There aren't two systems at work in this country; it's more like 35. But you can't see this from the comfy chairs on the Yacht Club verandah. You have to go to a place like Yichang. Yichang is the port town on the Yangtze that owes its existence to the Three Gorges Dam. If you arrive there at night on a cruise from Chongqing, you will have the luck to be driven to your hotel through dark streets lit only by the dull glow of massage parlour signs. It is as if everyone was told 'lights out at 10.' But the next day you will be transfixed by the view from your car window as you head to the airport, wondering if it can possibly be the same city, now teeming with life. When you arrive at the airport, the noise will disappear again and you will find oxen grazing lazily next to the departures hall at the Yichang International Airport. No lights will be turned on until you approach the ticket counter. Once you have passed through immigration, taking note of the 'VIPs and Workers' lane next to you, you will be ready to digest it all. It's a city in a country transiting so fast and haphazardly from the second world to the first that its own leaders - never mind the laobaixing - struggle daily to keep up with what is going on around them. Yichang has it all. There are the Soviet-era hotels like the Gezhouba, with chrome elevators and receptionists in scruffy bow ties, and there are some new high-rises that could have come out of a futuristic novel. There are hole-in-the-wall (literally) take-aways, and there are fancy-looking restaurants. There are mom 'n' pop stores and there are entire blocks of neighbourhoods devoted to mobile-phone outlets. Well, almost all. There are very few traffic lights to manage all those bicycles grudgingly giving right of way to BMWs. In fact, there appears to be very little in the way of social order controls throughout Yichang. Intersections are pretty much a free-for-all. Now imagine what it's like in Chongqing, a municipality with a population the size of Canada's - 30 million - except there's no space there for bicycles, because they get in the way of the cars and buses careening up and down the hillsides between the centre of the city and the docks. Indeed, it seems there is space only for cement trucks rushing to hundreds of construction sites. But withhold your awe for a minute. Look into the eyes of the people sitting around silently in Chongqing's public areas, waiting for work that will never come their way. Or follow the gaze of the manual labourers, whose only skill is the same as their forefathers of many centuries, and the only tools of their trade the thick bamboo poles with strings at each end. Then close your eyes and imagine the scene repeated over and over again across dozens of other cities with populations the size of Hong Kong's. Now you should have a glimmering of how difficult the job is of holding China together. So, amid all the public praise and displays of support for Tung Chee-hwa this weekend, keep a few points in mind. First, the central government has much else to worry about. Second, it is constantly experimenting with new regulations to make its matrix of national, provincial, city, county, town, township and village governments work with a modicum of harmony. Third, it is trying to do all of this with people who are diverse in their history and dialects. Finally, to achieve its goals, it must rely on per capita budgets a fraction of the size of Hong Kong's. What does this mean for Hong Kong? It means that as far as the leadership in Beijing is concerned, the Basic Law is a marvel to behold. Asking them to interpret it, and consider universal suffrage for Hong Kong elections, is to put something on their plate that they have neither time nor patience for right now. The year 2007 might not seem like far away, but for Beijing, it's an eternity. So for now, Hong Kong will just have to work out its own problems, within the system it already has. Chongqing and Yichang need all the attention they can get.