Published: 01:17, March 28, 2023 | Updated: 09:56, March 28, 2023
How Hong Kong can contribute to national rejuvenation
By Regina Ip

The two sessions in Beijing, the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference held in March every year, are always keenly observed by China-watchers for clues of the nation’s future development. 

This year’s two sessions did not fail to disappoint — in addition to the crowning achievement of electing Xi Jinping as the president of China for a historic third term, decisions made at the two sessions put China firmly on an irreversible path of national rejuvenation.

The reelection of President Xi as the supreme leader, the appointment of top officials leading the key organs of government, the restructuring of government, including the elevation of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office to a work office under central Party leadership, and the adoption of new economic and global strategies — all were carefully made decisions designed to implement the vision of national rejuvenation set out in General Secretary Xi Jinping’s report at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last October.

The economic strategy of pursuing “high-quality development”, meaning growth that is stable, sustainable and driven more by innovation and technology than by massive inputs of capital and labor and environmental degradation, is intended to catapult China’s economy to a higher level of development.

The global strategy of promoting “a community with a shared future for mankind”, which has been developed and elaborated on by President Xi for 10 years, is designed to counter the United States’ bullying tactics that are intended to subject all nations to its whims and to thwart the growth of any nation that might challenge its dominance.

Despite its small size, Hong Kong occupies a central position in China’s strategy for national rejuvenation, both domestically and in the international arena.

President Xi said in his speech at the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress that the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao are indispensable to the building of a great China. President Xi confirmed the central authorities’ commitment to “one country, two systems” as a key part of the nation’s plan for peaceful reunification, the ultimate goal of which is to bring Taiwan back into the fold.

To live up to these expectations, Hong Kong must focus on developing its economy, improving the livelihoods of the people, and maximizing its twin advantages — the support of the Chinese mainland’s colossal hinterland, and the special administrative region’s extensive international connections.

Since taking over the helm of the SAR, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu has spared no effort in rebooting Hong Kong as an international hub as envisaged in the national 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).

After spending the first few months fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and progressively lifting anti-pandemic restrictions, Lee has led his team to bring Hong Kong back on to the international stage. March saw a bonanza of international conferences and events in Hong Kong, including Art Basel Hong Kong 2023, the Museum Summit 2023, the first-ever Wealth for Good summit to bring affluent family offices to Hong Kong, and a joint conference of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Bank for International Settlements, apart from many other conferences, international competitions and sport events organized by bankers, sports associations and the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.

Art Basel Hong Kong 2023 was a roaring success, which even the habitually critical foreign media were compelled to acknowledge. Hong Kong worked hard not only to make up for lost time, but also doubled down to realize to the full its potential as an international hub in finance, culture and other areas spelled out in the 14th Five-Year Plan.

Domestically, Lee prioritized resolving the housing shortage and youth discontent by securing funding for building “light public housing” for subdivided cubicle residents, and adding youth hostels for young people lacking decent accommodations.

As national leaders reminded Hong Kong during the two sessions, the next five years will be pivotal to Hong Kong’s future. After the setbacks experienced in the past four years, the next few years will be a make-or-break period, a test of Hong Kong’s ability to rebound from its troughs.

The 14th Five-Year Plan gave full recognition of Hong Kong’s strength in eight areas — finance, shipping, trade, international aviation, international innovation and technology, mediation and dispute settlement, trading in intellectual property rights, and international cultural interchange. Hong Kong is well-positioned to have an even brighter future if it is able to bolster its positioning in these carefully chosen areas.

Hong Kong can play a role in President Xi’s vision of reshaping the global order based on building a sense of “shared destiny” among nations if it is able to use its strengths well.

As President Xi has pointed out repeatedly, China is facing a historic inflection point. The world will change from being a US-dominated unipolar order to a multipolar order based on mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win solutions. 

China under President Xi has taken the lead to roll out a 12-point peace plan to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, promote peace in the Middle East by brokering the resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and strengthen its partnership for peace and economic development with Russia.

As the most international city in China, Hong Kong can utilize its deep understanding and experience in interacting with Western nations, the extensive international network built up by its government, political and business leaders, and the strong people-to-people bonds with Western and countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations alike, to contribute to China’s global reach.

However, openness is a double-edged sword. Hong Kong is reminded that security is the precondition for stability and growth. While Hong Kong can play a part in contributing to the nation’s growth, it has also a constitutional duty to contribute to national security. Safeguarding national security is a mission that cannot be overstressed.

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

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.