Dramatic transformations, particularly in places such as Shenzhen just north of Hong Kong, have brought China's cities closer to Hong Kong in terms of hard infrastructure, though Hong Kong still enjoys a separate political and legal system, and a better public provision of education and healthcare.In particular, there has been a steady rise in anti-mainland sentiment, seen in some politicians' "de-mainlandisation" slogans dating back a number of years, and a growing emphasis on Hong Kong identity as something separate or different from Chinese identity.
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Recent developments in Hong Kong - from the violent disturbances in Hong Kong's Mong Kok district on the first day of the Chinese new year to the disappearance of publisher Lee Bo - have taken concerns about political risk in Hong Kong to a new level, both in the city and beyond.
The dominant explanation for Hong Kong's political problems in much of the international media and among some Hong Kongers is that they are the result of the central authorities (Beijing) tightening its grip on Hong Kong politics and society.
Governance challenges result from a constitutional arrangement whereby a legislature - which is substantially elected effectively - acts as opposition to an unelected executive.
And although a sense of dysfunction has grown since Leung Chun-ying's administration took charge in 2012, the roots of the current governance challenges predate his administration.
Combined with growing socioeconomic divisions in Hong Kong, the impact of China's economic rise has fuelled new forces in Hong Kong politics, which in turn tap into long-standing antipathy to China's ruling Communist Party from a sizeable proportion of Hong Kong people.
Another structural factor needs more consideration. Although tensions had begun to appear in the first decade after the 1997 handover from Britain to China, they were balanced by the pre-2008 global and Chinese economic boom, with a sense that Hong Kong had broadly benefited both from China's economic rise and from globalisation.