Two years ago, Hong Kong underwent some serious soul-searching in the wake of the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule . Our neighbour Macau’s celebration of its 20th anniversary this week has given us room for more reflection. The scenes of cheerful Macau citizens greeting visiting President Xi Jinping came as a stark contrast to the street violence and mass protests that have been gripping our society for more than six months. The two special administrative regions are vastly different in terms of historical and sociopolitical development, but the need to embrace one country while keeping one’s own system is the same. Describing the current situation as the best time in Macau’s history, Xi praised the former Portuguese enclave for its patriotism and concern for the national interest. He said the success showed that as long as we were confident in the “one country, two systems” principle, its vibrancy and superiority would be clear to all. But he added that the principle could only become long-lasting by making sure it would not be distorted. Xi holds up ‘one country, two systems’ as only way forward for Hong Kong, Macau It is good to know that Beijing remains firmly committed to the governing policy of one country, two systems. Amid growing doubts and speculation over Hong Kong’s future after six months of political unrest, this assurance is much needed to dispel rumours and rebuild confidence in the formula, without which the city could not possibly remain stable and prosperous. But it also underlines the need to guard against what Beijing sees as distortion. While Beijing made no bones about Macau being a better model of one country, two systems, it also expects new Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng to improve governance and people’s livelihoods. Even though the president stopped short of mentioning Hong Kong, the same is expected of leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who was at the ceremony. Indeed, the endorsement of “the implementation of one country, two systems with Macau characteristics” acknowledges that the two special administrative regions shall develop according to their circumstances. The reason why the Hong Kong experience is not as smooth is because people’s understanding of the formula is different to that of Beijing. Unlike Macau, Hong Kong’s relations with Beijing are far from ideal. As the city strives to defend freedoms and a high degree of autonomy, it would do well for the public to better appreciate Beijing’s concerns over sovereignty and national development interests. Xi’s stern warning against foreign interference in Hong Kong and Macau affairs is a case in point. It is in the interests of both sides to strike the right balance between one country and two systems.