Generation 40s – 四十世代

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從刻舟求劍到逆水行舟

明報
觀點
2017-07-03
馬嶽:

 

2017年6月,香港人被各種「回歸20年」的討論和回顧淹沒。我個人對這種年結式/十年結式的「回顧」一直興趣不大。我總覺得年月是時間的單位,從社會科學的角度,和社會變遷沒有因果關係,於是20年不見得比19年或21年更值得反省回顧,12月也不應比11月更有回顧價值。很多社會變遷都是持續性的,用「齊頭」的數字作結不見得是最好的框架。用文件或文字來規定社會在某段時間的變遷,像「50年不變」,本身就是不科學的。

多年來最重要的變遷是什麼?

這篇文章的截稿恰好定在6月30日,好像是某種命定要寫點和「回歸20年」有關的東西。這段日子給人問了很多相關問題,令我不禁想:這許多年來最重要的變遷是什麼?

一直以來,一國兩制的最深層次矛盾,是中港在政治價值上的差距,或者說是中國共產黨領導和港人主流在政治價值上的差距。我會問:二三十年來,這差距拉近了麼?

一國兩制基本構想上着眼的「兩制」差異,最初當然是經濟性的(「兩制」是社會主義和資本主義)。中國內地和香港最大的差異在經濟制度、生產力、發展水平和生活水平上,而原有法制、司法獨立和法治、各種人權和自由,是香港經濟制度重要的政治配件。在一國兩制原構想下,這些政治價值和制度上的差異,都可以在民族主義(「一國」)的大前提下包容。

「50年不變」的假設是,香港的生產力和制度都較先進,但假以時日中國內地在經濟發展、生產力和生活水平會追近香港,差異會因而拉近,可能50年後不需要再一國兩制。這個分析方法,當然是「很馬克思主義式」的。

網絡社會來臨和新身分政治興起

但人類是很難預測社會的長遠變化的。近二三十年世界社會的最大變化之一,用Castells的說法,是網絡社會的來臨和新的身分政治的興起。經濟變遷如後工業化、全球化和網絡力量,加上冷戰結束,令世界各地人民找尋新的身分,令民族國家(nation-state)的影響力下降、人民追求自主自由參與、抵抗父權,各種身分政治的運動應運而生(包括環保、性小眾、各種地域自主的運動等,當然也有向宗教原教旨主義和排外族群主義進發的)。

香港人尤其年輕一代緊貼全球化的趨勢,隨着踏進後現代和網絡社會,走向崇尚自由、自治、自主、後物質主義和平等價值,思考新的身分認同,認同各種後現代的運動,是自然不過的事。

世上不少先進國家面對網絡社會和新身分運動的挑戰,走向權力下放、尊重及回應地方自治的訴求、領導層年輕化、快速回應民意、加強施政的問責性;對各種後現代的運動訴求,例如環保和同性婚姻,也要加倍重視和積極回應。

但我們看中國官員對香港的話語和其盛載的價值,到了2017年卻仍然非常「前現代」。例如經常仍然用冷戰思維看問題:反抗運動都是「西方亡我之心不死」的結果。例如香港年輕人的問題是經濟問題、是不能上流和買房子的問題,對策是給更多經濟援助;「人心不回歸」就加強由上而下的教育,再多加些課時或者從幼稚園開始,例如強調國族主義和民族國家的必要,希望不斷強化國家功能來控制公民社會和民間自主。衡量一國兩制成功的標準永遠是「繁榮」和「安定」,永遠是經濟增長、建設和競爭力,不去問生活在其中的港人是否覺得自由快樂。面對政制民主化的要求,就祭出「國家安全」和「穩定」的大旗。回歸廿年滿街紅旗水馬,滿紙像是工業化初始階段的話語和口號,和香港近年的政治價值走向背道而馳,差距像不止一個世代,真的是「恍如隔世」。

二三十年前,中國政府還會比較虛心地承認香港問題他們不大懂,香港有很多先進的制度特質中國內地需要學習(例如法治、科學管理方法、公務員制度、廉政等等),於是《基本法》會加進不少制度限制,為防止內地影響香港建立一些「防火牆」。今天的中國自居「天朝」,信心滿滿地覺得「中國模式」可以垂範天下,變成了張浚生來教導香港人什麼叫法治、你們不懂管治香港我們來教你。這變成把「中國模式」看成最普遍優越的制度,覺得遠在「天朝國都」的人比香港人更了解香港管治,也不見得有什麼知識根據了。

20年「舟已行矣而劍不行」

10多年前,我就用過《呂氏春秋》中的「刻舟求劍」比喻來說香港的政治發展:「楚人有涉江者,其劍自舟中墜於水,遽契其舟曰:『是吾劍之所從墜也。』舟止,從其所契者入水求之。舟已行矣,而劍不行, 求劍若此,不亦惑乎?以故法為其國與此同。時已徙矣,而法不徙,以此為治,豈不難哉?」

這本來說的是,如果政治價值已經大變,但政制十多廿年都不變,是沒有能力回應新一代的政治訴求的。二三十年前,香港人還可以接受「安定繁榮」的話語,因為當年政治文化還很保守,殖民地的不民主體制邏輯八九十年代勉強還是可以管治的。20年都沒有與時並進,改革政制來跟上人民價值的轉變,就是「舟已行矣,而劍不行」了。

中國官員連與時並進的欲望也沒有

在2017年的今天看來,這個看法竟然還是太樂觀了。劍墜在水底,通常是不會動的。中港的政治價值鴻溝,卻可能是愈來愈闊。二三十年來中國內地的生產力和發展水平當然是大大追上香港,但政治價值差異卻沒有隨之拉近。當香港人的政治價值已經急速地隨着全球化和進入網絡世代而邁進後現代、後物質和新身分政治,中國官員仍然用一大堆工業化初始的概念看世界看香港,不單政治觀念沒有現代化,連與時並進的欲望也沒有了。河底有暗流,劍好像愈來愈遠了。

延伸閱讀:Manuel Castells, The Power of Identity(West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)

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Why Hong Kong’s property market won’t crash – this time

CommentInsight & Opinion
2017-06-29
Andy Xie says although Hong Kong’s fragile economy remains unhealthily dependent on the property sector, the asset bubble today is unlikely to burst, as happened after the handover. Stagnation is the bigger worry

 

Property is at the centre of everything in Hong Kong today, much like it was 20 years ago on the eve of the handover. Soon after the handover, prices collapsed, hitting rock bottom in the spring of 2003. They have since clawed their way back up, and some. With the 20th anniversary of the handover now upon us, will history repeat itself?

The similarities between now and then are only skin deep. In 1997, Hongkongers were extremely optimistic about the future. Foreigners agreed. The mantra was that China was set for explosive growth, Hong Kong, being China’s window, would be the conduit for all the money flowing to the mainland, and Hong Kong property would rise and rise on that money. Most bubbles occur because people got carried away. Hong Kong in 1997 fell into that category.

When the Thai baht collapsed, it exposed the problems in the East Asian boom. When foreign money pulled out, the Hong Kong property market collapsed. It showed that hot money was the driver for Hong Kong’s property market, not growth.

The collapse of the bubble exposed a greater challenge facing Hong Kong’s economy. The city prospered on China being closed. Arbitraging on China’s inefficiencies was the foundation of Hong Kong’s prosperity – being in Hong Kong offered a seat on the gravy train. The Hong Kong government taxed the privilege through high property prices to fund itself.

But, after China joined the World Trade Organisation, the gravy train was derailed.

Hong Kong has never faced up to this competitive challenge. For years, mainland tourism kept the retail sector afloat. But, is the future for Hong Kong youth to be shopkeepers?

Meanwhile, investment immigration juiced up the property market. It turned a whole generation of youth into property agents harassing pedestrians in the posh shopping districts. The latest financial boom is very much driven by grey income fleeing China. After 20 years, Hong Kong’s economy hasn’t built a lasting foundation.

This economic fragility is reflected in the popular pessimism today, in contrast to the widespread optimism two decades ago. Why, then, is there a property bubble now?

Three forces have been at work.

First, after the property collapse in the late 1990s, the city’s ruling class shrank supply to prop up prices. The initial plan to launch 85,000 public flats, a key component of Tung Chee-hwa’s housing programme, was abolished. Minimum prices were assigned to subsequent land auctions, cutting supply in a low-price environment. Even the land marked for public housing was later sold to private developers. When incomes are not rising, cutting supply can increase prices.

Second, after the 2008 property collapse in the US, the Fed cut interest rates to zero and kept them there for a long time. With an exchange rate pegged to the US dollar, Hong Kong has the same interest rate, and debt demand increased accordingly. Household debt has increased to 70 per cent of gross domestic product from the previous peak of 50 per cent in 1997. The debt, of course, has piled into the property market.

Lastly, China saw a massive increase in corruption in the decade after 2002. The grey income flooded into Hong Kong, much of it enabling cash purchases of properties. The flood of mainland money, in addition to juicing up property demand, has kept Hong Kong’s interest rates even lower than America’s.

However, all three forces are now reversing. Housing supply is likely to increase substantially in the coming years. Though still low relative to the population, the increase will have a big impact, because the prices are so high relative to income. US interest rates are going up. And, China’s crackdown on corruption will last for years to come.

Hong Kong’s property market is likely to behave like Japan’s in the past two decades, not like it did itself two decades ago. The US economy is not as strong today as it was then, and US interest rates may peak at 3 per cent this time, not like the 6 per cent then. Besides, China is much bigger now and will surely intervene if the market collapses like in 1998.

After its property bubble burst in 1992, Japan’s banks didn’t foreclose on their delinquent borrowers. That prevented the snowball effect in a bubble collapse. However, while such a response would save the economy the pain of a 1998-style collapse, the slow adjustment would trap the economy in stagnation, because capital could not be relocated into new productive areas from the bubble economy.

Hong Kong has been trapped in a property curse, which could last another two decades, diverting its attention from the main challenge of meeting the competition from millions of graduates from across the border joining the workforce each year.

Two decades ago, for a similar job, a Hong Kong salary was 20 times that on the mainland. Now it is three times. How long can Hong Kong justify the differential? It is already less competitive in education and infrastructure than tier-one mainland cities. The gap will only widen. Unless big changes are made, salaries in Hong Kong will not rise and may even decline.

Andy Xie is an independent economist


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Inside the AI revolution that’s reshaping Chinese society

NewsChinaSociety
2017-06-29
Artificial intelligence, once a novelty, is now being applied in everyday life. From academia to business, government and the military, ambitious China is betting big on AI, raising US suspicions yet offering opportunities for collaboration

Seven-year-old Chen Jiahao has a problem sum he can’t solve and he can’t wait to get home from school to pose the question to his all-knowing maths tutor.

His tutor is amazing, the boy says. Just snap a photograph of the question and the tutor will provide every possible approach to solve the problem, step by step – all in a split second.

Jiahao’s tutor is inside his mother’s smartphone. It is, in fact, an app that draws on artificial intelligence (AI) technology to solve challenging maths problems for primary school children.

And it’s just one of many AI-enabled apps Jiahao uses daily on his mother’s phone. When the boy started primary school in Beijing, his teachers recommended that his parents install the apps on their phones. The software give out school assignments, grade pupils’ work and even generate unique sets of exercises for each child based on their areas of weakness.

“Jiahao likes his AI teachers,” said his mother, Yu Ting, adding that her son spends at least two hours on the AI apps every day. “He greets my phone as eagerly as he greets me.”

AI society

Jiahao’s story shows how AI is shaping modern Chinese society as the technology shifts slowly but surely from the realm of mere novelty towards common, everyday application.

On Chinese social media, video-sharing platforms and shopping sites, AI technology is already widely used to cater specifically to individual tastes and preferences.

For example, online news aggregator Toutiao provides a selection of articles tailored for its users based on information such as their age, gender and location. Video-streaming website iQiyi recommends programmes based on users’ search and viewing history.

Ali Xiaomi, the AI-powered customer service chatbot of tech giant Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post, can reply to a million text queries and takes thousands of phone calls from online shoppers every day. The use of AI has cut e-shops’ customer service costs by 90 per cent, according to Alibaba.

That’s not all. An AI traffic controller introduced on trial in Hangzhou in Zhejiang province last year eased vehicle flow on roads, allowing cars to pass at speeds of up to 11 per cent faster than usual, state-owned broadcaster China Radio International reported.

A missing man from Fujian province was reunited with his parents thanks to AI analysis of facial recognition data. Photo: Handout

In April, search giant Baidu’s AI system reunited a couple in Chongqing with their long-lost son. The machine analysed a photograph of the six-year-old boy, who went missing 27 years ago, and matched it to the face of a 33-year-old man in Fujian province, the Beijing Evening News reported. DNA tests confirmed the match.

What, exactly, is AI?

Popular culture, especially in the West, often either romanticises the notion of artificial intelligence – such as in the 2013 Hollywood film Her, in which a lonely man falls for his “female” AI operating system – or portrays it negatively, as in the hit US television series Westworld, where oppressed androids in an AI theme park turn murderous against their abusive human guests.

In reality, AI technology – at least in its current stage – is both less romantic and frightening, but its possibilities may be every bit as boundless as imagined in the movies.

AI refers to a computer software that mimics intelligent human behaviour. Creating such intelligent systems requires teaching machines to learn for themselves – an application of AI known as machine learning – rather than manually teaching them everything there is to know.

Machine learning involves feeding computer systems with large volumes of data and programming the systems to interpret the information for themselves through pattern recognition. The machines hence “learn” by calculating probabilities and drawing conclusions from patterns found in the data at its disposal.

A powerful form of machine learning is deep learning, which categorises information according to hierarchical layers of concepts. The arrangement allows systems to interpret complex data with greater flexibility, speed and accuracy.

“AI is like a child,” said Professor Feng Jufu, a machine learning scientist at Peking University’s school of electronics engineering and computer science. “The more people use it, the faster it learns. The more it learns, the faster it improves.”

United States’ rising rival

China, whose population of 1.38 billion people makes it the world’s biggest user base and data pool, is a “paradise” for machine learning technology, Feng said.

And the nation – from its computer scientists, tech businesses, the government and military – is exercising its competitive advantage.

For decades, AI initiatives have been launched and developed in the United States and the field dominated by American experts. But now, the balance appears to be tipping as China’s AI technology comes up neck and neck with that of the US.

There was no clearer demonstration of this shift than what occurred at the annual meeting of the world’s biggest AI research community this year.

The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence rescheduled its yearly event in New Orleans, originally set in January, to the following month after finding out that the dates conflicted with China’s Lunar New Year holiday, The Atlantic magazine reported.

“Our organisation had to almost turn on a dime and change the conference venue to hold it a week later,” the association’s president Subbarao Kambhampati was quoted as saying.

The clash might not have mattered in the past, but with Chinese scientists now producing more research papers on deep learning than Americans, the meeting would have been pointless if the Chinese could not attend, according to the association.

An artificial intelligence backed by face recognition function which can used in mobile payment is demonstrated in Wuhen on Nov. 16, 2016. Photo: Simon Song

“The race is tight,” said Li Xiaowei, executive director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ State Key Laboratory of Computer Architecture in Beijing. China has only one main competitor – the US – and its goal was to beat its rival on the other side of the Pacific, he added.

Li said he and colleagues were developing computer chips, built specifically for machine learning, that would significantly boost the speed of an AI system, running “as fast as a car against a bicycle” compared with existing AI machines on traditional CPUs.

Chinese researchers have already developed AI chips with faster performance on specific tasks such as image recognition and natural language processing, but they still consumed more energy and tended to be less reliable than American-made chips, Li admitted.

Chinese ambitions

While US experts are still making most of the fundamental AI breakthroughs, this may soon change as Chinese tech giants like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, with access to the vast amounts of data needed for AI training through their millions of customers, inject massive investment into the technology, setting up their own AI research laboratories to create new products at a speed and scale never before seen in the West.

China was the world’s second biggest investor in AI enterprises last year, injecting US$2.6 billion into the sector, according to Chinese think tank the Wuzhen Institute. The US topped the list with US$17.9 billion.

Smaller firms aren’t passing up the chance to make a foray into AI either. This month, AI robots owned by two Chinese education-tech companies sat the maths section of the nation’s notoriously difficult college examinations.

Press gathered in Chengdu earlier this month as a robot sat the maths test for the national college entrance exam. Photo: Xinhua

One, which took the test in an isolated room at a technology park in Chengdu in Sichuan province, scored 70 per cent, spending about 20 minutes completing the questions. The other, which sat the test in Beijing and was connected to the internet, scored 90 per cent in less than 10 minutes. The second bot’s score was good enough to gain admission into China’s top universities.

“Artificial intelligence has undergone several waves of hype over the past decades, but this time it’s different. This time, it may really come alive,” said Feng, the Peking University academic.

Over in the public sector, the Chinese government has pinpointed AI as a key area for advancement in its latest five-year plan. Top technology official Wan Gang said in March a national development plan was being drafted that would see AI technology adopted in areas including “the economy, social welfare, environmental protection and national security”.

Last year, the Chinese government said it would create an AI market worth more than US$15 billion by 2018. Beijing has already sunk millions into studying AI in universities and research institutes around the nation. It is also already applying the technology across the full spectrum of governance.

Traffic authorities in the city of Jiaxing in Zhejiang province this month began using an AI coach in a driving school. The system monitors students’ driving behaviour and detects mistakes they make, instructing them through a speaker and rating their performance, the Jiaxing Daily reported. The passing rate of students who learned with the AI coach was 20 per cent higher than those who had human coaches.

Over in China’s most innovative city of Shenzhen in Guangdong province, the use of a tiny chip in public surveillance cameras has helped police crack hundreds of cases and find several lost children. The intelligent chip whittles down the speed of human facial recognition to just a few seconds.

And in Jiangsu province’s city of Nantong, an AI judge will be put into use later this year to organise and analyse legal documents and material as well as perform paper work to lighten the workload for human judges. The system is expected to speed up the handling of legal cases by 30 per cent, the Nantong Daily reported.

US suspicions (and collaboration)

China has also ventured into AI on the military front. The nation is developing cruise missiles with “a very high level of artificial intelligence and automation”, the China Daily quoted a senior missile designer as saying last August.

As the country’s AI capabilities grow, so have US suspicions. The Pentagon had concerns about Beijing’s access to US-developed AI technology, the Reuters news agency reported this month.

Citing a leaked document, the report said the US defence department recommended blocking Chinese organisations from investing in some American start-ups working on cutting-edge technologies. The report suggested Washington fears that its advanced algorithms might be re-purposed for Chinese military use.

Individual Chinese AI researchers might also have become a concern for the US government, according to Zhang Lijun, an associate professor of computer science with Nanjing University’s learning and mining from data group in Jiangsu province.

“Each time we go to the US for an academic conference, we encounter extensive background checks by the US embassy,” Zhang said. But if the US stopped issuing visas to Chinese AI scientists, the move would do as much damage to America as it would to China, he added.

Despite Washington’s concerns, American companies are still flocking to join hands with their Chinese counterparts in AI research given the sheer amount of funds injected into the industry. And the collaborations have seen considerable progress in the field.

In May, Google’s AlphaGo AI programme – developed to play the Chinese board game Go – defeated world champion Ke Jie in a series of three matches, all of which the machine won.

The strategy game, played on a 19×19 grid board with more permutations than the estimated number of atoms in the observable universe, was previously believed too sophisticated for the machine to handle. Scientists had predicted AI would take at least a decade to decisively conquer the game; the final match took less than four hours.

The same month, Microsoft’s Chinese-language chatbot Xiaoice published the world’s first collection of AI-authored poems in a book titled The Sunlight That Lost The Glass Window. The book caused a stir among China’s literary circle, with some poets hoping the technology would revive appreciation of the art. Pirated copies have already appeared on Chinese websites, reflecting interest in the book.

“The US is good at coming up with new ideas in fundamental research while China is good at implementing these ideas in applications. International collaboration has played a key role in the rapid development of AI technology in recent years,” Zhang at Nanjing University said.

The future

All these advancements are just the beginning of an AI revolution, according to the Peking University academic Feng.

“The only limit is your imagination,” he said, adding that AI technology could have even broader and deeper applications in people’s lives.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences’ expert Li concurred. The AI user experience of the future would be vastly different from today, as with software and hardware upgrades newer AI machines would become far faster and more human-like.

The collection of AI written poems, The Sunlight That Lost The Glass Window. Photo: Handout

For instance, Feng said, today’s exam taking robot could be developed into an exam-setting machine. Like AlphaGo considered permutations never conceived by human players in the past, the AI system could pose students challenging questions that would push them to achieve results beyond what they thought possible.

“If you can answer maths questions designed by machines, you should then be able to easily tackle questions designed by humans,” he said.

But Professor Li Qingan, an educational psychologist at Beijing Normal University, cautioned against the unregulated use of AI in schools.

“Artificial intelligence may create super students, but it can also turn them into cold-blooded creatures with little care for how others think and feel,” Li said. “Thirty years from now, we may regret giving our children over to AI.”

There is also a limit to AI systems, according to professor Huang Biqing, a robotics scientist with Tsinghua University.

“If human-generated data can no longer improve an AI system’s performance, the machine will treat it as noise,” Huang said, adding that this meant the system would regard human input as no longer necessary and could evolve based on its own machine-generated data.

Chen Yi, the father of Jiahao the primary schoolboy who loves his AI tutors, recalls his childhood addiction to Nintendo’s Game Boy as he observes his son interacting with the apps on his wife’s smartphone.

“This is different from my childhood addiction,” Chen said, referring to Jiahao’s attachment to the AI-enabled programmes. “Jiahao’s condition is more like, I don’t know, a kind of dependence?”


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How Hong Kong’s Basic Law can serve the interests of all China

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2017-06-28
Simon Young
Simon Young says a narrow view of the Basic Law is partly to blame for the ‘one country’ versus ‘two systems’ deadlock in Hong Kong. It’s time to widen the perspective to see what the SAR can offer the country

Looking at the Basic Law from different perspectives may yield different results. For the past 20 years, most people, including myself, have understood the Basic Law to be a legal instrument intended to continue and preserve Hong Kong’s way of life for at least 50 years under Chinese sovereignty. I call this the internal perspective, which looks at how the Basic Law serves the interests of Hong Kong and Hong Kong people.

However, the internal perspective has proven to be divisive, one that sees continuous tension and conflict between the “one country” and the “two systems”. The conflict is well known, if not tiresome. One sees it in recent speeches on the success or failure of the Basic Law.

The side trumpeting the “one country” hails the Basic Law’s first 20 years, pointing to Beijing’s restraint and the many ways in which Hong Kong has been allowed to prosper. To this group, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has made “only” five interpretations of the Basic Law, each measured and made for good reasons. Those calling for independence or self-determination are regarded as ungrateful, spoiled, and soon to be, if not already are, enemies of the state unless stronger measures are taken.

Those trumpeting the “two systems” highlight the “high degree” of autonomy promised to Hong Kong in the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. To them, one Standing Committee interpretation is one too many, and the five we have had have seriously damaged common law judicial independence. What is there to celebrate when press freedom has been deteriorating, Chinese mainland authorities have increasingly encroached on Hong Kong’s autonomy, and the local government has been unable to defend Hong Kong’s interests. The government’s “hardline approach” is to blame for the failure of “one country, two systems”, and independence talk is but a natural consequence of the political reform void.

As the internal perspective looks mainly to the interests and continuity of Hong Kong, there is little room to consider Hong Kong-mainland relations. The two sides are single entities unable to have a constructive dialogue on constitutional development. During the 2014 universal suffrage debacle, the central government’s Standing Committee decision was a top-down monologue, while local protesters’ provocative means drowned out their message and those of others.

In this internal perspective, Hong Kong remains a “borrowed place on borrowed time”, with 2047 standing in the place of 1997.

The two sides have divergent ideas on how to resolve the conflict. The “one country” camp would invest in a kind of brainwashing, and recommend for the incorrigible, first, elimination from the political system, then incarceration. For the autonomy camp, there are different responses: protest, obstruct, disobey, veto and exit. While those in the autonomy camp await a new president, those in the other camp await 2047.

In contrast to the dismal internal perspective, there is another perspective of the Basic Law rarely mentioned. The external perspective sees the Basic Law as serving national interests and the nation’s interests in the global community.

This is not the same as the “one country” camp’s internal perspective of the Basic Law. The words “belt” and “road” do not appear in the Basic Law. Hong Kong is not compared with other parts of China. It is a distinct society with an unrealised potential to furthering national interests. The external perspective sees Hong Kong and Hong Kong people having a greater role in matters of state, as contemplated by Article 21 of the Basic Law. This goes beyond having local deputies in the NPC and ex-chief executives become vice-chairmen of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The external perspective recognises the contribution that Hong Kong already makes to China’s international standing.

The autonomy camp does not see the external perspective, or they see it as irrelevant, as they continue to fight micro battles with the “one country” camp and the Hong Kong or mainland governments. Some do not see the nation at all, whether because they are legally barred from entering the mainland or figuratively because of pro-independence thinking.

The vision in the external perspective remains largely unfulfilled because there are few opportunities for Hong Kong people to participate in the management of state affairs. It is doubtful that the central government trusts Hong Kong people with such responsibilities. Take the example of having mainland officials in Hong Kong in a co-location arrangement for boundary checks for the mainland-Hong Kong express rail link. It is likely to be one of the most challenging problems facing the new administration. There is, however, a solution to the problem in Article 20 of the Basic Law, which provides that Hong Kong may “enjoy other powers granted to it” by the mainland authorities.

Why not grant Hong Kong officials the power to conduct boundary checks on behalf of the mainland? A select group of Hong Kong officers could be specially trained by mainland officers and sworn to secrecy on the intelligence obtained from the mainland security network. Hong Kong would maintain its autonomy while contributing to a matter of national importance.

While the precise arrangements have yet to be announced, it seems highly unlikely the mainland government would entrust Hong Kong with such powers.

In State Council white papers and the speeches of the foreign minister, Wang Yi (王毅), even on topics of rule of law and human rights, Hong Kong is not cited as an exemplar. When mentioned in a recent speech by Wang, it was only to say that China had opposed “foreign interference in Hong Kong and Macau affairs”. Recently in London, Hong Kong’s secretary for justice lauded the city’s system of overseas judges in the Court of Final Appeal as an “innovative formula” that “proved to be a success”. I cannot recall ever hearing a mainland official giving similar praise. Rather, one hears voices in the “one country” camp calling for the system to be dismantled. The judiciary, which enjoys both public confidence and international repute, should instead be a matter of national pride. One wonders whether such calls do a disservice to the national interest.

The 2014 white paper on “one country, two systems” stated correctly that “Hong Kong’s experience can be of reference for the mainland to pursue innovative ways in social and economic management”. This is an understatement as Hong Kong experience and talent can help the mainland in many other ways if given the opportunity.

As we mark the first 20 years and reflect on the next 20, it is time for all to take a fresh look at the Basic Law to get beyond the conflict of the internal dimension. The very survival of the Basic Law beyond 2047 may well depend on finding common ground in a new perspective.

Simon Young Ngai-man is professor and associate dean in the Faculty of Law, the University of Hong Kong