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‘One country, two systems’ crucial for both Hong Kong and mainland China

“One country, two systems” is not something that was created for the benefit of Hong Kong alone, but equally for mainland China itself.

19 DECEMBER, 2019

Kristian Odebjer
Swedish Chamber of
Commerce in Hong Kong
Lars-Åke Severin
Swedish Chamber of
Commerce in China

As the Swedish saying goes, “Everything has an end and only a sausage has two” – when one thing ends, another thing begins. In the beginning of this year, we could not have imagined that what we saw as an interesting editorial theme would affect us in the way it did.

“Relationships” – important for us as individuals as well as for companies and countries – we agreed would be the common thread that would run through this year’s four publications. The two latest issues of Dragon News have proven to touch on relationships that are currently being rigorously tested in vastly different ways and beyond anything we could have anticipated. On the one hand, we have the relationship between China and Sweden, and on the other hand we have the relationship between Beijing and Hong Kong. This has also, to some extent, become a stress test for us in terms of what to do and what not to do, as well as what to say and what not to say, for us as private individuals, corporate representatives, and chambers of commerce.

Hong Kong holds a legendary position as the Pearl of the East, and has an iconic, even mythical, status for many people, regardless whether they are tourists, investment bankers or global companies with businesses in Asia. Hong Kong’s role as a safe haven for business has been unchallenged for decades. Unfortunately, there is a real possibility that, even if Hong Kong is strong enough to sail through this storm, it could find that the world’s confidence in the territory has evaporated, at least until there is a governance model for Hong Kong that has “buy-in” from all concerned stakeholders, including of course both the people of Hong Kong and the leaders of Beijing.

The year 2047, in which the Basic Law’s 50-year guarantee for “one country, two systems” expires, may still feel some distance away, but the events of this year are a clear reminder that for many people in Hong Kong it feels very close indeed. So far, the response from Beijing has been restrained – evidence that the political leadership understands the great value associated with the unique position Hong Kong holds, and perhaps the even greater value associated with realising the potential of the Greater Bay Area project. After all, the Greater Bay Area is an extraordinarily dynamic region of 70 million people in southern China, which needs the international connectivity and rule of law offered by Hong Kong in order to function properly.

The freedoms that Hong Kong residents are now striving to preserve are in many ways also crucial to Hong Kong’s role in the China of the future. “One country, two systems” is not something that was created for the benefit of Hong Kong alone, but equally for mainland China itself. As we stated in our most recent editorial, differences should be celebrated and used as a source of inspiration. In “one country, two systems”, we see recognition of the idea that it is generally not healthy for one side in a relationship to try to turn the other side into a copy of itself. Any temptations to push back against this tenet should be resisted.

Speaking of relationships, this issue of Dragon News marks the end of an era. Dragon News was started by the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong in 1987, but has over the past 20 years been a joint publication between the Swedish chambers in China and Hong Kong. Times change, however, and it has over a period of several years become a real challenge for our two chambers to finance a magazine in the format as it currently exists.

As chambers we will now further develop our communication tools around existing SwedCham China and Hong Kong websites and social-media channels. The Swedish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong is also planning to keep an online version of Dragon News as a section on its website. We will also explore ways of strengthening cooperation between our two chambers in areas that benefit our members and the Swedish business community in Hong Kong and mainland China. It is our opinion as chairmen of two dynamic chambers of commerce that we live in a time where knowledge, insight, discussion and close cooperation are more important than ever.

On a final note, we would like to take the opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!