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Friday 1 November 2019

Reaching out to China with the situation in Hong Kong

Iram Khan. 

The situation in Hong Kong is a moment of reflection for countries that advertise their ethos as the only way for progress. We live in a pluralistic world that is an assortment of ideologies, creeds, and theories. It draws its greatness from contrast rather than from monotony of drilled down beliefs. 

Foreign elements that are trying to instill their own version of worldview into Hong Kong citizens have caused a massive loss to the city’s economy and suffering for the silent majority as well as for the vocal – and often violent – minority. Businesses are feeling the heat and the trading system has been severely affected. 

Before a point of no return is reached, the protesters need to recall how Hong Kong has seen exceptional prosperity under China and wields the potential to further expand its economy. Home to 7.5 million people, it also has to look after those among them who are underprivileged and are losing the most from the turmoil.

Ever since its accession, Hong Kong has been the bridge to China. The financial hub is a testing ground for first-time investors who want to experience Chinese culture and consumers’ response to new products and services. In 1997, it contributed to nearly one-fifth of China’s GDP. As it accelerated the opening up process manifold, many cities learned from Hong Kong and started contributing at a greater rate.

The special administrative privileges Hong Kong enjoys are provisioned under China’s right to incorporate policies as per its own peculiar conditions. The two systems, efficiently functioning side by side, prove that alternative models of development are very much practical. 

Hong Kong accelerated the opening up process of China manifold (Bloomberg Photo)
Hong Kong accelerated the opening up process of China manifold (Bloomberg Photo)

If there are any doubts about the Chinese model, they can be allayed after analyzing its successes. No other country has lifted as many people out of poverty as China has. Also, no other country is taking up technological innovation as a national priority in the manner China is. Its enterprises are spearheading the drive to deploy secure 5G networks and, second only to the US, its Artificial Intelligence capabilities are growing at an astounding pace. 

In addition to that, the negative list of sectors – where foreign investment is restricted – is continually shrinking. The GDP growth rate might appear to be slowing but would be calling for celebrations if the current figures were achieved elsewhere. In fact, the technological, social and economic improvements in China are paving the way for the world to move forward. Take for example the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), lifting infrastructure in developing countries to make them contributing players in global supply chains. 

During these years of advancement, China follows a policy of non-interference in other nations’ internal matters. Coming from a country that has maintained somewhat of an equilibrium between its engagements with the East and the West, the author has ample observation on how China’s approach towards inland policies of its partners is distinctive. 

When doing business, China treats laws, values, and traditions as the prerogative of the hosts. It does not tend to dictate how affairs of other territories should be run, what political setups should be adopted and by what means issues should be dealt with. Certain Western countries, however, are renowned for doing business abroad and bringing with them unsolicited advisories on social, economic, security and political practices. 

It needs to be understood that global governance has evolved from multi-polar to bi-polar to uni-polar and then back to multi-polar. The factors guiding the international order are now diverse. Despite the emergence of a relatively homogenized culture, civilizations are still retaining their unique characteristics with each offering lessons to learn. But believing that only one system can save us may be stemming our quest for making our planet a better place. 

What is required at present is a respectful regard to the values that have brought stability to places where they are in vogue. An understanding of the disparate world will form the basis of coexistence and highlight commonalities instead of enforcing own ideals. 

Our resources are limited. They may not last forever if we do not collaborate. While several Western economies are shrinking, they cannot afford the bygone Cold War in any form. Instead of fighting the so-called trade wars, growth needs to be stimulated as the scars of the 2008 recession are still fresh.       

Those who do not intend to keep the bridges to China open, despite the situation in Hong Kong, will miss out on the greatest success story we have ever seen. Seven decades ago, the Chinese nation avowed to rise. After experimenting, stumbling, and then rising while learning from mistakes, it wrote the history book of its prosperity. The rest of us need to maintain our connection with this civilization which is on the road to becoming the next beacon for the industrious world.

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