Why Hong Kong still has the edge over inward-looking Singapore and washed-out London
C. P. Ho says Hong Kong has prospered under the unique ‘one country, two systems’ principle and, despite new challenges emerging lately, Beijing’s belt and road master plan holds many solutions for the incoming administration
Despite all that is said about Hong Kong going to the dogs, I still have high hopes for it, particularly when I compare it to London and Singapore. There was a time when London really excited me. Sadly, not so now. On a recent visit, I found it a bit drab and dreary – and not because of the proverbial rainy weather.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly why I found it so. I had made a stopover in London to finish some business, and walked the Piccadilly mile to take in the shops and people. I had always found the mood vibrant and the pulse lively. Not this time. Perhaps it had to do with the Brexit blues and election hopes and fears.
I sensed the mood to be solemn and sombre. Recalling the terrorist attacks, I could understand the pain and grief, but this was not stiff-upper-lip London any more. Nor fun or trend-setting London.
Gone were the flashes of creativity and inspiration that made it such a top-notch world city. The stage and theatre provide a fair barometer of this, but the shows were sadly lacking. Only the usual noises of a big city remained.
On the other hand, Singapore is still going strong and remains Hong Kong’s major economic and financial competitor in the region – and therein lies a mystery. I do not write this to disparage or cause offence, but when Singaporeans in Hong Kong or anywhere else are so friendly, helpful and amenable, how come their counterparts in Singapore can at times be so insufferable?
It leads me to think there are two breeds of Singaporeans. And the stay-at-home ones are not helping their nation. They are loud and underestimate their neighbours. But, in so doing, they unwittingly confer a blessing on Hong Kong, because they become inward-looking and do not plan as much for the future.
Lee Kuan Yew led them into nationhood and forged a rugged, quick-thinking society. But a Chinese saying comes to mind with regard to the stay-at-home Singaporean: when frogs at the bottom of a well look up, the sky is only as big as the mouth of the well.
As we touched down at Chek Lap Kok, my mind raced through the 20 years since the handover. Many things could have been done better but I believe Hong Kong has acquitted itself well, particularly in tackling the Asian financial crisis and in overcoming the severe acute respiratory syndrome crisis.
Hong Kong has proved that the “one country, two systems” theory of Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) worked. As a hitherto untried form of administration, it enabled a peaceful transition of rule from colonial Britain.
It is an undeniable fact that Hong Kong has prospered. It also cannot be denied that new circumstances have arisen that call for fresh economic, social and political perspectives and solutions. All eyes are therefore on the incoming government of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, but it is my belief that the central government’s “Belt and Road Initiative” master plan provides a solution for many Hong Kong issues.
Hong Kong, by way of its unique geography and people, has to find its own slots in the plan and work itself into them. The plan is on such a massive scale that it provides opportunities and solutions across the board.
The foremost task for Hong Kong is to identify them first, and the new government would be well advised to devote time and money to the different projects involved in the game plan.
In this respect, mainland China needs Hong Kong, for it knows this tiny piece of territory has the people, talent and professionalism for the tasks involved, as well as the perfect geography for the land and sea routing of the belt and road.
Thinking about this, I started to head down the airport ramp a little faster, walking at the “Hong Kong pace” – standard for people here, but which may look more like a run to others.
C. P. Ho is a newsman-turned-businessman