By Tu Haiming
President Xi Jinping, in his speech at the assembly celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and inaugurating the governing team of its sixth-term government on July 1, pointed out that the fundamental interests of Hong Kong and those of the country are firmly connected.
To fully understand this organic connection between the fundamental interests of Hong Kong and those of the country, as well as the central authorities’ sincerity in implementing “one country, two systems”, one should look at them from the following perspectives:
From the historical perspective, it is worth noting that when Hong Kong’s return to the motherland was included in the central authorities’ agenda back in the 1980s, State leaders discussed thoroughly what social system Hong Kong should have after its return. The resulting decision was for Hong Kong to maintain its capitalist system, with the aim of sustaining the city’s long-term stability and prosperity by maintaining system continuity, while allowing it to continue to play the role of a “superconnector” between the mainland and the outside world. That role, as it turned out, has been instrumental in facilitating the reform and opening-up process that has propelled the rapid socioeconomic development on the mainland over decades. Undoubtedly, serving both Hong Kong’s and national interests is the central authorities’ original intent for retaining the capitalist system in Hong Kong.
From a developmental perspective, we can also appreciate the original intent of “one country, two systems”, as President Xi said in his speech marking the 20th anniversary of the HKSAR five years ago: “We will build up not only the socialist mainland well but also the capitalist Hong Kong just as well.” This suggests, in the new era, the central government’s determination to faithfully exercise “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong is stronger than ever, because it is its wish for the capitalist Hong Kong to develop better still. This no doubt resonates perfectly in Hong Kong residents’ hearts.
From a philosophical perspective, we need to keep in mind that China now exercises socialism with Chinese characteristics with the understanding that, as social systems, both socialism and capitalism are fruits of human civilization and can coexist with each other as well as learning from each other. Social systems are a means to an end and should be aimed at continuously improving people’s well-being. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” boasts exceptional inclusivity, with “one country, two systems” constituting an essential part of its core theory.
In President Xi’s words, “leaning on the motherland while connecting her to the rest of the world gives Hong Kong unique advantages in economic development, which Hong Kong residents cherish dearly as does the central government.” The central government fully supports Hong Kong in maintaining its unique status and advantages as an international financial center, a hub of global shipping and trade, as well as its efforts to protect its free, open and regulated business environment, upholding its common law system, and expanding smooth and easy contacts with the international community.
Hostile forces in and outside Hong Kong, driven by their desire to undermine and contain China, have been accusing the central authorities of trying to make Hong Kong just another Chinese city like those on the mainland and take away its unique status and advantages. Such false accusations are preposterous because they ignore the fact that the mainland does not benefit from a Hong Kong devoid of its unique status and advantages.
Hong Kong’s common law system has earned recognition from more than 140 jurisdictions around the world for its arbitrations over international business disputes, and thus is of great help to mainland enterprises tapping into the global market. As a center of international finance, Hong Kong has also been a channel of choice for overseas investors to tap into the Chinese mainland market and for mainland businesses to access overseas markets. Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city where Chinese and Western cultures meet and flourish in harmony, allowing the best of the best talents from around the world to bump ideas off one another. In a word, so to speak, Hong Kong’s unique status and advantages cannot be copied by any mainland city, and thus are of great significance to the country.
Looking forward, it is a matter of course for the central authorities to maintain strong support for Hong Kong as a “superconnector” between the mainland and the rest of the world. The country’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) dictates continued support for Hong Kong to maintain and elevate its status as a center of international finance, trade and logistics, an international asset management center, a risk management center, an international center for technological innovation, an international aviation hub, and a center for international legal and dispute resolution service in the Asia-Pacific region. This proves it is a long-term strategy of the central government to let Hong Kong keep its unique status and advantages, not an expedient measure by any means.
President Xi said the central government is confident Hong Kong will make more important contributions to the country’s drive to become a fully developed socialist country and achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. To live up to this great expectation, the administrative team of the HKSAR and all sectors of the community must have a broad vision, a big heart and an open mind for the big picture. Hong Kong’s return to the motherland in 1997 marked a significant milestone in the nation’s march toward great rejuvenation. Today, as we approach that goal, we need a broad vision to understand Hong Kong’s historical role and plan for the future in the best interest of the 7.5 million Hong Kong residents as well as the nation’s development.
The author is a Hong Kong member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank.