Hong Kong’s status gets a boost in the nation’s strategic plan

In his work report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, elaborated on Oct 16 on the central authorities’ policy for the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao. The report fueled a weeklong discussion among the elites and stakeholders in Hong Kong to chart a prophetic picture of the city’s future in the next five years and beyond. It goes without saying that the report will constitute into a profound and transformative impact on the city. A brandnew age has arrived, and Hong Kong must get prepared to embrace it.

In the report, Xi stressed that Hong Kong must consolidate and elevate its traditional status as an international financial, shipping and trading center and an international aviation hub. He also said the city must open up further to the world and have closer collaborations with other countries and regions, which was not mentioned in his work report five years ago in the 19th Party Congress.

As everyone knows, for any major directional speech about national development, the Communist Party of China as a ruling party has been prudent in its wording. So there is definitely special meaning between the lines and behind the words.

Emphasizing Hong Kong’s uniqueness, advantages and further opening-up, I believe the central authority relifted the special administrative region’s status in the overall strategic development plan for the nation because of the sudden turn of the international situation.

The past 20 years saw the great advancement of globalization, and China has been on a fast-track development drive. With the Chinese mainland’s continued opening-up and ever-increasing international exchanges, Hong Kong’s connector role for the rest of the country, to be very honest, has been relatively marginalized. No wonder there was a saying that Hong Kong’s status might be surpassed by sister cities or regions, including Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Hainan province, which is building itself into a super free-trade zone.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong exposed its deep-seated problems fermented in the past few years, including the housing shortage, wealth inequality and failure in industrial transformation. Therefore, the central authority put the emphasis on keeping Hong Kong relevant with national overall development — a major shift of focus that served Hong Kong best amid the geopolitical risks.

Moreover, at a time when the Sino-US relationship is strained, Hong Kong is seen as the only safety valve of the country’s financial stability. As the policy road map became clearer than ever after the 20th Party Congress, we are more than assured that the nation has reshaped the focal point for better governance in the SAR.

In the meantime, financial safety is not the only concern of our country. The city’s international-city status is also valuable to the country. If the nation is going to face any political confrontation that may result in a disruption in exchanges of personnel, capital and technology, Hong Kong could also make contributions to the nation by leveraging its unique advantages because the SAR is seen as the only metropolis in China that is fully connected and aligned with the world in many ways.

Foreseeably, Hong Kong will repeat its miracle of “from zero to hero” to be the nation’s strategic pivot and will glean more support from the country. Hong Kong is now ready to start a new chapter.

But the city must not be complacent and should refrain from harboring a wait-and-see attitude. We need to grab every opportunity.

To our delight, the city’s chief executive, John Lee Ka-chiu, has rolled out a series of unconventional and powerful policies to attract talent and boost the economy. With the earlier-unveiled “0+3” quarantine-easing measure, the city must now try hard to stop the outflow of talents and start competing with other countries and regions for talents. That requires not only talent policies but also livability, industrial policies and greater openness to the world. Only by doing so can Hong Kong strengthen its international status and stand firm on the strategic position designated by the central authorities.

After the social unrest in 2019, the central government pushed forward bold and decisive electoral reforms to improve Hong Kong’s political landscape. After implementing the National Security Law for Hong Kong, the city effectively restored peace and order. Thus it was widely expected that the Party would further expound on its policy of safeguarding national security in “Asia’s world city”.

The principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” and the requirement of improving the city’s judicial and legal systems are both essential for the SAR to uphold its status.

I believe that with the solid foundation established in Hong Kong, the central government will be more confident about putting more favorable policies into the pipeline for bold steps to build a better Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has made clear its direction after suffering greatly from the chaotic situation in 2019. And the central government recognized Hong Kong’s key role in China’s national strategic plan. The synergy is expected to propel Hong Kong to a brighter future.

The author is a member of the Guangdong Province Zhongshan City Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, executive vice-chairman of the Hong Kong CPPCC Youth Association, and vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Y Elites Association.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.