The 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China is being celebrated with great fanfare and cautious jubilation. In contrast, in some foreign circles, however, is a sense of apprehension or outright affirmation of the demise of “one country, two systems” after the introduction of the National Security Act to Hong Kong in June 2020 and the overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system. in March 2021.
As a guest contributor to The Rise of China: Fresh Insights and Observations, a collection of essays published by the UK’s Paddy Ashdown Forum in October 2021, after exploring the ins and outs of China’s recent fiery break law and order in Hong Kong, my chapter, One Country Two Systems Revisited, concluded that the Hong Kong death report appears to be greatly exaggerated.
The cornerstone of “one country, two systems” is Hong Kong’s common law system, which dates back to the 15th century. This is enshrined in Article 8 of the Basic Law, China’s national “one country, two systems” law. Hong Kong’s judicial independence is constitutionally guaranteed by Articles 2, 19 and 85, which expressly provide for an independent judiciary, including final adjudication, free from interference.
Over the years, Hong Kong’s legal and judicial systems have been strengthened and enriched by many foreign talents and expertise. To date, at Hong Kong’s highest court, the Court of Final Appeal, eight of the remaining 10 foreign judges have agreed to stay on.
In its 2021 Global Competitiveness Rankings, Switzerland’s Institute for Management Development ranked Hong Kong eighth in the world for fair administration of justice, ahead of Britain at 15th and the United States. in 23rd place.
The same institute ranks Hong Kong seventh in global competitiveness, with top rankings in “trade law”, “international trade”, “tax policy”, “finance” and “management practices”.
According to the Hong Kong American Chamber of Commerce’s Business Climate Survey Report of January 19, 2022, despite pandemic and political concerns, businesses remain optimistic about Hong Kong’s business prospects, with plans to expand investments for the next 24 months. Hong Kong is widely regarded as a competitive global hub. Only 5% of global/regional headquarters have specific plans to move their headquarters out of Hong Kong.
As a unique bridge between East and West, “one country, two systems” becomes even more important for China, with an accelerated trajectory to realize the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation. Despite recent waves of emigration, let’s not forget the example of some 300,000 Hong Kong residents holding Canadian passports who eventually returned to live in Hong Kong after the 1997 handover.
Nevertheless, turbulent storm clouds are gathering. President Xi Jinping has repeatedly hinted at an era of unprecedented challenges and opportunities calling on the nation, including Hong Kong, to brave the elements.
At the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, President Xi spoke of the three existential traps facing China – the “Tacitus trap”, the “Thucydides trap” of superpower rivalry and the “income trap”. intermediary” before becoming a wealthy nation. In 2017, Harvard professor Joseph Nye added a fourth – “The Kindleberger Trap” of lack of global governance capacity.
The cooperative relationship with the United States has now completely evaporated. The United States is cajoling allies and ambivalent nations around the world to confront, contain and delay China’s rapid rise, using all measures but war. These include reducing China’s technological bottlenecks such as high-end semiconductor chips, indiscriminate tariffs, delisting of Chinese companies and ideological backlash, including sanctions, on the autonomous regions of Xinjiang Uygur and Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong. A persistent US-led campaign to demonize China has damaged China’s global image.
Recently, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has been used as a proxy to cast China as a “silent accomplice”, rallying Western allies to pressure China to dance to American tunes. Meanwhile, the resulting chaos in energy and food supplies is fueling global inflation, triggering a possible global recession, rattling many of China’s trading partners, but, to a lesser extent, China itself.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden, ahead of midterm elections in the fall, is creating an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), rallying nations across the region in a state-led anti-China coalition. States, reminiscent of an “Asian NATO”. In the absence of substantial economic benefits, the ambivalence of many participants was telling. His recent Summit of the Americas to rally support in America’s backyard proved to be a lackluster embarrassment.
All of this is happening as China attempts to transform itself through technological autonomy, “dual circulation,” innovative productivity to overcome population aging, and “common prosperity” to ease acute inequality tensions. .
On the positive side, unprecedented opportunities are emerging. In more or less a decade, China’s nominal GDP is expected to overtake that of the United States to become the world’s largest economy. China’s military capability is advancing by leaps and bounds, challenging US dominance in the South China Sea. In space technology, China is on track to complete the construction of its own space station, while the US-led “International Space Station” (which has ruled out China from the start) is approaching the end of its useful life. China is also leading in many game-changing dimensions of 5G, big data and the Internet of Things, technologies set to change the way businesses and lives are conducted in a “fourth industrial revolution” of the 21st. century.
Meanwhile, China has firmly established itself at the heart of the global supply and value chain. This centrality does not seem to be changing due to the generalized decoupling of the United States, since 130 nations have China as their main trading partner, compared to 57 for the United States. Despite decoupling, China’s international trade in 2021 increased by 25%, including trade with the United States up 20% (data from the Center for China and Globalization).
When the war in Ukraine does eventually end one way or another, an ostracized Russia and a devastated Ukraine are likely to boost China’s trade and investment, providing plenty of opportunities for a “Belt and Belt” initiative. the “more enlightened Route” linking Europe.
In terms of green energy capacity, China is already the world leader in solar, hydro and wind renewable energy, as well as breakthroughs in nuclear fusion technologies. The nation seems on track to meet its commitment to carbon neutrality by 2060.
One way or another, Hong Kong will be impacted, for better or for worse. However, much remains to be done in Hong Kong itself.
Twenty-five years after reunification has seen the loss of a whole generation of young people in Hong Kong in patriotism and even Chinese nationality. Deep-rooted socio-economic contradictions are emerging, including housing, inequality, lack of economic diversity, insufficient upward mobility, and aging demographics. Hong Kong’s national security law notwithstanding, remnants of subversive elements, including hostile foreign influence, remain lurking around the corner.
Under “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong has had no shortage of policies. What the city needs now are concrete results.
That is why it is timely for Hong Kong to soon have John Lee Ka-chiu as general manager. He rose to the challenge by forming a results-oriented administration. Political secretaries and their department heads can be held accountable for delivering the respective key performance indicators.
Hong Kong should redouble its efforts as the preeminent international financial center for renminbi internationalization, including RMB bond issuance, bilateral RMB trade settlements, RMB-based wealth management services and the development of China’s digital sovereign currency – the e-RMB – which can help counter the weaponization of the dollar.
Hong Kong should partner with Shenzhen as the innovation and technology hub of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, capitalizing on Hong Kong’s world-class universities and rule of law based on common law within the framework of “one country, two systems”.
Hong Kong is also expected to make the most of its world-class West Kowloon cultural district to become an Asian cultural paradise, joining forces with the world’s best cultural metropolises as well as those on the Chinese mainland.
Making Hong Kong the best place in the world for East and West to meet and do business would rally more people behind the government. Above all, it would bolster Beijing’s confidence in “one country, two systems” renewal well beyond 2047.
The author is an international and independent Chinese strategist; he was previously Director General of Welfare and Hong Kong’s Chief Official Representative for the UK, Eastern Europe, Russia, Norway and Switzerland.
Opinions do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.