The China-Hong-Kong Crisis: Problems, Opportunities and Alternative Futures

Special Symposium for the Journal of Futures Studies

The possible Futures of China are crucial to the futures of the world. Currently the second-largest economy in the world, China is soon likely to pass the USA as the world’s biggest financial hub. It is logical to assume that its growing influence will continue to expand beyond the economic and political into multiple fields and domains. Already the People’s Republic is making a notable impact in regard to education and research; AI; space flight; quantum communications; bio-technologies, renewable energies and environmental protection; and much more. There are other areas of influence which might be deemed more problematic, including influence on news and media, internet surveillance, citizen control (social credit), and impact on foreign universities.

China is also a country with significant historical instability. Most recently, widespread protests in Hong Kong have created great anxiety in that Special Administrative Region and in mainland China. The impact of this dispute has extended offshore, as seen with further clashes between the two sides in public spaces and universities in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. The escalation of the US-China trade war situates the crisis in an already unstable broader dynamic.

The key focus of this special symposium is to reevaluate the futures of China, Hong Kong and the globe in light of the current crisis in Hong Kong. This may include all or any of political, economic, social, educational and psycho-spiritual futures.

The situation in China and its southern territory is complicated by an effective crisis in democratic systems in western countries and elsewhere, and this is one domain in which the Hong Kong instability may have great impact. For example, in the USA more than a few political protesters in recent times have burned the US flag as a symbol of oppression; while some of those in Hong Kong bear it as a symbol of hope and freedom. Many protesters in Hong Kong have also adopted Pepe the Frog as a symbolic mascot of freedom and rebellion, an image ironically condemned as racist and oppressive by some mainstream media in western countries. That there are no effective leaders in the Hong Kong movement makes the situation highly problematic. 

Symbols and their meanings are thus both being appropriated and manipulated for political gain, by a wide variety of stakeholders. Agreed meaning appears to be disintegrating. How is meaning and value to be made amidst such confusion?

There are certain parallels with the Hong Kong protests to be noted in the yellow vest protests in France, as well as populist, anti-globalist revolts such as Brexit and populist election results in the USA, Australia, Europe, Brazil the Philippines and other countries. The inequitable distribution of the fruits of globalism may be a commonality here. Yet there are also notable differences amongst all these movements. One further commonality is that the spirit of rebellion appears to be becoming more widespread across the globe. The aforementioned crisis of symbol and meaning is occurring alongside a breakdown of an agreed-upon recipe for social and political “progress” both amongst intellectuals and the broader public. This has parallels within China, where the strong conservatism of Xi Jinping appears to be in conflict with the need to build a “smart” China with innovative schools and universities, corporations, and entrepreneurs. 

Given this broad probematique, there are several key questions which may be addressed by contributors to this symposium.

  • What are the possible, probable and preferred futures which might emerge for China and Hong Kong from this crisis: political, economic, social, educational etc.?
  • What are the causes, overt and subtle, of the unrest in Hong Kong?
  • How can affected countries, regions and the global community bring people together, promote peace and resolve the Hong Kong crisis at this time of unrest? 
  • What are the ideal strategies for Beijing and foreign interests to deal with the crisis, and which can bring about peace and/or compromise?
  • What are the implications of this dispute for the future of democracy (including freedom of expression, media freedom, internet freedom, rule of law etc.) in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and across the globe?
  • How can Xi Jinping’s social and political conservatism gel with his concept of “ecological civilization” and accommodate the need for change that the twenty-first century demands?
  • How can the ideals of democracy, social justice, individual autonomy, responsibility, creativity and critical thinking (seeming requirements for developed economies in the twenty-first century) be balanced with China’s and other regions’ needs for social and political stability?
  • What problems and opportunities for the immediate and longer-term futures of globalism – including the global community and human civilization – does the situation in China bring forth? 
  • How are the HK protests similar or different to previous protests and riots in Tibet (2008) and Xinjiang (2009), as well as current comparable populist movements associated with the yellow vest movement in France, Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and so on?
  • Which futures studies tools and methods might be applied by futurists and other stakeholders (within and beyond China) in understanding and resolving the current crisis, or in predicting future outcomes? (e.g. scenarios, backcasting, horizon scanning technologies like Shaping Tomorrow, Inayatullah’s (2018) Causal Layered Analysis and Futures Triangle (Inayatullah 2018), Wilber’s (2000) Four Quadrant Method etc.).
  • Can macro-historical, integral and in-depth analysis be of assistance here? (e.g. Sakar’s neo-humanism (Inayatullah, 2002), Ken Wilber’s (2000) integral theory, Don Beck’s (2018) spiral dynamics or Inayatullah’s (2018) Causal layered Analysis?).

Contributions will ideally employ a futures approach to analyse the topic, using techniques like visioning, forecasting, scenario building, planning and foresight.

Selected topics can be varied, covering a range of events and situations related to the theme and questions above. Topics can include (amongst others): political issues; media and social media control and usage surrounding the events - including by political organisations and citizen groups; human rights; the futures of democracy; civilizational and psycho-spiritual development; China-West-foreign relations; the futures of both China and Hong Kong in light of the current disturbance; the futures of Taiwan, Macau and overseas Chinese communities; and the freedoms and political restrictions of Chinese students on study abroad.

This special edition invites contributors to submit articles, reports and essays in your domain of interest. Submissions may be:

  • Essays – 2000-3000 words in length (including references). Essays are expected to provide new viewpoints and visions, expressed through strong and intelligent prose.
  • Reports – 3000-4000 words in length (including references). Reports are expected to provide coverage of futures studies related events (conferences, meetings, facilitated processes).
  • Articles - 4000-7000 words in length (including references). Articles are expected to make novel contributions to the futures studies field, build on the corpus of futures literature, be evidentially strong and develop clear themes and arguments. Articles are double-blind peer reviewed.

All papers should include material related to Futures Studies from other scholars’ works, such as those found in the Journal of Futures Studies, Futures, Foresight, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, The European Journal of Futures Research, World Future Review and On the Horizon. 

About the Special Editor 

Marcus T Anthony is an academic, futurist, writer and personal consultant. He is Associate Professor, teaching Futures Studies at the College for Global Talents; coordinator of the Global Talent 2050 platform at the same College, and Foresight advisor for the Research and Development Center for Future Civilisation and Talent at the Beijing Institute of Technology (Zhuhai) .

He has written books, articles and popular pieces about the future, and gives public talks and workshops. His specializations include: Education, including transforming the Chinese education system; The development of China and Asia; The south China Greater Bay Area Initiative (Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Macau-Guangzhou-Zhuhai); Human intelligence; Intuitive and spiritual ways of knowing; The philosophy of science; Writing and inspirational research; Consciousness studies. He lives in Zhuhai, southern China. 


  • Proposals due 5 January 2020. 
  • Acceptance of articles by 13 January 2020. 
  • Drafts due 29 March 2020. 
  • Publication in June or Sept 2020. 


Please send your 100-200 word proposals to:  

Dr Marcus T Anthony  and cc

Dr. Jose Ramos 

Proposals should include author names, email, and a 100-200 word summary.    


Beck, Don Edward (2018). Spiral Dynamics in Action. Wiley 

Inayatullah, Sohail (2002). Understanding Sarkar. Brill.

Inayatullah, Sohail (2018). What Works: Case Studies in the Practice of Foresight. Taipei, Tamkang University Press.

Wilber, Ken (2000). A Brief History of Almost Everything. New York, Shambhala.

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