Hong Kong under ‘one country, two systems’ key part of Chinese dream, says Xi Jinping

President tells city they have ‘joined the remarkable journey towards the great rejuvenation of the nation’ in speech marking 20th anniversary of city’s handover to Chinese rule

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 7:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 July, 2017, 11:53pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping tied Hong Kong’s future under “one country, two systems” to his vision of a rejuvenated China in a speech on Saturday marking the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover to Beijing.

On the last morning of his three-day visit – his first as president – Xi told Hongkongers that the city had “joined the remarkable journey towards the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” since its return to China.

Xi opened his speech by making historical reference to the fall of Hong Kong to British rule after the first opium war in the mid 19th century – seen as the symbolic beginning of China’s 100 years of decline and humiliation.

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The president also talked about China’s resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong as part of efforts towards a national revival.

“The destiny of Hong Kong has always been intricately bound with that of the motherland,” Xi said in the opening of his speech.

He again tied the city’s fortunes with China’s national revival towards the end of the speech.

“Right now, our country is at the decisive stage of building a moderately prosperous society in all aspects, and people of all ethnicities in China are striving in unity to achieve the two centenary goals and the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” he said, speaking after the swearing-in of Hong Kong’s next leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

“Unceasingly advancing the successful practise of ‘one country, two systems’ in Hong Kong is an important component of the Chinese dream,” he said.

Achieving the “Chinese dream” of “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” is a hallmark of the agenda Xi laid out for his administration two weeks after taking the helm of the Communist Party in late 2012.

Making that dream come true will require the fulfilment of “two centenary goals”: the building of a moderately prosperous society in an all-round way by the time the party celebrates its 100th birthday in 2021; and the creation of a “rich, powerful, democratic, civilised and harmonious socialist modern country” by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.

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The target date for the second goal is two years after 2047 – when 50 years of the unchanged capitalist system and way of life Beijing promised Hong Kong will draw to an end. What happens after that has never been clarified.

The “two centenary goals” were first put forward by former president Jiang Zemin at a key party congress 20 years ago, but had not featured so prominently in official propaganda until Xi incorporated them into his grand vision of the “Chinese dream”.

Since then, Xi has mentioned the rejuvenation dream and the “two centenary goals” in over 100 public speeches, at home and abroad.

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A “moderately prosperous society” would mean a GDP per capita figure approaching about US$10,000 – or double the 2010 figure. But the goal goes beyond economic data and calls for improvement in areas such as democracy, culture, soft power and the environment.

The second centenary goal, however, remains vague and there have been different interpretations within China on what a “rich, powerful, democratic, civilised and harmonious socialist modern country” actually means.

Chen Daoyin, a political scientist at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the party’s definition of “democracy” would be, and always had been, different from its conventional definition in the West.

“Xi’s vision is that 100 years after the founding of the nation, China will develop its own socialist political system that is entirely different from the Western democracies,” he said.