Hong Kong must not be swayed by the West’s demonisation of China
- Unnerved by China’s success, the West seeks to discredit it by selling the narrative that it is a threat to the ‘international order’. But it is the US that risks destabilising Asia
- In Hong Kong, we must see that our interests lie in China being stable, and help promote peace
The spectre of geopolitical disruption is upon us. Hong Kong must not fall into the trap of pessimism. It must be ready to play defence as Western leaders seek to punish China for its success.
For those who mean to put more pressure on China, it is necessary to paint it in the worst possible light. Thus, China has become a “systemic challenge”. Its leaders are “authoritarian”, the Chinese political system is “totalitarian”, and Chinese economic policies are “mercantilist”.
These labels and narratives are designed to stir emotions. China’s leaders since the 1980s have delivered significant progress for the Chinese people. One doesn’t have to buy the Chinese system wholesale to acknowledge this undeniable fact.
China’s rise is unnerving the geopolitical alliances and security and economic institutions of the West. The continuous demonisation of China is necessary to build support for the idea that it somehow needs to be contained.
And, as part of China, Hong Kong has become collateral damage.
The pre-1997 narrative of the “death of Hong Kong” was rooted in the belief that the Chinese system couldn’t hold it together for long, much less prosper, and so Hong Kong would inevitably fall apart as a special administrative region.
And yet, in the past 25 years, China has advanced very significantly in the world, and Hong Kong, too, has thrived. But, at the same time, the geopolitical and geoeconomic trends are becoming more vexing not only for Hong Kong, but for Asia as a whole.
Whatever one thinks of the Taiwan issue, the risk of destabilising the Asia-Pacific region is real. With the Russia-Ukraine war at the other end of the world in Europe, it is hard for Asians not to feel a sense of unease that global politics is heading in the wrong direction; somehow, our lives could all be affected.
We need a dispassionate analysis of the geopolitical realities. This is not just a local matter but one that affects the whole nation and demands clear strategic thinking. The stakes are very high.
We should be proud to state that this is where we will direct our efforts, not because we harbour residual colonial resentment or anti-Western sentiment, but because we know where our allegiance lies, we see many opportunities for progress and we have solid advantages to build on.
The source of Hong Kong’s confidence is that we remember our history, we have a strong culture, and we understand the dynamics of East-West interactions through our Chinese heritage and long colonial experience. We need to articulate better what we know – we can be effective promoters of peace and cooperation.
For example, our legal system is based on common law jurisprudence as applied to local circumstances and developed over many generations. The foundation of Hong Kong’s rule of law is wide and deep and helps to reinforce overall good governance.
Allegations that Hong Kong has become a “police state” – as the term is commonly understood – are untrue. This is not a totalitarian jurisdiction controlled by a political police force that secretly supervises every activity.
There are local and national policies on greater integration of Hong Kong and Macau with the hinterland in Guangdong, which make sense, and on investment support in future-forward activities such as innovation and technology, re-industrialisation, and environmental sustainability.
Hong Kong can articulate optimism about its future as a part of China, as the forces of geopolitics reshape the international landscape.
Christine Loh, a former undersecretary for the environment, is an adjunct professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology