The election of John Lee Ka-chiu as the sixth-term chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region heralds a new era of political stability and economic rejuvenation for the SAR.
Lee devoted the largest part of his election manifesto to six major policy scopes aimed at enhancing the city’s global competitiveness and ensuring sustainable development, each of which set out unique goals and strategies. These essentially entail the consolidation of Hong Kong’s financial market stature, strengthening its core advantages, developing a global inno-tech center, promoting economic restructuring, etc.
Lee’s policy platform embodies the essence of a steadily progressive road map that will help Hong Kong scale new heights. It sends out a strong signal that the course of “one country, two systems” will remain unchanged, that the city will be as free, open, inclusive, diverse and exuberant as it used to be. It, moreover, reinforces the determination to facilitate Hong Kong’s integration into national development, and highlights the city’s unique advantages as a vital bridge connecting the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world, as well as a convenient channel for international enterprises to access the mainland market.
Stability is a prerequisite to development. For Hong Kong, ensuring the integrity of “one country, two systems” is the master valve for maintaining social stability. Lee vowed to proceed with national security legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law, which will serve as an additional safety valve for national security that underpins the city’s course of development.
“One country, two systems” provides Hong Kong with a distinctive institutional advantage which is evident in the city’s fight against the omicron outbreak. Under this framework, it is incumbent upon the central government to assist Hong Kong in curbing the pandemic. Just when the city was struggling to contain an intractable contagion, top leaders with the central authorities vowed to attend to Hong Kong’s needs as long as it makes the request. Such reassurance gave the city a much-needed shot in the arm that dispelled pessimism and ended the initial flurry and sense of helplessness, gradually bringing the fifth wave of the pandemic under control and facilitating a gradual return to normalcy.
The institutional advantages of “one country, two systems” not only come into play in extraordinary times, but also ensure Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and liberties under normal circumstances. Hong Kong, as the superconnector between the mainland and the rest of the world, can leverage the “one country, two systems” framework to perform undertakings that prove to be impossible, or too intricate to achieve under the socialist system. Ever since reunification in 1997, Hong Kong has maintained in-depth collaboration with the mainland in trade, finance and other economic areas. While helping mainland enterprises go abroad and global, Hong Kong has also attained self-growth over the past 25 years since reunification. The city is bound to expand its development capacity as it continues to exploit the limitless potential of “one country, two systems”.
The world is currently undergoing a paradigm shift in global governance characterized by the emergence of de-globalization and growing Sinophobia in the West. What’s more, the repercussions of the Russia-Ukraine conflict have cast a dark cloud over the global economy. There is a general concern about whether Hong Kong can retain its global competitiveness amid a capricious global political climate.
In his election manifesto, Lee enumerated several major pivots for exerting efforts to strengthen Hong Kong’s overall competitiveness, namely consolidating the city’s financial prominence, bringing the proposed Northern Metropolis into reality, transforming the city into a cultural hub. If he can make considerable progress in these areas over the next five years, Hong Kong will be able to scale new heights in socioeconomic development for sure, particularly in improving residents’ livelihoods and living standards. For instance, the further development of Hong Kong’s offshore renminbi hub will offer a viable option for many countries which, in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, have the idea of de-dollarization in mind, facilitating the internationalization of RMB. Hong Kong’s internationally renowned financial market can leverage the mainland, the world’s second largest economy, to also evolve into the world’s largest offshore RMB center.
If we examine Lee’s ambition to create a global inno-tech center, we can conclude that Hong Kong is well-positioned to take its IT prowess to the center stage of the global IT industry, since its scientific research capabilities in many fronts are either in a leading or superior position worldwide. Besides, Hong Kong as an international financial center is ever ready to generate ample capital needed to finance any inno-tech project; its open, inclusive and diverse social environment also conducive to attracting top IT talent to settle in the city. This goal will be within reach if the next administration sets clear objectives and executes appropriate measures. Meanwhile, when properly designed and executed, the Northern Metropolis ambition can turn into a reality that will synergize with the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, particularly with Shenzhen, to transform Hong Kong’s northern part into a livable, business-friendly and green quality-living zone that can accommodate 2.5 million people. It will not only relieve the housing shortage but also forge a sample zone of combining living and industry development.
When these plans gradually turn into a reality, Hong Kong will be able to unleash its tremendous development potential, rejuvenating the city’s economic prowess and vitality.
Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, previously talked about his “four expectations” for Hong Kong, in which he hoped the city would add luster to its international financial, transportation and trade centers to become a modern metropolis brimming with vitality, and a highly civilized Pearl of the Orient that earns the envy of the world. With Lee’s policy platform visualizing the aspirations of Xia, everyone from Hong Kong residents to international investors can be assured of the promising future for Hong Kong.
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.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.