China puts itself on the green road
Many have speculated that China would adopt the ideology of social democracy. Communist theorist Friedrich Engels reportedly became a social democrat after Karl Marx's death, and Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin was apparently once a social democrat. So perhaps it would be a very short step for Beijing to switch to social democracy.
In the late 1980s, many European social democrats saw that economic development (efficiency) and social development (social justice) could be achieved at the same time, and developed the so-called 'Third Way'. They accepted the market as the primary regulating mechanism, supported deregulation, privatisation and tax cuts. Equal opportunity was their starting point for social justice. Many took up human rights and environmental issues as their major concerns, moving themselves closer to the green parties.
At the same time, the concept of sustainable development was getting wider acceptance around the world, and Beijing was one of its early followers. In 1992, the central government was among the first to sign the UN's Agenda 21 charter - an agenda for the 21st century - flowing from the Rio Earth Summit of that year. Sustainable development has since become one of the country's two basic national strategies.
There are several commonly accepted definitions of sustainable development. The one used most frequently in policy formulation requires a balance between economic development, social development and environmental conservation - the latter being the baseline that cannot be breached.
Sustainable, or balanced, development can be viewed as social democracy with an environmental baseline.
Beijing has a scientific view of development that goes further. It sees an organic linkage among the three variables of economic and social development, and environmental conservation.
This is in line with the thinking of Deng Xiaoping . By making people's welfare the top priority, and striving for harmony in society and with nature, the ideal of a harmonious society is both Chinese and Marxist.
The Chinese are not pursuing capitalism, social democracy, the Third Way or sustainable development. They keep telling the outside world that this is socialism with Chinese characteristics but, blinded by their old world view, people just don't want to look at what is happening in China today.
Translated into policies, this new Chinese model requires co-ordination between development of various sorts: rural, urban and regional; social and economic. It also needs national and international development. This co-ordinated and harmonious interaction between mankind and nature will lead to a civilised society with economic development, a high standard of living and a vibrant ecological environment.
Little known to the outside world and even to most decision-makers in Hong Kong, the detailed blueprint of this new 'Chinese Paradigm', or model, has already been incorporated into the 11th Five-Year Programme. For the first time since the reform and opening-up policy was launched over two decades ago, the need for speed is giving way to quality, and people's welfare is moving to centre stage.
Guangdong province has already committed itself to cleaning up its environment. We can be quite confident that, by 2010, we will see more blue skies. Our polluting factories in the Pearl River Delta will be swept away, and food safety is going to improve, too.
On the other hand, if we do not work hard, Guangdong will soon be ahead of us not only in environmental and heritage conservation, but also in minimum wage policy, social security, fair competition and many more areas. Hong Kong is in danger of being marginalised in all aspects.
Lau Nai-keung is a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate