Martin Jacques on China: How to tackle Hong Kong’s problems?
Editor’s note:
Twenty years on from Hong Kong’s return to China, the special administrative region (SAR) faces several enduring challenges. While there has been progress in many areas, the SAR government is seeking solutions to a housing crisis and high income inequality.
In Martin Jacques on China, the academic addresses the key questions: How can Beijing help the Hong Kong government tackle the SAR’s problems? And should China emphasize “one country” ahead of “two systems”?
Looking at China (the central government)’s relationship with Hong Kong (SAR) is a bit like the curate’s egg. It is mixed. Of the twenty years, there are some important achievements. But also I think there are limitations, even some disappointments.
And in some ways I think it would not be unfair to say that the Chinese policy on Hong Kong has got a bit stuck, because it has not really succeeded winning over. 
I think it has won over a lot of the population, but there are clearly quite significant sections that China has not won over. And I think the task now is for China to win a much bigger consensus across Hong Kong society.
That one country two systems is a really good approach. What mistake has China made?
I think China’s mistake, and I understand the mistake, is certainly understandable after 1997. China’s mistake was to emphasize two systems too much, and one country not enough.
And it did not tackle the very serious problems that exist in Hong Kong, stagnant economy, colonial style economy, colonial style administration, huge inequalities, and perhaps above all, a terrible housing problem, where young people feel that they cannot ever afford to buy a property.
And I think those are the issues that China needs to tackle with the Hong Kong government in the coming period. And I think if China can do that, then I think it will shift hearts and minds in a new way in Hong Kong.
I think the possibilities, the promise is good, but China’s going to have to be more creative, more innovative about how it tackles issues of Hong Kong.
(British journalist and academic Martin Jacques, the author of global bestseller "When China Rules the World," is one of the leading Western commentators on Chinese affairs. He is a senior fellow at Cambridge University and an invited senior fellow at the China Institute, Fudan University. Martin Jacques on China is an eight-part video series discussing issues affecting China’s future.)