Lau Nai-ke­ung

Says it is not easy for HK to ex­cel as a con­nec­tor in the new re­al­ity, but the city can make it if its peo­ple work hard

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Among other things, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping sig­naled dur­ing his stay in the spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion a re­solve to make Hong Kong a bet­ter gov­erned city with a brighter fu­ture. First was the re­view at the Shek Kong Bar­racks on Fri­day morn­ing. It in­volved 60 ar­mored ve­hi­cles and 61 types of ve­hi­cles that spe­cial­ized in sur­veil­lance, com­mand, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, de­fence, en­gi­neer­ing, mis­sile de­liv­ery, in­ter­fer­ence and field res­cue and pre­ven­tion. Twelve types of mil­i­tary he­li­copters were on show.

Ac­cord­ing to the South China Morn­ing Post, the spec­ta­cle in­cluded 20 squads of the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Hong Kong Gar­ri­son. That was five squads more than the re­view in 2015. What mat­tered was not the one-third in­crease in the num­ber of squads, but in­stead the clear in­di­ca­tion that the PLA’s re­gional force was “no longer just a sym­bol of sovereignty but a com­bat­ready force ca­pa­ble of demon­strat­ing China’s mil­i­tary might”.

“China’s mil­i­tary might” can be a good thing or a bad thing. It all de­pends on where one stands. Some peo­ple may con­sider the PLA as some­thing sin­is­ter, while other cit­i­zens lined up to see the Liaon­ing air­craft car­rier on its maiden trip to Hong Kong. Or they can fear and adore the PLA at the same time – these sen­ti­ments may not be mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive and one need not be con­sis­tent any­way.

Since the lead-up to 2014’s “Oc­cupy” protests, the big­gest fear of dis­si­dents has al­ways been that the PLA will be de­ployed to crack down on il­le­gal po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties in Hong Kong. Our dis­si­dents can eat the lo­cal po­lice for break­fast but the PLA is an en­tirely dif­fer­ent league. The au­thor is a vet­eran cur­rent af­fairs com­men­ta­tor. Xi un­der­stands what our dis­si­dents’ worst fear is and he is de­ter­mined to bring out the mes­sage that an­ar­chy on the streets will no longer be tol­er­ated.

In ad­di­tion to the sticks, or the threat to use them, there were also car­rots. In Xi’s key­note speech in a ban­quet the night be­fore the 20 th an­niver­sary of the city’s re­turn to China, he called on Hong Kong res­i­dents to “be­lieve in them­selves, in Hong Kong, and in the coun­try”.

While not­ing the coun­try’s strong back­ing for Hong Kong, Xi made spe­cial em­pha­sis on Hong Kong res­i­dents’ own com­pe­tence and wis­dom in trans­form­ing a name­less fish­ing vil­lage into a modern me­trop­o­lis. In par­tic­u­lar, he em­pha­sized the tra­di­tional pil­lar in­dus­tries of in­ter­na­tional fi­nance, trad­ing and lo­gis­tics. Hong Kong is an im­por­tant con­nec­tor, he said, bring­ing the out­side world into the main­land and help­ing the main­land com­pa­nies go out.

In the past, this role was called a “mid­dle­man”. When the in­ter­net came many pre­dicted dis­in­ter­me­di­a­tion will make the mid­dle­man ob­so­lete. That’s not true. Hong Kong still has a unique ad­van­tage as a con­nec­tor be­cause of its spe­cial sta­tus as a SAR. Un­der “one coun­try, two sys­tems” Hong Kong is a spe­cial place where the main­land and the out­side world can in­ter­act, and Hong Kong peo­ple are fa­cil­i­ta­tors of that in­ter­ac­tion.

To be a good fa­cil­i­ta­tor or con­nec­tor one must un­der­stand and re­spect both ends of the con­nec­tion. In the past, the West was in the stronger po­si­tion at the bar­gain­ing ta­ble and there­fore the mid­dle­man de­ferred more to­ward its wishes. Today, the other end of the bar­gain­ing ta­ble — the main­land — is in an equal po­si­tion more or less. As mid­dle­man, we now have to at­tend more to the wishes of the main­land. That’s some­thing we have to learn, and ac­cept.

At the same time, a mid­dle­man be­tween two equal par­ties re­quires more so­phis­ti­ca­tion. In fact, that should be the true test of a com­pe­tent mid­dle­man. Any­one can help bring the weaker side to the stronger; a pimp was never con­sid­ered a mid­dle­man in the proper sense of the word.

Xi also re­minded us that today the con­nec­tors from Hong Kong will have to work with not only the West but also the de­vel­op­ing coun­tries in­volved with the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, an­other steep learn­ing curve for us.

To ex­cel as a con­nec­tor in the new re­al­ity is not easy. Xi asked us to “be­lieve in our­selves”. We have done this be­fore and achieved what is known as the “Lion Rock mir­a­cle”. We can do it again if we work hard.

To ex­cel as a con­nec­tor in the new re­al­ity is not easy. Xi asked us to ‘be­lieve in our­selves’. We have done this be­fore and achieved what is known as the ‘Lion Rock mir­a­cle’. We can do it again if we work hard.

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