a few days ago, i was invited to a dinner party organized by the hong kong tianjin friendship association (hktjfa) to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of new china along with the 25th anniversary of the hktjfa. signs of positive energy, such as laughter, singing and dancing, permeated the entire venue.
thanks to my alma mater, nankai university, i have become attached to the city of tianjin. i was fortunate enough to be among the first batch of undergraduates who spent an enjoyable four years in nankai after the national college entrance examination was reinstated after the “cultural revolution” (1966-76). this year not only marks the 70th birthday of new china, but also happens to be the centennial of nankai university. a ceremonious celebration for my alma mater was held on oct 17.
i have regretted not being able to return to tianjin to attend the celebration. nonetheless, memories of my alma mater always linger in my mind, with the most striking one being the three questions on patriotism posed by the founding president, zhang boling.
“are you chinese?”
“do you love china?”
“do you wish china well?”
these three thought-provoking questions struck a chord with many people who were struggling to find a solution to the old china’s predicament, and sparked the passion and patriotism among students and staff of nankai university, which has since maintained a tradition of patriotism. when japan waged war against china, japanese invaders bombed the campus of nankai university in an attempt to annihilate the local resistance against japanese invaders. however, the nankai community was not intimidated! a large number of nankai students quit school to join the army and went to the frontline of the war against the japanese invasion. the third son of school president zhang was one of them. he joined the air force and fought the enemy in the sky, eventually sacrificing his young life for the country.
today, the three questions on patriotism are largely seen on the nankai campus. at the beginning of the new school year, the president of the school asks each question aloud in front of the teachers and students, who all respond with an affirmative answer. that atmosphere is rousing and breathtaking.
looking at the current situation of hong kong, the “three questions on patriotism” has made me deeply reflective.
president xi jinping said: “a nation that forgets its origins will find itself in a blind alley.”many hong kong youngsters are oblivious of chinese contemporary history in which our motherland was subject to foreign aggression and humiliation. they are unfamiliar with the fact that china has undergone earth-shaking reforms since the founding of new china, are unaware of the inextricable connection between hong kong and the motherland in which we share weal and woe together as a single entity, and lack a sense of identity with their own country. not only is it the bitter fruit of british colonial rule, but also it is the result of a serious deficiency in education since the reunification.
apart from the deep-seated social and livelihood issues, the current unrest in hong kong exposes the reality that some people in hong kong, particularly some youngsters, are misinformed about the chinese mainland. some of them are so misguided that they are taking advantage of the anti-extradition-bill movement to vent their unwarranted hatred against their own country and even blatantly advocate separatism. this demonstrates how seriously national identity has been distorted in hong kong society!
feeling distressed, i cannot help but raise my own three questions for young people in hong kong.
as new china enters its 70-year anniversary, it has transformed itself from the “sick man of east asia” to the second-largest economy in the world, with gdp greater than that of japan and european union put together. the life expectancy of the chinese population has increased from about 30 years to more than 70 years. with a population of 1.4 billion people, china has a comprehensive industrial system, with huge capacity in innovation and national defense, which enable china to play an important role in international affairs. the reform and opening-up policy has facilitated rapid and sustained economic growth over the past 40 years. on average, every three seconds has seen one person climb out of poverty, which is regarded as a miracle by the united nations. the beidou navigation satellite system, the jiao long submarine, the chang’e robotic spacecraft mission, the 5g technology and the hong kong-zhuhai-macao bridge are remarkable technological and infrastructural developments that have showcased the country’s progress. in the past 20 years, the increase in forested area in the world is equivalent to an amazon rainforest — and one-quarter of the new forested area is contributed by china.
some people might sniff at china’s political system while admiring its economic achievements. indeed, if american-style democracy is regarded as the benchmark, china will probably never pass the test as it does not embrace the multiparty system or the separation of powers. there are also elections in china, but the focus is more on consultation, which better reflects the true meaning of democracy. the executive, legislature, judiciary and supervision are modern governing institutions that china has also established, while the chinese people’s political consultative conference is unique to china. one-party rule, multi-party collaboration and political consultation form a political system that balances fairness and efficiency, which enables the country to concentrate on macro initiatives and reduce political wrangling. this political establishment is more suitable to china’s national conditions and better caters to the country’s need for rapid development, and it therefore has become a protection mechanism that guarantees new china’s economic take-off. western countries like to label china as “powerful in economy but dreadful in politics”. it is a paradox too difficult to justify, yet it has deceived too many people in hong kong.
hong kong has been part of china from time immemorial, and became a special administrative region after the reunification. it is preposterous and nonsensical to say that hong kong people are not chinese. one may leave hong kong and migrate to another country, but body features like dark hair and yellow skin are innate qualities that cannot be altered. whether they like it or not, as long as they live in hong kong, most of the water, electricity, meat and vegetables are from the northern hinterland. wherever they travel to, as long as they possess an sar passport, the chinese embassy is the only place they can seek help when problems arise.
a country can only have one sovereign power, and hong kong is inseparable from the state. those who marched with the american and british flags probably wished foreign governments would protect them and govern hong kong. but china is no longer the one that was subject to arbitrary oppression in contemporary history; the central government in beijing and the 1.4 billion chinese people will not permit any act that brings disgrace and humiliation upon our country again!
in the past 70 years, chinese people have stood up; our country has become prosperous and is becoming stronger. china’s development blueprint of becoming a strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and beautiful socialist modern nation by the middle of this century has already been outlined. the timing precisely coincides with the 50-year deadline of “one country, two systems”. the “two systems” complement each other and allow hong kong and the motherland to share mutual glory. china’s development is inexorable, and it is just a matter of time before the nation becomes the biggest economy in the world. this prospect is not pie in the sky. the institutional advantages and the abundant experiences china enjoys, synergized with the solidarity of 1.4 billion citizens, will eventually turn the chinese dream into reality.
it is not surprising that some people do not see these bright prospects. to date, “theories” such as “the end of history” and “collapse of china” are still lingering in our ears. chinese citizens are no longer abused nor starved, yet insults are still hurled at us simply because the world’s mainstream media and opinion are controlled by the west. china is reproached because it has embarked on a path different from that of the west. consequently, no matter how many good deeds the communist party of china has done for the chinese people and the international community, it will still be repeatedly bashed and treated as a nonconformist. china does not intend to export its political system; it is only that we have found a path of development that suits us, and we are determined to continue with this path. the world is undergoing great changes unseen in a century, with a focus on competition among political systems, of which china is not afraid. seventy years of vicissitudes have given us much confidence to look forward to a bright future!