Former Hong Kong leader Tung Chee-hwa hopes “multilateralism, unity and collaboration” prevail in the international community, and the United States’ policy on China returns to the “path of rationality” under Joe Biden’s presidency.
“I hope that every country can join hands to build a world that is peaceful, inclusive, and prosperous,” he said.
Now an elder statesman as a vice-chairman of China’s top political advisory body, Tung also called on Hongkongers to realise that the city’s uniqueness would not be eroded through integration under Beijing’s Greater Bay Area project, which covers Hong Kong, Macau, and nine mainland cities.
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US-China relations have hit rock bottom during President Donald Trump’s administration, as Beijing and Washington traded blame over the coronavirus pandemic and trade conflicts, as well as clashed over human rights issues in Hong Kong.
Officials from both sides have argued over the origins of Covid-19. Trump has often referred to it as the China virus, and his administration has long said it came from Wuhan. Beijing has repeatedly denied those suggestions, and instead claimed the coronavirus originated outside the country.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Tuesday the Biden administration should keep up the pressure on China to stick to the phase one trade deal, and use tariffs as leverage.
On Thursday, Tung, who led Hong Kong as the city’s first postcolonial chief executive from 1997 to 2005, said time was needed to observe whether the president-elect, who takes office in January, would rebuild ties with Chinese leader, President Xi Jinping.
“I hope that contests between major powers can return to the path to rationality,” Tung said. “Unilateralism will get us nowhere. We only can deliver shared benefits and win-win for all nations by upholding multilateralism, unity and collaboration.”
Tung was speaking at an online conference organised by Our Hong Kong Foundation, a local think tank he has chaired since co-founding it in 2014. The foundation has published policy studies and advocated various issues including a large-scale reclamation near Lantau Island for the construction of 180,000 public housing units.
Referring to Xi, Tung also said it was a “blessing” for the Chinese people to have a leader who showed great foresight in times of turbulence and increased uncertainty.
“In the face of Covid-19, even the most powerful countries seem powerless … China has managed to put the pandemic under control within a short period of time,” he said.
He pointed to an International Monetary Fund report that said China would be the only major economy to show positive growth in 2020, with its GDP predicted to expand 1.9 per cent amid the pandemic this year.
On Hong Kong’s future, Tung issued reassurance that the city would keep the qualities that made it unique, even when becoming part of the bay area.
“Hong Kong, as the country’s most open city, must make full use of our own uniqueness and play a more proactive role in China’s dual circulation strategy,” he said. “Integration with the Greater Bay Area will re-energise Hong Kong and elevate its competitiveness.”
The dual circulation strategy referred to Beijing’s latest goal of boosting internal consumption as well as foreign investment.
The bay area comprises nine cities in Guangdong province, along with Hong Kong, and Macau, and has a combined population of more than 70 million.
Tung also said he was confident in the stability and security of Hong Kong after the enactment of the national security law in June.