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Tuesday, May 12, 2015, 10:06

Confidence Doctrine comes to HK

By Lau Nai-keung

Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong SAR, has recently published an important op-ed piece in local Chinese newspapers. The piece, titled “Be confident in our political system when promoting universal suffrage with Hong Kong characteristics”, is the first official attempt to introduce President Xi Jinping’s Confidence Doctrine into Hong Kong.

Confidence Doctrine comes to HK Unfortunately, unlike in the Chinese media where Zhang’s op-ed has prompted healthy debate, both local and international English-language media have generally shown indifference toward this piece and its important messages.

Firstly, for the benefit of readers outside the mainland let’s discuss what the Confidence Doctrine is. The doctrine is a signature political philosophy of President Xi. It calls for Communist Party of China (CPC) members, government officials, and the Chinese people to be confident in their chosen “path, political system and guiding theories.” Within China, the doctrine is called the Three Confidences.

Along with the “Four-pronged Comprehensive Strategy” (to make comprehensive moves to build a moderately prosperous society, deepen reform, advance the law-based governance, and strengthen Party self-discipline) and the “Chinese Dream”, since 2013 the Confidence Doctrine has become a central theme in the political language of the CPC, often recited at official meetings, conferences, and by State-owned media.

Those who habitually criticize the central government will sneer at this type of language as mere “slogans”. What they fail to realize is that there are broadly speaking two kinds of slogans — those void of substance and those that are mission statements or action plans.

Take the anti-graft campaign for example. After witnessing the central government resolutely pursuing both “tigers” and “flies” in the last three years, who can say its anti-graft efforts are mere slogans?

As the title of Zhang Xiaoming’s commentary suggests, the central message of his piece is we should be confident in our political system when promoting universal suffrage with Hong Kong characteristics. He was writing with Hong Kong government officials and the pro-establishment figures and patriots in mind.

By focusing on “confidence in our political system” which echoes President Xi’s Confidence Doctrine, Zhang’s intention is still clearer and more specific. As the last few paragraphs of Zhang’s piece make clear, the political system in his piece refers to the socialist political system, or to be more precise, the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.

Zhang reminds us that we must simultaneously take into consideration “confidence in our political system” and the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. Taken together, it is clear that within the country, the two systems are not equal. The country as in “One Country” is not an abstract cultural entity that transcends socialism and capitalism. “One Country” is one of the “Two Systems” — the socialist system.

This understanding should, once and for all, answer questions surrounding the relationship between “One Country” and “Two Systems”, as well as that between the two systems.

Then we may ask, why did Zhang place emphasis on “confidence in our political system” and the dominant position of the socialist system? What does this have to do with the current debate on political reform? The answer is: everything.

Seen in this light, the special arrangements in Hong Kong, where a capitalist system remains, must serve a larger purpose. If it does not further the development and refinement of the mainland’s socialist political system, the basis of its existence will be cast into doubt. This is also the reason central government officials have repeatedly referred to national security. If our dissidents are allowed to obtain political rights in Hong Kong to the extent that they bring greater risks to the country, then we would be better off not having universal suffrage.

Politics is the art of the possible. To know what is possible we must first understand where we stand objectively.

The final paragraphs of Zhang’s piece remind me of President Xi’s warning against “calcium deficiency of the spirit”. As constitutional reforms unfold, we will soon be able to tell who among our so-called pro-establishment figures genuinely have confidence in the supremacy and dominance of the socialist system.

The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.

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