Party Congress commits firmly to ‘one country, two systems’

General Secretary Xi Jinping’s speech at the opening of the 20th Party Congress on Oct 16 was delivered at a pivotal point in China’s history — a year after the Communist Party of China commemorated its centenary, three years after the People’s Republic of China celebrated its 70th birthday, and 10 years after Xi took over the reins in 2012 and ushered in a new era of development for China.

With a great sense of history, keen awareness of the great change occurring in the international environment and firm belief in China’s ability to overcome new challenges, Xi recounted the Party’s achievements and laid out, in 15 parts of his speech, the key areas of work on which the Party would focus in the coming years.
Building durable institutions for future development is the inescapable mission of any farsighted leader. As the ideological fountainhead of China in the new era, Xi provided a strong steer by highlighting the Party’s success in building a socialist system imbued with strong Chinese cultural characteristics. This system, which has evolved over the years under the Party’s leadership, provides a firm foundation for the continuous, healthy development of the nation.
A new element of Xi’s ideology, in response to the ongoing international debate on the future of Western electoral democracy is the concept of “whole-process democracy”, enunciated in Part Six of Xi’s speech.
Many Western democracy scholars have warned about the impending crisis of democracy. Having reviewed the challenges facing Western electoral democracies and the great benefits China’s system has brought to the people, Xi pointed out that China’s democratic model, which permits balanced and orderly participation in governance by the people, consultation with the people, policymaking based on the broadest interests of the people, and supervision of the Party’s performance by the people, represents the best possible arrangement for China. China’s model provides much food for thought for Hong Kong’s leaders, who have experienced firsthand the debilitating effects of a model of governance based on short-term electoral interests and polarizing positions.
For the first time, the general secretary devoted an entire division of his speech to highlighting the importance of “one country, two systems” (Part 13). Hong Kong clearly weighs heavily in the general secretary’s heart, as he has said more than once during his inspection tour of Hong Kong.

The opportunity given to Hong Kong to select payload specialists to join the national space program is part and parcel of the nationwide drive to promote science and technology. We should highly treasure our chance to be part of the national team

Early in his speech, Xi noted that Hong Kong had undergone a period of great change and turbulence. But the central authorities’ exercise of overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong, in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, managed to turn the tables and restore order in Hong Kong. In Part 13, Xi applauded “one country, two systems” as a great achievement of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics. He affirmed the principle of “the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong and the people of Macao administer Macao” and a high level of autonomy for the two special administrative regions. The “patriots only” model of governance will ensure long-term stability. It’s particularly encouraging to note Xi’s pledge to help the two regions resolve their deep-rooted and conflictual problems encountered in the course of their development.
Xi’s speech provides ample lessons and inspiration for Hong Kong. I am particularly impressed by the emphasis on education and technology as the key measures to raise the nation to new heights (Part 5). Talent is the nation’s greatest asset, and technology is the greatest driver of innovation, productivity and growth. Education must focus on cultivating the moral qualities of the people and strengthening the developmental potential of the nation.
Hong Kong has much to learn from the importance attached to education, technology and talent development. The opportunity given to Hong Kong to select payload specialists to join the national space program is part and parcel of the nationwide drive to promote science and technology. We should highly treasure our chance to be part of the national team.
In spite of high hopes for China’s future and strong confidence in the nation’s ability to overcome new challenges, the general secretary also cautioned us not to be complacent. Right from the start of his speech, Xi indicated that the Party leadership is formulating strategies to unite the people and address effectively a “perilous and complex international environment” and “impending challenge of high risk”. Xi’s words are a rallying call for the nation to be vigilant and tough in facing challenges. “Not lying flat” in fighting COVID-19, and opposing vehemently interventionist forces standing in the way of our reunification with Taiwan are all part of this strategy. Being the most prosperous part of China, which has long enjoyed the highest standard of living, Hong Kong residents sometimes overlook threats on the horizon, and forget that we have to earn our living through hard work. General Secretary Xi’s thoughtful reminder is timely advice that we should all heed.
Xi’s speech ended on a high note that China will continue to promote global peaceful development, and a common destiny for the whole of mankind. Part 14 aptly sums up our nation’s worldview — unswerving commitment to the maintenance of world peace, support for continuous opening, multilateralism and globalization, and active participation in international bodies to improve global governance. Xi reiterated that China opposes a Cold War mentality, bullying and coercive methods, double standards, and hegemony. All this provides clear guidance to Hong Kong on ways to handle its external relations.
Finally, Xi stressed the importance of maintaining tough Party discipline and governance. Hong Kong should work in lockstep with the central authorities in reforming and reshaping the civil service. As General Secretary Xi pointed out, the public service needs talented people of high moral standards and loyalty. China is a great nation with a great sense of responsibility to its people and the world. Hong Kong should share the same sense of mission and reinvigorate its public service to perform to the highest standard and respond to the call of history.

The author is convener of the Executive Council and a legislator.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.