Hong Kong should seek to assert itself as the premier international financial centre of East Asia, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen says. 'My ambition is not Hong Kong as an international financial centre for China but as the international financial centre for the East Asia time zone,' he said in an interview at Government House. The chief executive said the city was moving in the right direction to achieve his ambition, with the support of Beijing. 'We are on a par with New York serving America and London serving Europe. We have started the ball rolling. I've got sympathetic ears in Beijing because this is a really win-win situation for the mainland and for Hong Kong,' he said. It would take another one or two decades, he estimates, for Hong Kong's stock markets to rival New York's and London's in breadth and turnover. He said Hong Kong had to keep its focus and grab opportunities in a timely manner. 'This is a competitive time - a critical time in which we must maintain our premier position.' The city could expand the spectrum of financial products it offered and increase the liquidity of markets in the five years to come, based partly on the recommendations formulated by the recent summit on Hong Kong's response to the mainland's 11th five-year plan, he said. Hong Kong's market capitalisation stands at over US$2.1 trillion, making it the sixth biggest market in the world. The New York Stock Exchange has a market capitalisation of US$17.4 trillion and the London Stock Exchange US$6.9 trillion. Mr Tsang, who was formerly financial secretary, said the region was still not a mature financial centre. 'But once China becomes a mature economy, then the size, the liquidity and the demand for financial instruments in East Asia will be as great as in America or in London.' He highlighted the need to continue working on market restructuring and enhance the sophistication of the financial products on offer. 'We must work on the mainland ... making sure [company] listings continue to flow in this direction and not anywhere else.' Speaking about his broader goals, Mr Tsang said he was hoping to bring Hong Kong to a 'much higher plateau' on the social, economic and political fronts if elected to a second, five-year term. 'Socially, I am hoping that we can have a more harmonious society, anchor or deepen the process of family building and interrelationship among people of different nationalities or ethnic origin, making it a world city in China. 'Politically, we need to make new advancement towards what the Basic Law sets out we must do. That will require a lot of hard work and community consensus.' Mr Tsang called for an open-minded and balanced appraisal of his work in the past 18 months. He admitted he had lost the battles for political reform and the West Kowloon cultural hub project. But he insisted he had managed to get things done on projects such as the new government complex at Tamar, the cruise terminal pier in southeast Kowloon and the merger of the two railway operators, and had made progress on other issues, including the environment. 'You try to look not only at things lost but things achieved in the past 18 months. 'I do not want to forgive myself on things I did not win. I'm very happy to look back on things that we have done ... I'm not running a dictatorship ... There's no guarantee that I can do everything. But I shall put my heart, mind, soul into the things I try to pursue.' He took issue with a suggestion the government was in a no-win situation given its uneasy and, at times, strained relationship, with the Legislative Council. 'It's not as bad as that ... Yes, there are no members with an avowed goal of supporting the government. That does not mean they don't support us [on specific issues]. Otherwise, we won't be able to get things through in Legco. 'There's a lot we can do with Legco, such as building allies, particularly working with people with common objectives. 'We may not have a permanent alliance. We need to change alliances from time to time, depending on the issues. It's a fact of life. That's the way our relationship is being structured as an adversarial structure like the American system.' Personal relationships with political parties such as the Liberals, he said, would not become the criteria for his alliance-building plans. 'If the community, on the basis of my manifesto, believes Donald Tsang is the right person and his manifesto is right, that he must be able to deliver, then I want the best people to deliver that. 'That's more important than where they come from. If they come from the Liberal Party, that's fine. If that means power sharing, that's fine too ... The Liberal Party are friends ... generally.' ON SOCIETY 'I am hoping that we can have a more harmonious society, and anchor or deepen the process of family building and interrelationship among people of different nationalities or ethnic origin, making it a real world city in China' ON THE ECONOMY 'We will be on par with New York and London. These two cities aren't likely to fade out of the scene in the next five years' ON POLITICS 'Politically, we need to make new advancement towards what the Basic Law sets out we must do. That will require a lot of hard work and community consensus' ON HONG KONG AS A FINANCIAL CENTRE 'My ambition is not Hong Kong as the international financial centre for China [but as] the international financial centre for the East Asia time zone'