On March 13, in his speech at the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress, President Xi Jinping emphasized that “the construction of a strong country cannot be separated from the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao. (We must) comprehensively, accurately and unswervingly implement the policy of ‘one country, two systems’”.
President Xi also raised the issue of national reunification: “To realize the complete reunification of the motherland is the common aspiration of all Chinese people, and it also constitutes the essence of national rejuvenation. It is necessary to implement the Party’s overall strategy for resolving the Taiwan question in the new era, adhere to the one-China principle and the 1992 Consensus, actively promote the peaceful development of cross-Straits relations, resolutely oppose interference by external forces and the separatist activities of the ‘Taiwan separatists’, and unflinchingly undertake the task of the reunification of the motherland.”
There is no doubt that a strong China must also be a unified China, and cannot be a China that is still in a divided state. The “one country, two systems” policy is a core part of the Communist Party of China’s national reunification strategy and constitutes the key to the peaceful and smooth return of Hong Kong, Macao and eventually Taiwan to the motherland. For this reason, my understanding of President Xi’s words is that the comprehensive and accurate practice of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong, as well as the prosperity, stability and development of the city, are organically and closely related to building a prosperous and strong country and attaining national reunification.
In the process of building a prosperous and strong China, Hong Kong has played a unique and irreplaceable role both before and after its return to the motherland. However, at different stages of the country’s modernization process, and considering that Hong Kong’s economic structure has also been constantly changing, the role played by Hong Kong has varied at different times. Nevertheless, Hong Kong has managed to meet the needs of the country capably and bring its unique advantages into full play.
In the early days of the country’s modernization, Hong Kong was the mainland’s main source of capital, talents, enterprises, technology and information, as well as an important export market and entrepot for the country. With the country’s rise and unremitting reform and opening-up, Hong Kong’s status as an international financial, trade, shipping and service center has become increasingly crucial to the country’s modernization. Importantly, Hong Kong’s development has also become increasingly dependent on the mainland’s development. The successful practice of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong undoubtedly has great strategic significance for the eventual smooth return of Taiwan to the motherland.
In the past few years, President Xi has repeatedly signified both the importance of Hong Kong to the country and the importance of the country to Hong Kong. He emphasized that the successful implementation of “one country, two systems” is firstly an important part of the CPC’s grand strategy of building socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era, particularly in the fields of governance and comprehensively building a socialist modern nation. Secondly, “one country, two systems” is essential to realizing the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. And, thirdly, “one country, two systems” is a major undertaking that is inseparable from the great cause of national reunification.
Over the past 10 years, China’s socialist modernization drive has entered a new era and encountered a new situation. During this turbulent period, the international and domestic situation has undergone earth-shaking changes. Deglobalization, trade and technological protectionism, unilateralism and populism are rampant. Historical and structural factors such as the multitudinous and wide-ranging impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the global political and economic landscape, the brutal, unrelenting and unremitting efforts of the United States and the West to suppress and contain China, and other inexorable historical and structural factors have impelled China to embark on a development path that relies more on its strength to promote national modernization and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
At the same time, the situation in the Taiwan Straits is changing for the worse. The forces striving for “Taiwan independence” are gaining momentum and foreign blessings. The US is doing its best to thwart China’s efforts at reunification and use Taiwan to undermine China’s national security. The issue of national reunification is becoming more and more complicated, urgent, and intractable. In the new era and new situation, the success or failure of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong has become increasingly relevant to the development and reunification of the country.
To ensure the steady and long-term implementation of “one country, two systems”, President Xi solemnly announced to the world on July 1, 2022, that the policy of “one country, two systems” will remain in Hong Kong for a long time. On Oct 22, 2022, the CPC made amendments to part of the Party Constitution concerning Hong Kong and Macao. The amended version reads: The Party will “comprehensively and accurately implement the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, promote the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao, resolutely oppose and contain ‘Taiwan independence’, and accomplish the great cause of the reunification of the motherland.” This passage clearly links “one country, two systems” and national reunification tightly.
On March 13, Premier Li Qiang made it clear when answering questions from Chinese and foreign journalists that, “with the strong backing of the motherland and the guarantee of ‘one country, two systems’, the status and role of Hong Kong and Macao (in the country) will only strengthen, and not weaken. The future of Hong Kong and Macao will be brighter and brighter”. Premier Li’s words echo President Xi’s statement that “building a strong country is inseparable from the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao”. Their speeches provide important strategic instructions and guidance for Hong Kong’s future work on the practice of “one country, two systems” in the new era and under the new situation, and these tasks are closely related to the development and reunification of the country. Of course, in order to enable Hong Kong to do its work better, President Xi also promised to render full support to Hong Kong’s economic development, improving people’s livelihoods, and better integrating the city into the overall development of the country. Premier Li also stated that he will fully support Hong Kong’s integration into the overall development of the country, develop its economy, improve people’s livelihoods, and enhance its international competitiveness.
It can be seen clearly that the importance of Hong Kong in the process of national development and reunification has been further enhanced in the new era and under the new situation. To better fulfill Hong Kong’s responsibilities to the country and the nation, Hong Kong must make good use of the conditions and advantages endowed by “one country, two systems” and make new contributions to the country’s development and reunification under the support and guidance of the country.
As far as national development is concerned, Hong Kong’s development strategy must be closely aligned and in sync with the country’s development strategy, especially in assisting the country in building a large national market, expanding domestic demand, strengthening the financial system, especially its ability to manage and control financial crises, giving full play to the role of private enterprises in national economic development, promoting the internationalization of renminbi, attracting foreign investment, strengthening the economic, trade and financial ties between China and the world, developing the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and speeding up the formation of the Eurasian economic cooperation region, etc.
At the same time, Hong Kong must effectively guard against attempts and actions by hostile external forces to turn Hong Kong into a base of subversion that endangers national security. Local legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law needs to be started and completed in due course. Considering that the factors and means that threaten national security are constantly changing and crop up endlessly, national security legislation and education must be important tasks that should be undertaken unfailingly, especially to avoid the onslaught of financial crises in Hong Kong and prevent them from causing harm to the financial stability of the mainland.
As far as national unity is concerned, Hong Kong must ensure the comprehensive and accurate practice of “one country, two systems”, and prove that “one country, two systems” is a good system that is beneficial to Hong Kong’s prosperity, stability, development, freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law now and in the long run.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and all social sectors should do their best to publicize the success of “one country, two systems” to the international community and Taiwan compatriots, to rebut the slanders, distortions and lies about “one country, two systems” by hostile forces inside and outside the city and the “Taiwan independence” elements, and strive to win the hearts and minds of the international community and Taiwan. People in the international community and Taiwan should be persuaded and “educated” to recognize and affirm the success of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong, and reduce their misunderstanding of and resistance to “one country, two systems” as the best arrangement for cross-Straits reunification.
The HKSAR government and patriotic forces in the city should also work together to solve the deep-seated socioeconomic and people’s livelihood problems in Hong Kong, and leverage economic development to solve those problems so that Hong Kong residents will strongly endorse and embrace “one country, two systems”, appreciate the support and solicitude of the central government and heartily love Hong Kong. All these will be beneficial to the building and sustaining of a prosperous, stable, fair and reasonable Hong Kong society.
To tell the story of “one country, two systems” deftly in Hong Kong to the outside world, the best way is to make “one country, two systems” widely recognized and liked by the residents of Hong Kong. Only under these circumstances will the unreasonable and malicious smearing of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong by hostile external forces and “Taiwan separatists” become incredible and self-defeating.
In short, all parties in Hong Kong must deeply understand the importance of Hong Kong to the development and reunification of the country in the new era and under the new situation and earnestly fulfill their responsibilities and obligations to the country and the nation faithfully and honorably.
The author is a professor emeritus of sociology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a consultant of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.