Towrads a Faireer, Safer World
2022 年 11 月 3 日
This afternoon (2/11) , at the invitation of Dr. Herman Hu, I took part in a forum with the theme 'Towrads a Faireer, Safer World' organised by Friday Culture and the Hong Kong Coalition. Chief Executive John Lee was the principal officiating guest. I was invited to serve as one of the panellists at Panel 1 on "Achieving Fariness in a Polarised World'. The other panellists include Amabassador Elhenawy, Consul General of Egypt, Mr, Chandran Nair and NPC delegate Nick Chan. The moderator was Patrick Tsang from the Chow Tai Fook Group.
Following on Chandran Nair's comments on 'fairness', I said I shared his concerns that the concept of 'fairness' is open to interpretation,. It means different things to different people. For example, President Trump had tried to use 'fair' trade to suppress 'free' trade. As for the world, it has always been divided into two camps. In his ground-breaking work "Clash of Civilisations", eminent American political scientist Samuel Huntington, writing in the 1990s, referred to "the West and the Rest'. "The West" were the advanced industrialised nations of the western world, while "the Rest" were the developing and less developed countries in other parts of the world - Asia, Africa and South America, which were perceived to to be poor, backward, and even 'uncivilised" in the sense of not imbued with the western notions of liberty. With the rise of the emerging economies, particularly that of China, another narrative developed , which described the world as "the Rest and the West, because the economic growth rate of the Rest' had outpaced that of the West. The spectacular economic growth of China gave rise to yet another narrative - as President Biden declared in his recent comments on China - the future would be a struggle between democracy and autocracy.
I consider such binary division of the world into democracy versus autocracy not only unfair and over-simplistic, but also outdated and anachronistic. There is no one-size-fits-all political system that suits all countries and territories. Every country and territory must be allowed to develop a political system best suited to its socio-economic and political realities, and best serve the welfare of the people.
Take Hong Kong for example, the British rulers only pushed the development of participative democracy in Hong Kong in the early 1980s, when they knew they had to hand Hong Kong back to China. Direct elections to the Legislative Council started only in 1991. Democratic development in Hong Kong has a short history. Our experiment with democracy has been far from successful. It created chaos, dysfunction and even violence in our legislature. Nothing got done. After we managed to reform our electoral system with help from the Central Authorities (after the NPC Standing Committee made a decision to improve the electoral system in Hong Kong in March 2021), we introduced local legislation to reform our electoral system. Now our Legislative Council is working much more effectively. Since then we have passed important legislation to open up medical registration, abolish offsetting of Mandatory Provident Fund contributions, and a slew of legislation to improve our competitiveness. Our electoral and legislative systems are working much better now, but our reform has been demonised by the western media as an illiberal, democratic backslide.
In response, Chandran Nair cited three sources of power which put the West in an advantageous position - military might, economic strength, and the ability of the western media to control the global narrative and stifle our voice. I added a fourth souce of power - technological power. Technological knowhow should be shared to improve the welfare of mankind, not weaponised to suppress the growth of other countries. China and Egypt contributed to global welfare with the scientific inventions these two countries developed in ancient times. None of them claimed monopolies or patent rights, and were happy to see the diffusion of their technologies. But the US has banned the export of semiconductor and other critical technologies to China in an effort to strangle China's technological development.
Tech gurus like Morris Chang, the founder of TMSC, has commented that the forcible removal of semiconductor production back to the US would not work. It would only create a lot of inefficiencies and hobble the international division of labour which has served the world so well in recent decades.
Finally, on the question of what do you want to see the government tackle as a top priority, many cited housing. I agreed, but pointed out that getting education right is also paramount. Education is destiny. We should not put quantitative growth before qualitative gains. We should not aim for equality of outcomes, but equality of opportunity. We should ensure that every child has an opportunity to realise his or her potential and live a fulfilling and meaningful life.