Speech by Our Hong Kong Foundation Chairman Mr C.H. Tung
Friends of Our Hong Kong Foundation:
With the pandemic still raging, we have to shift our meeting online. So first of all, let’s all be vigilant and stay healthy and well.
As governors, special counsellors, advisors and staff members of Our Hong Kong Foundation, you have done a great deal for our mother country and for Hong Kong. I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your dedication and contribution.
Today, I would like to share my thoughts with you on three issues:
First, the mega global change;
Second, China’s grand development vision;
Third, the once-in-a-century opportunity for Hong Kong.
After sharing my thoughts on these three issues, I shall address a key question, which is: Can Hong Kong people bring upon a new golden age?
First, the global landscape. We often hear how ‘the world is undergoing a tectonic change’. You are all leaders in your respective fields and are well endowed with a global perspective, incisive analytical power, and discerning insights. But, when we last met 18 months ago, who could have foreseen the world as it is now today: a world hit by rising unilateralism, trade war, technology war, and besieged by a devastating pandemic? Who could have predicted the massive social unrest that turned Hong Kong upside down, leading ultimately to the introduction of the national security law to reclaim social stability and restore the rule of law?
History tells us that it could take a decade or more for an emerging global trend to take shape and become a new normal. The global geo-political landscape today is complex and unfamiliar. We are facing a new international order of deglobalisation, unilateralism, populism, major powers rivalry, plus a technology war among nations. The rapid development of artificial intelligence, big data, 5G communications, and biomedicine is all set to change our world drastically.
The global political uncertainty is exacerbated by the raging pandemic, which puts governments across the world under a stress test. In the face of Covid-19, even the most developed countries have struggled. Our own country, on the other hand, had acted decisively in fighting the pandemic, with a well thought-out plan, effective execution, and nationwide support. China has managed to put the pandemic under control within a short period of time. But globally, I am afraid, the economy will suffer, unemployment rates will shoot up, and our everyday life will be disrupted over the next one to two years.
With president-elect Joe Biden about to take office, will Sino-US relations improve? I don’t have a crystal ball but I certainly hope that major powers competition would be conducted in a rational and open-minded way.
On December 12, President Xi Jinping announced at the Climate Ambition Summit that: ‘Earth is our only and shared home. In meeting the climate challenge, no one can be an island, and unilateralism will get us nowhere. Only by upholding multilateralism, unity, and cooperation can we deliver shared benefits and win-win for all nations.’ It is our blessing that our country is under the leadership of a visionary in the age of instability and uncertainty. I hope that every country can join hands to build a world that is peaceful, inclusive, and prosperous.
Let us now turn to our country and its grand vision of national development. The rise of China as the world’s second largest economy has been an important part of the global mega change. The People’s Republic of China has overcome much hardship to achieve miraculous progress since its establishment in 1949. In 40 years of economic reform and opening-up since 1978, China has transformed from an economic backwater to emerge as the world’s second largest economy that provides its 1.4 billion people with decent living standards.
In midst of tectonic global geopolitical change, the Chinese Central Government has made innovation a key driver of national growth and led the country into a new stage of development. China is now moving from high quantitative growth to high-quality growth, and from export-led growth to a domestic consumption driven dual-circulation economic strategy. We must pay closer attention to the high-level strategic plan of China as it would have a major impact on Hong Kong and the rest of the world.
To us as Chinese people, the intensifying US containment of China is naturally a cause for concern. But there is no need for undue worry. As President Xi Jinping pointed out, ‘China cannot be coerced under any pressure.’ Despite tremendous pressure, China has maintained strategic consistency and adhered to the principles of peace, growth, cooperation, and shared prosperity through multilateralism. China has been ceaseless in creating a global environment conducive to a shared future for mankind.
It was in this international context that last year, despite the trade disputes with the US, China achieved a 6.1% growth. According to the International Monetary Fund, although the global economy is expected to shrink by 4.4% due to the pandemic, China is projected to achieve a 1.6% GDP growth this year and possibly up to 8.2% in 2021.
China’s perseverance, determination, and success in fighting the pandemic have reflected greatly upon the selfless spirit of a country for the people and by the people. We have set a shining example of what the unity of people rallying whole-heartedly around a nation can achieve. Regardless of what challenges may lie ahead, I am convinced that China’s 14th Five-Year Plan and its long-range target for modernised socialism by 2035 will be realised. I have no doubt that the people of China can fulfil the grand vision.
From the global mega change and China’s grand vision, let us turn our attention to Hong Kong as we enter an age of unprecedented opportunity. Hong Kong as an open economy is the freest in the world. The effect of the global mega change will bear heavily on us. At the same time, all aspects of Hong Kong from our economy to everyday life are so closely intertwined with China. As China enters a new stage of national development under a grand vision, Hong Kong must seize the opportunity to play our part in supporting our country wherever possible.
Hong Kong is blessed with unique competitive advantages and a most favourable environment for doing international business. Regrettably, in recently years Hong Kong has been grinding to a halt due to endless political infighting. Last year, Hong Kong experienced the darkest period since the handover due to social unrests, global instability, Covid-19, and economic downturn. It was depressing. The challenges facing Hong Kong go to the core of our socio-economic underpinnings. They include the widening wealth gap, housing shortage, ageing population, undiversified industry, inadequate health care, a battered education system, and a whole generation of youth who have lost hope. These deep-seated issues will take a long-term vision, strategic planning, and rigorous efforts to resolve. But resolved they will be. We must believe in our own ability to resolve our problems. Challenges and opportunities come hand in hand. The opportunities are far greater than the challenges, and there is always a way out.
In October this year, during President Xi Jinping’s tour of Shenzhen, he not only reflected on 40 years of Shenzhen’s development, but also re-affirmed the significance of ‘reform and opening-up’. He directed that reform and opening-up shall continue, but at a higher level. President Xi reiterated his support for the development of the Greater Bay Area, including that of Hong Kong under ‘One Country, Two Systems’. Ladies and gentlemen, we are facing the greatest opportunity in Hong Kong’s history. In this small city, we must expand our horizon. We must not be limited by our own geography. Only by riding on the high-speed train of Chinese national development can we thrive again.
First, I am confident that people of Hong Kong are as agile and resilient as ever.
The people of Hong Kong are never passive nor reactive. Our adaptiveness and pragmatism are in our blood, coming as they do from years of going through economic transformation in a complex global environment. These traits are clearly shown in our remarkable track record year after year.
By the end of the First Opium War in the 19th century, China and other East Asian countries opened themselves up for international trade. Taking full advantage of our location and the deep-water Victoria Harbour for ocean liners, Hong Kong turned itself into a global trading hub, a top entrepot in the Far East, and a base of international marine traffic.
During the Korean War in the 1950s, under the challenge of a blockade imposed on China by the United States along the United Nations, Hong Kong repositioned itself and made the best use of the inflow of mainland capital and talent to develop manufacturing. We ultimately became a manufacturing hub of Asia in textiles, plastics, toys, and watches.
As manufacturers began to move northward under China’s reform and opening-up policy in the late 1970s, Hong Kong again reimagined itself by supplying capital and exporting know-how to the mainland. While supporting China’s rapid development, Hong Kong also began to grow its own service industry, ultimately turning ourselves into an international financial centre.
In fact, flexibility is in our DNA. It gives us the power to create one economic miracle after another. It is the source of our inspiration that has turned every crisis into an opportunity time and again.
Second, I am confident in the stability and security of Hong Kong.
The Chinese Central Government has a full understanding of the challenges facing Hong Kong, and has acted decisively. To enable the long-term success of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, a national security law was promulgated on June 30 to restore law and order in the city.
For the Legislative Council to resume effective operation, clear requirements on LegCo members’ allegiance have been set out, endorsed, and ratified by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
To ensure a devoted and faithful government, arrangements are being rolled out by the HKSAR Government for civil servants to pledge allegiance and defend the Basic Law. Again, this will help ensure effective governance.
Third, I am confident in Hong Kong’s success in integrating into the development of Greater Bay Area and China.
Some people in Hong Kong are worried about the erosion of Hong Kong’s special position and uniqueness as we integrate with the development of China and the Greater Bay Area. This worry is unfounded. Integration does not mean the loss of identity. On the contrary, China has affirmed a national policy of further opening up to the world and cooperation for mutual benefits. As the most open city of China, Hong Kong ought to make full use of our openness and uniqueness. This is in the best interest of our city and our country. We will have a bigger role to play in integrating into the national ‘Dual Circulation’ growth model. Integration with the Greater Bay Area will re-energise Hong Kong as we play a big role in the vast opportunities that the Greater Bay Area presents.
As you may know, GBA’s economic size has already surpassed that of South Korea and reached a GDP of US$1.6 trillion. I encourage young people in Hong Kong to explore what GBA has to offer as a centre of innovation and a huge market for our young talents. There, you will find great opportunities, great innovation, great jobs, great lifestyle, and a great future!
Fourth, I am confident that Hong Kong will have the full support of our country.
In the age of tectonic global change, external shocks are inevitable; and Hong Kong as an open economy is no exception. When the Hong Kong dollar was under attack during the Asian financial crisis of 1997, the Central Government came to our rescue with the full backing of the national resources. That restored Hong Kong’s financial stability. In today’s market volatility of an unprecedented international scale, Hong Kong is limited in its capacity to withstand such external shocks. By integrating with the development of the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong’s capacity will grow and its resilience will strengthen. Hong Kong will also develop its strengths to the full in the vast opportunities of the Greater Bay Area.
Today, apart from being the world’s second largest economy, China is also at the forefront of many technological advances, including artificial intelligence, big data, and satellite communications. With the strong support of our motherland and integration into the GBA, Hong Kong people can be assured of a new golden age.
Last but not the least, we are confident in ‘One Country, Two Systems’.
Hong Kong has been an inalienable part of China since ancient times. It is a simple fact that we share the same bloodline and a common destiny. Since the Handover in 1997, Hong Kong has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy under the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, with our legal system, human rights, and freedoms well protected. Despite the stormy social unrest triggered by the extradition bill last year, China has stayed true to the implementation of ‘One Country, Two Systems’.
Indeed, ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is the best constitutional arrangement for Hong Kong and the cornerstone of our prosperity and stability. It is our responsibility in Hong Kong to defend the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law of Hong Kong. ‘One Country’ is the prerequisite to ‘Two Systems’, and ‘Two Systems’ must operate within ‘One Country’. Hong Kong’s greater success depends entirely on the successful implementation of this principle.
‘Change’ is the prevailing mega trend and is also the calling of our times. Because of the above sources of confidence, we can embrace change without fear.
In the face of change, our pragmatism, creativity, perseverance, and resilience will remain unchanged. Our values of fairness, free competition, pluralism, and inclusiveness will remain unchanged. With support of our country, Hong Kong’s unique characteristics and unmatched competitiveness under ‘One Country, Two Systems’ will remain changed.
Finally, my words from deep within me: despite the big uncertainties facing humankind, as long as we all stand together in unity and put aside our differences, we shall overcome all adversity. By upholding ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and integrating with mainland’s development, we can create for ourselves and for our future generations a new golden age for Hong Kong.