Xi’s pledge of support for Hong Kong makes a difference

When General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered a work report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, he summed up “two supports” in relation to the practice of “one country, two systems” in the two special administrative regions. These are the central government’s firm support for Hong Kong and Macao in further “developing the economy, improving people’s livelihoods, and resolving the deep-seated socioeconomic problems”, and its support for the two SARs in “better integrating themselves into overall national development and playing a greater role in realizing national rejuvenation”.

As the most important assembly of the CPC that covers only major issues of national scope, the “two supports” specifically mentioned in the work report have profound implications for the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao.

The word “support” can be interpreted in multiple ways. First, it indicates a supportive stance, or moral support. Second, it signifies the policy support for Hong Kong to compete with mainland cities on an equal footing. Recruiting astronauts from Hong Kong and Macao is a case in point. This was also the first time the central government opened the country’s space mission to the two special administrative regions. Another example is the commonly known “cross-boundary remittance of science and technology project funding”, a policy that allows universities and research institutions in Hong Kong to apply for science and technology funding from the State. Third, it includes supporting measures such as those aimed at facilitating residents from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan to study, work, or settle on the mainland, allowing them to apply for social insurance and join the housing provident fund just like the mainland residents. Fourth, it refers to special policies rolled out by the central authorities over the years to support the city’s economic growth, such as the mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement adopted after the SARS outbreak in 2003. Fifth, it refers the provision of manpower, material and financial resources for Hong Kong, as manifested in, for example, during the fifth wave of COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in the city, when President Xi promptly issued directives urging mainland authorities to go the extra mile to back up Hong Kong’s COVID-19 fight, stressing that the central government would respond to the needs of Hong Kong as long as it makes the requests. Medical supplies, daily necessities, medical experts and personnel soon came to the aid of the city, and construction workers were pulling out all stops to build makeshift hospitals for the surging number of COVID-19 patients. This all-out anti-pandemic campaign marked the mainland’s broadest-ever support for Hong Kong.

When General Secretary Xi Jinping highlighted the need to support Hong Kong in resolving its deep-seated problems in socioeconomic development, it suggests the central government has a plan in mind to enable the city to iron out its problems. That Hong Kong is tasked to develop “eight new centers” in the national 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) is aimed at bringing the city’s development to a new level with the central government’s support. In the past, the central government launched the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect, the Bond Connect and the Cross-boundary Wealth Management Connect, which have helped expand the city’s financial industry, and facilitated the development of Hong Kong into the world’s largest offshore renminbi business hub. With the continuous economic growth on the mainland, the demand for financial services is expected to grow, and Hong Kong can look forward to building on its success as the central authorities roll out more financial cooperation projects for the city.

As for the goal to establish Hong Kong as an international aviation hub, Hong Kong is constrained by its land resource and hence the dim prospect of housing a mega airport. Hong Kong got off a good start with its airport joint venture in Zhuhai. This cooperation model can be expanded to cover other undertakings in the mainland cities of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Combining Hong Kong’s outstanding aviation services and the abundant resources of the mainland will provide a larger platform for Hong Kong to grow its aviation industries.

Aside from the economic sphere, there is also great potential for the central government in empowering Hong Kong to tackle its livelihood issues; notably, its entrenched housing and land problems that have made little progress over the years. The Outline Development Plan for the GBA has created the concept of the “GBA common home”, which makes it possible for Hong Kong residents to work and live in nine other GBA cities in Guangdong province. Previously, the announcement to authorize Macao to manage certain parts of Hengqin New Area in Zhuhai caught the attention of many Hong Kong residents. If further collaboration between Hong Kong and the mainland goes well, Hong Kong might be given the same opportunity to administer certain areas on the mainland in the future. The increase in usable land will hopefully alleviate the chronic issue of land shortage in Hong Kong.

Although the 20th Party Congress provides only a big picture of future national development without touching on specific policies, Hong Kong society should take a hard look at how its strengths can be put into full play, so that Hong Kong will be able to reap benefits as soon as support from the central government arrives.

The second “support” mentioned by General Secretary Xi Jinping suggests that the central government will inject an impetus to galvanize Hong Kong’s integration into national development. It has been almost three years since the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has almost brought cross-boundary exchanges to a halt. This cannot stay unchanged forever; once the pandemic is over, the pace of integration will pick up speed. To recover the lost progress, it is believed the central government will announce policies to accelerate the integration process. Thus, Hong Kong should plan in advance and mull over the ways to realize its full potential not only for national development but also for its own well-being.

The author is current-affairs commentator.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.