Hong Kong is a synarchy of bureaucrats and business elites, some suggested that it is a bureaucratic state. Existing empirical evidence is insufficient to provide conclusive answers to these debates.

To figure out how the state interacted with the business sector, we would need to measure the relative power of these two parties. The study tried to estimate the decision-making power of the state and the business sector using the technique of social network analysis. The methodology has been used in the study of politics for decades, and it enables analyses to be conducted while official data are limited. Following the conclusion of Burt's (2005) network studies on social capital, the sum of brokerage and closure of social actors within a social network was used as the indicator of power. In the study, Executive Councilors were treated as representatives of the state or the business sector within the central decision-making body of Hong Kong, and their brokerage and closure were scored. The sum of the scores was used to estimate the relative power of the state and the business.

It was found that business influence on politics, after a period of state-business synarchy, had declined significantly since late 1980s. Although businessmen dominated official posts in the government in the first few years after the handover, their rule remained ineffective, and bureaucrats resumed control after a series of legitimacy crises. The decline of business influence was associated with the fragmentation of business community, which was a result of changing economic structures, fluctuations in Sino-British relations, and Beijing's united front work towards the business sector.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Eric Tsui Sing Yan on May 27, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs

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05/09/2014

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State-business Relations in Hong Kongthrough Executive Council, 1982-2005:A Network Perspective
A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfilmentof the Requirements for the Degree ofMaster of PhilosophyinSociologyTSUI, Sing Yan Eric
The Chinese University of Hong Kong holds the copyright of this thesis. Any person(s)intending to use part or whole of the materials in the thesis in a proposed publication mustseek copyright release from the Dean of the Graduate School.
© The Chinese University of Hong KongAugust 2008
 
Acknowledgement
The idea of writing this thesis originated on 1
st
July 2003. Although it was a public holiday, Ihad to work in a hospital miles away from the downtown as a medical intern. The medical ward wasextraordinarily silent. It seemed to be a piece of good news for an overburdened doctor, but theatmosphere was strange. Eventually I realized what had happened after watching the television in thestaff canteen: 500,000 citizens matched against a controversial legislation, while they also voiced outtheir discontent at post-handover policies. I was stunned by the demonstration miles away, whichclearly illustrated that the government suffered from a crisis of legitimacy. Special thanks should begiven to the citizens of Hong Kong, as they ignited my curiosity about the political development of thecity.Thanks should also be given to the Department of Sociology of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Although I did not have a degree in Social Science, the department accepted me as their  post-graduate student. Teaching staff of the department taught me Sociology from the very basic, andtheir patience with a novice like me should be appreciated. They did not only teach me knowledge of Sociology, they also shared their life experiences which were equally precious. It should be mentionedthat Professor Cheung Tak Shing often invited his students to dinner after lectures, such “unofficialtutorials” gave me a lot of valuable advice on the initiation of this research.I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to Professor Chan Kin Man. He is aresponsible thesis supervisor and would always respond to his students' need despite his tight schedule.Professor Chan is a role model of public intellectuals, he never limits himself to the ivory tower. He didnot only provide all the necessary advice and guidance throughout the research process, his passion for the democratic development of Hong Kong and Mainland China is also impressive. Without his supportand encouragement, I could not have fulfilled the task of writing this thesis. Besides, the valuablei
 
comments of Professor Ting Kwok Fai, Professor Lui Tai Lok and Professor Ray Yep Kin Man shouldnot be forgotten.The support from my post-graduate colleagues, including Vitrierat Ng, Zhou Yan and XaXunxiang, were important at times of depression and discouragement. Valuable advice from Carol Tjanshould also be appreciated.I am greatly indebted to my wife Vivandy. Being a typical sufferer of delayed sleep phasesyndrome, I created a lot of nuisance during the busiest phase of thesis writing. Although she did nothave any research background, this thesis could not have been completed without her tolerance, supportand understanding.Last but not least, as a Quaker (though not a pious one) I believe that intellectual innovationswould be impossible without the inspiration of the inner light. May the light within us guide our  political studies and political participation, so that our society could become more righteous, merciful,tolerant, peaceful and democratic.ii

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