No, Hong Kong is not dead!

© Anthony Wallace_AFP

This column was previously published by L’Opinion, on July 22, 2020

It is difficult to associate the multiplicity of Hong Kong death notices that have been appearing in the Western press for the last two weeks with the usual hustle and bustle that can be seen in Kowloon’s Nathan Road on any Saturday afternoon. The fact is that Hong Kong has partly abandoned its political freedom in order to better maintain its economic freedom. This is a compromise that the West finds unacceptable, but which is necessary in the eyes of the Hong Kong business community.

There is a clear lesson to be learned here by all those who treasure freedom — beginning with us in the West: freedom is not inherited, it is won. This is even truer in China, where freedom is not attached to any past agreement, but to a plan for the future. And it is precisely such a plan that was cruelly lacking in the resistance shown by Hong Kong’s young people — and which caused the movement to fail.

After the British left, it was just such a “grand plan” that was responsible for Hong Kong’s brilliant success: a sort of reverse takeover bid that showed Hong Kong to China as an example of the advantages of a capitalist system, and which the Mainland did not hesitate to adopt. On the other hand, during the decade that followed the great financial crisis of 2008, the inflation rate in Hong Kong real estate values quickly reached two figures as a result of US monetary easing. This has had two adverse effects: in Hong Kong, young people’s housing rights have effectively disappeared; on the Mainland, Hong Kong is not longer regarded as a model to be followed, with the notable effect that there is no aim directed to achieving the sustainable city, and this is something that China really needs in order to invent a new type of “smart” urbanization.

It is by rethinking the role it can and must play in the next growth cycle in China that Hong Kong will be able to more effectively protect those elements of freedom that it retains. For China has never yet quashed anything that works in its favor.

The growth cycle. Today, therefore, it is by rethinking the role it can and must play in the next growth cycle in China that Hong Kong will be able to more effectively protect those elements of freedom that it retains. For China has never yet quashed anything that works in its favor.

During the coming cycle, contrary to the preceding ones, the Chinese balance of payments will be in deficit. China will therefore need an injection of foreign capital, and this will support Hong Kong’s position as a vital financial center — accounting for 25% of China’s GNP because of its bank assets and not a mere 3%, economically speaking, as Beijing says. It is by this means that freedom of information can be protected, and without which any international financial center cannot exist.

Hong Kong’s future therefore depends on reinvention, something that people in Hong Kong are already familiar with: rather than making a dash for three million British passports, I believe they should rather concern themselves with creating a new and unprecedented mix of Monaco and London, where wealthy retirees and merchant bankers live together. This will be in the interests of the Mainland, and especially in the interests of the Greater Bay Area project for Guangdong.

Let us not forget that the inhabitants of Hong Kong are probably the most public-spirited people in the world, as has been shown during the Covid-19 crisis. Local people began wearing masks immediately and, up to now, only eight deaths from the virus have been recorded, out of a population of seven million, and there has been no lockdown. A source of inspiration for the whole world.

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Business angel / demon. Based in Hong Kong since 2011. Columnist, author of “Paris-PekinExpress”, “Beijing Express” and “Génération Tonique”.

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David Baverez

David Baverez

Business angel / demon. Based in Hong Kong since 2011. Columnist, author of “Paris-PekinExpress”, “Beijing Express” and “Génération Tonique”.

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