HK’s spe­cial place in Sino-US ties


Main­land Chi­nese leader Xi Jin­ping de­liv­ered a speech in the United States on Sept. 22 at a wel­com­ing din­ner hosted by the Washington state gover­nor in his honor. In ad­di­tion to ex­press­ing his grat­i­tude to­ward the host com­mu­nity for their friend­ship and hos­pi­tal­ity, Xi also spoke about China’s views on eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural de­vel­op­ments around the world. The part con­cern­ing the prospects for Sino-U.S. re­la­tions was par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant.

Sino-U.S. ties are widely seen by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as one of the most im­por­tant bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ships. Since the last global fi­nan­cial cri­sis broke out in Septem­ber 2008, there have been signs — sta­tis­ti­cal data as well as un­quan­tifi­able think­ing — that a pro­found change in the in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic, fi­nan­cial and po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion is oc­cur­ring. The “cen­ter of grav­ity” is shift­ing from the West (Europe and North Amer­ica) to the East (Asia). The shift has been ac­com­pa­nied by con­sid­er­able de­bates around the world as well as in the U.S. over Sino-U.S. re­la­tions — de­scribed by some peo­ple as that be­tween a ris­ing su­per­power (China) and a con­sol­i­dat­ing/de­fend­ing su­per­power (the U.S.). One pes­simistic view main­tains that China and the U.S. are bound to de­cide their ul­ti­mate places in the new global power struc­ture through another world war. This neg­a­tive phi­los­o­phy is some­times re­ferred to as the “Thucy­dides’ Trap.”

Ad­mit­tedly, those who sub­scribe to this “duel the­ory” are in the mi­nor­ity. But they seem to have gained more con­verts this year. The U.S. gov­ern­ment has been busy deal­ing with mul­ti­ple geopo­lit­i­cal crises si­mul­ta­ne­ously. China has launched for­eign pol­icy ini­tia­tives such as the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank and the “Belt and Road.” At the very least many peo­ple are quite cer­tain they have been hear­ing in­creased “saber rat­tling” be­tween the U.S. and China lately.

In his speech on Sept. 22, Xi com­mented on this de­press­ing is­sue, say­ing there is no such thing as the “Thucy­dides’ Trap” un­less ma­jor pow­ers let it hap­pen through re­peated strate­gic mis­judg­ments. In other words, na­tions cre­ate their own “Thucy­dides’ Trap” by mak­ing the wrong de­ci­sions. He also re­it­er­ated that China is com­mit­ted to join­ing ef­forts with the U.S. in con­struct­ing a new re­la­tion­ship be­tween ma­jor pow­ers which is ap­pro­pri­ate for the 21st cen­tury. “We wish to deepen mu­tual un­der­stand­ing of each other’s strate­gic di­rec­tion and de­vel­op­ment path with the U.S.,” Xi said.

“We need more un­der­stand­ing and mu­tual con­fi­dence to re­duce mu­tual sus­pi­cion and avoid a strate­gic blun­der,” he added.

Can China and the U.S. pre­vent a strate­gic misun­der­stand­ing and mis­judg­ment which could cre­ate a “Thucy­dides’ Trap?” There are three ex­ist­ing con­di­tions which make a pos­i­tive an­swer to this ques­tion pos­si­ble. One is the grow­ing con­ver­gence of the two coun­tries’ na­tional in­ter­ests against a back­drop of con­tin­u­ing eco­nomic glob­al­iza­tion. It is im­por­tant that both sides are seek­ing po­lit­i­cal com­pro­mise and co­op­er­a­tion. Another im­por­tant fac­tor to be con­sid­ered is both na­tions pos- sess nu­clear arms and Web-based aerospace mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties. This might help to de­ter fu­ture con­flicts. Another fac­tor is joint ef­forts by peo­ple around the world to ad­dress com­mon chal­lenges such as global cli­mate change. These put our very ex­is­tence at risk, but they can en­sure China and the U.S. don’t dam­age their bi­lat­eral ties.

Hong Kong, as a spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion of China and a highly open econ­omy, oc­cu­pies a unique place in help­ing Sino-U.S. re­la­tions de­velop pos­i­tively.

Hong Kong can play a unique role as a con­duit be­tween China and the U.S. There is a large num­ber of U.S. com­pa­nies and or­ga­ni­za­tions in Hong Kong. Most, if not all, large U.S. com­pa­nies with in­vest­ments in the main­land have re­gional of­fices in Hong Kong and rely on them to co­or­di­nate busi­ness oper­a­tions in Hong Kong. Chi­nese en­ter­prises seek­ing to in­vest in the U.S. more of­ten than not go through Hong Kong, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. Hong Kong is des­tined to play a key role in bring­ing Chi­nese and U.S. busi­nesses to­gether in Hong Kong. The city can ben­e­fit by en­cour­ag­ing Chi­nese and U.S. busi­nesses to cre­ate win-win sit­u­a­tions.

Hong Kong can also serve as a com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nel for China and the U.S. to forge mu­tual po­lit­i­cal un­der­stand­ing. Two op­pos­ing po­lit­i­cal camps ex­ist in Hong Kong with op­po­site ob­jec­tives in re­la­tion to Sino-U.S. ties. The op­po­si­tion camp is try­ing to turn Hong Kong into a “Tro­jan Horse” de­signed to sub­vert China’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. That does ab­so­lutely no good to Sino-U.S. re­la­tions. The pa­tri­otic camp, es­pe­cially those rep­re­sent­ing the busi­ness com­mu­nity, have been work­ing dili­gently on show­ing Western busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties the real China story. They have made progress in help­ing the two gov­ern­ments avoid mis­un­der­stand­ings in re­cent years. The Hong Kong’s close links with the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and Western economies are ir­re­place­able. This means Hong Kong will con­tinue to con­trib­ute to the im­prove­ment of Sino-U.S. ties. The au­thor is a se­nior re­search fel­low of China Ever­bright Hold­ings

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