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Hong Kong used to be 18 percent of China's GDP. Now it's 3 percent.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Spreng Ben

When China gained control of Hong Kong in 1997, it represented an economically significant addition to the territory under Beijing's control. Mainland China had almost 200 times as many people as Hong Kong, yet they did not even produce six times as much stuff. In the 17 years since the handover, though, the Chinese economy has grown a lot faster than Hong Kong's economy has:

In 1997, Hong Kong's economy was more than 18 percent the size of the economy of the mainland. Today, the figure is down to three percent. Mainland China produces 30 times as many goods and services as does Hong Kong.

On a per capita basis, Hong Kong is still dramatically wealthier than the mainland. Last year, Hong Kong produced $38,000 per resident, compared to $6,800 on the mainland. But the mainland is narrowing that gap pretty quickly.

Does this changing economic picture have an effect on the current standoff in Hong Kong? The authorities in Beijing have always viewed the takeover of Hong Kong more in political terms than economic ones. But the spectacular growth of the Chinese government no doubt bolsters their confidence in the system that prevails on the mainland, which combines a market economy with political repression.

The Chinese government's confidence has grown along with its economy. That could make it a bit more willing to endure international scrutiny and criticism of that system, including when it comes to Hong Kong and the protesters' demands for greater democracy.

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