A masked anti-government protester holds a flag supporting Hong Kong independence during a march against Beijing’s plans to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong, China May 24, 2020. File photo : Reuters


A masked anti-government protester holds a flag supporting Hong Kong independence during a march against Beijing’s plans to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong, China May 24, 2020. File photo : Reuters

What is the trajectory of Hong Kong until 2047? Since the return of the Hong Kong SAR to China in 1997 under the 50-year One Country, Two Systems principle, which is due to end in 2047, Hong Kong people have emphasized two systems, neglecting the timeline of a country. This was a major strategic failure, as Hong Kong’s elites should have charted different scenarios and paths through 2047, rather than hoping that Two Systems could be maintained or extended beyond 2047, like a renewed lease.

Part, but not all, of the strategic failure lay in the philosophy of “positive hands-offism”, which has become a mantra in the Hong Kong civil service. Invented by Sir John Cowperthwaite in 1971, then Hong Kong’s financial secretary, the mindset matched British colonial policy which saw Hong Kong as a lucrative outpost in the Far East, where non-interventionism meant a burden. minimum for the British Treasury, maximum freedom for business, and also the least likely to provoke the Chinese Dragon. Hong Kong residents were free to do business, as long as they did not interfere in politics. Hong Kong officials were trained to carry out policies primarily formed by the British governor, who referred to London on a daily basis. What US economist Milton Friedman called “laissez-faire” made economic sense along with political reality, for Hong Kong was a place borrowed from borrowed time.

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From a server economy to the British mainframe, Hong Kong politicians and officials had to move to autonomy under Basic Law in 1997, but real sovereignty rested with Beijing. The Hong Kong-US dollar link matched each other’s strategic and political goals, as the US and China had been on the same side since the 1972 rapprochement. But this is where the Hong Kong Democrats and Liberals forgot. political realism. What if there is a rift between the United States and China that Hong Kong is caught in the middle of?

In 1997, Hong Kong was an economic and financial asset for China, but a potential political responsibility. Anyone who made simple projections of Chinese growth would have known that by 2047 China would be at least a major economic power, if not the first, in which Hong Kong would play a large but smaller role compared to mainland centers such as Shanghai. or Guangdong / Shenzhen.

Looking back, Hong Kong neoliberals made the same three mistakes Singapore’s foreign affairs guru Kishore Mahbubani attributed to American elites over the recent US-China rivalry: metaphysical, ideological, and strategic. The first is to assume that China getting rich would be more like the United States. The second draws the semi-religious line between “good” capitalism and “bad” communism, forgetting that the pot calls for the black pot. Third, the United States has entered a strategic fight without any clarity in its strategic objectives, other than maintaining number 1 status.

Those who believed in unlimited freedom and democracy did not accept the reality that no one can sting a great power, especially the Dragon, in the eye without any consequences. And with the deadlock at the LegCo (Hong Kong Legislative Council) level, there was no way for the Hong Kong authorities to implement a policy to compete economically and technologically with mainland cities ranging from forward with the state-market partnership. And not being able to reduce internal inequalities due to the inability to provide cheap housing, Hong Kong people felt left out in the same way the American middle class felt alienated by neoliberal policies. The drift of strategic policies is a disaster when the neoliberal free market promises prosperity, but it is unequally shared. Worse yet, dependence on the market, when the competition has a state-market partnership with the ability to implement and execute change, the signals slip behind.

Now that the National Security Law is a reality, what are Hong Kong’s strategic options for 2047?

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) CEO Carrie Lam’s recent 2021 political speech contains a formidable list of proposed actions and programs, without clearly stating the strategy and philosophy behind the speech. The speech rightly focused on three priority areas: national security; spatial integration with the Grande Baie region through the Northern Metropolis and synchronization with the national five-year plans; and address the well-being of citizens by investing in net zero emissions, housing, education, health care, youth and a liveable city.

The priorities and sensitivities of the discourse emerge from the 28 mentions of the term “national security”, seven for “climate change” and zero for “social inequalities”. Instead, the last element, possibly the biggest factor in citizen unrest, was treated as “social inclusion”.

The real social problem facing Hong Kong is a conflicted identity. Hong Kong has always been a Cantonese city where the elite have global claims, without clearly identifying with Greater China. This has sown divisions within the city that need to be healed, but how to get there is a monumental task that needs to be tackled with action, rather than just rhetoric.

In “Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities” (2018), Chicago author and professor John Mearsheimer argued that “culture alone is not enough to hold a society together. There are three other ways to keep a company intact. One is to create an alien bogeyman fearful enough to motivate members of society to work together to defend against the threat. Another is to unify a majority by defending an “other” traitor within society itself. But the most important way for societies to prevent disintegration is to build formidable political institutions for which there is no substitute. “

Simply put, the United States is making the enemy of China to make bipartisan politics work together. Both parties demonize each other to gain votes, but building strong institutions to hold society together remains essential. Blaming Beijing for Hong Kong’s ills echoes the first line, as LegCo’s policies create a blockage. Unfortunately, little has been done to engage young people so that they, who will inherit the city by 2047, feel concerned and share this common future.

Illusion is a vision without execution. Why has it been so difficult and slow to build affordable housing for Hong Kong people? Turning caged houses into realized common prosperity is the real strategic priority and the litmus test for healing a divided society.

It is a formidable task for any general manager.

Andrew Sheng is Assistant Professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing and the University of Malaysia. He was previously Chairman of the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission.

This article was based on a presentation to the Vision 2047 Foundation.

Copyright: Asia News Network