Hong Kong cannot be bound by exceptionalism
Updated: 2015-03-11 07:35
By Zhou Bajun(HK Edition)
The statement that Hong Kong should continue to hold a unique status in China is often heard in the city. It is frequently followed by the argument that as a special administrative region (SAR) Hong Kong cannot become an ordinary city like others in the country.
Indeed, Hong Kong has been exceptional - institutionally different from, and economically more advanced than all other Chinese cities. However, things have been changing.
When Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, its GDP amounted to 18.62 percent of China's total. Yet, by 2013 this ratio had dropped to 2.97 percent. Over the past 10 years or so the mainland has maintained its high growth rate, while Hong Kong wasted time in political struggles that severely impeded the city's economic transformation. Now China's economy is ranked the second largest in the world. The gap between the per capita GDP of Hong Kong and the coastal areas of the mainland has significantly narrowed.
In the mean time, Singapore has surpassed Hong Kong both in its rates of growth and total GDP. In 2002 Hong Kong's GDP was $166.3 billion and Singapore's was $90.58 billion - a little more than half of Hong Kong's. However, by 2012 Singapore's GDP had increased to US$274.7 billion, which surpassed Hong Kong's US$263.3 billion. In terms of per capita GDP then, Singapore has advanced far beyond Hong Kong. In 1997, the GDP and population of Singapore were, respectively, equal to 56.5 percent and 58 percent of Hong Kong's. However, by 2013 Singapore's population amounted to 75 percent of Hong Kong's and its GDP ratio compared to Hong Kong had jumped to 108.7 percent.
Many Hong Kong people are proud of the city's core values. Singapore has the same traditional values as Hong Kong. Both are international financial centers located in Asia, enjoying global interconnectivity and high educational standards, particularly English proficiency. Nevertheless, an article published by The Diplomat on Feb 19 titled "Singapore and the Asian Century" concluded that "Singapore has a potential role that goes well beyond its material capabilities". The Lion City is able to "exercise regional influence by generating good ideas".
Certainly Hong Kong as an SAR of China isn't able to play an international role in the same way as Singapore. But, Hong Kong evidently lacks the capability to generate good ideas to address its own problems.
The crucial challenge to Hong Kong is how to coordinate the worsening contradiction of economic integration and political divergence with the mainland. The opposition wants so-called "genuine universal suffrage" to derail economic integration. Some political radicals are even seeking independence for Hong Kong. Their ambitions are doomed to failure.
Hong Kong and Singapore are both entering the Asian century. But, many Hong Kong people still do not understand what the "Asian century" means. The author of "Singapore and the Asian Century" said: "Generally, it is perceived as the outcome of Asia's economic growth led, above all, by the emergence of China and India in the last three decades. In the West this trend is also often associated with the recent and rapid increase in investments originating from Asian countries pursuing a diversification strategy. Yet this perception misses an important point, one that conversely is fairly clear among Asians: The so-called Asian century is anything but new, but in fact has its roots in the history of the last two millennia." A former ambassador of Singapore to the United Nations pointed out that when one looks at the past 200 years in the context of the past 2,000 years of world history, it (the past 200 years) amounts to a historical aberration. All historical aberrations draw to a natural end. Therefore, the Asian century is irresistible and unstoppable.
To this point - its roots in the history of the last two millennia - the Asian century is deeply linked with the Chinese dream. Coincidentally, the West has been paying greater attention to the thoughts of President Xi Jinping, an advocate of the Chinese dream. On Feb 20, The Diplomat published an article "China vs. the US: Who Blinked?". This disclosed that the US State Department recently circulated an opinion piece titled: "Why Read Xi Jinping's Book?", encouraging US diplomats to start reading Xi's works.
Some Hong Kong people indulge in Western ideology so they don't believe that new ideas are currently being generated in the East. It's the responsibility of the Hong Kong government to lead those people out of the shackles of exceptionalism.
Hong Kong is part of China. Developing with the whole nation is no exceptionalism for Hong Kong. China, including Hong Kong, is part of Asia. The realization of the Chinese dream together with the emergence of the Asian century is not exceptionalism for China, including Hong Kong. The emergence of the Asian century together with the realization of the Chinese dream, while comprehensively restructuring the world economy, finance and politics, is not exceptionalism for China including Hong Kong.
(HK Edition 03/11/2015 page10)