When dealing with autonomous regions, states may utilize Unionist Economic Integration (UEI) programs to forge a stronger sense of unionism. However, the literature has not been able to explain why UEIs work differently across regions. With the identical UEI implemented in Macau and Hong Kong, Macau seems to be firmly within Beijing's grasp, yet protests in Hong Kong are still intensive. Why is economic integration effective in appeasing some regions, but not others in the same polity?
I argue that what makes UEI effective in appeasing a region is the region's economic dependence on the national center. UEIs add to the expected cost of contention, and thus high economic dependence sets that baseline to a higher degree, leading to effective appeasement with UEIs. I illustrate my argument with empirical analyses of two original datasets of protest counts and discontent with authoritarian institutions in Hong Kong, Macau, and Chinese provinces.