Generation 40s – 四十世代

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What Hong Kong can learn from Europe’s still-evolving union

South China Morning Post
CommentInsight & Opinion

Yan Shaohua says the consensus-building project that is the European Union offers good pointers for our divided city


This year is an eventful year for Hong Kong. The city is poised to see the election of a new chief executive on March 26, and 2017 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

On another continent, and just one day before the chief executive election here, the European Union will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that laid the foundation of the union.

The EU and Hong Kong may seem very different from one another, but if we look deeper, the two could be familiar strangers. Philosophically, the EU’s concept of “unity without uniformity” resonates perfectly with the spirit of “one country, two systems” here. And, to a large extent, both the EU and Hong Kong are “strange animals” in terms of their unique place in the global system.

There are other similarities. The EU suffers from a perceived “democratic deficit”, Hong Kong is struggling to establish a “true demo­cracy”. The EU faces a backlash against the consolidation of a political union, Hong Kong is stuck in its political reform. The EU frets over the ascent of populism and nationalism, Hong Kong fears the rise of localism. Facing these challenges, both sides are at a crossroads, compelled to review their past and reflect on future paths.

Giving these commonalities, it is surprising that so little attention is paid to the EU in Hong Kong’s discussions on the future of “one country, two systems”. As a researcher in European studies in Hong Kong, I believe that a study of the EU would offer valuable lessons for our problems. These lessons can be summarised in what I call the “3Cs”: constitution, communication and consensus.


The first lesson is to come back to the constitution. Despite its inherent flaws and the multiple crises along the way, the EU has evolved from a group of six members into a union of 28 states under a supranational governance structure. This has largely occurred on the basis of what we call the acquis communautaire, which includes the accumulated legislation, legal order and court decisions that constitute the body of European Union laws.

In particular, the Treaty of Rome and its subsequent revisions have served as the constitutional framework to navigate the EU’s evolution. Although the EU’s progression is slow and not without setbacks, there has been a strong sense of working through the constitutional treaties which enables the EU to overcome the seemingly unworkable system.

The EU’s adherence to its constitutional framework and the supremacy it gives to European law should constitute “foreign stones that may serve to polish domestic jade”. Like the EU experience, “one country, two systems” is an evolving formula that calls for continuous improvements in practice. In recent years, the city has seen a strong push for reform, yet many of the discussions undertaken are out of the context and unrealistic.

In fact, a number of the issues raised have already been addressed in the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. It is thus imperative that any discussion on the future of “one country, two systems” – which still provides ample room and flexibility to accommodate the pleas of different stakeholders – begins with the Basic Law.

Li Fei, chairman of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, speaks at a luncheon with Hong Kong lawmakers and officials in November 2013. Hong Kong must create effective mechanisms for political communication and consul­tation between the executive and legislative organs, between the pro-establishment and pan-democratic camps, and between the SAR and Beijing. Photo: Sam Tsang


The second lesson is to establish effective channels of communication. The EU is a system of multilevel governance that involves multiple actors and multiple methods of decision-making. The functioning of such a complicated system would not have been possible without the various formal and informal mechanisms of communication between EU institutions and member states.

Such open and institutionalised ways of communication are not sufficiently seen within Hong Kong or between Hong Kong and Beijing. Consequently, the city is constantly trapped in confrontations over policies, politics and, particularly, its relations with Beijing.

To avoid unnecessary confrontation and facilitate constructive interactions, a priority for Hong Kong is to create effective mechanisms (formal or informal) for political communication and consul­tation between the executive and legislative organs, between the pro-establishment and pan-democratic camps, and between the SAR and Beijing. This could be achieved within Hong Kong’s constitutional framework.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers hold up banners while being escorted out after they interrupted the chief executive election forum in Hong Kong last Sunday. With increasing social movements and political demonstrations, the SAR is transforming from an economic city into a political city, where politics and society are highly polarised. Photo: AFP


Based on the constitution and through communication, a third lesson for Hong Kong is to rebuild a consensus. The EU is essentially a project of consensus-building, which has in turn contributed to European integration. For decades, the post-war European consensus on achieving peace and prosperity through functional economic integration has been an enabling factor for the EU’s development.

That consensus seems to be losing momentum right now. The hopes are that a new consensus could be built on the occasion of the EU’s 60th anniversary.

Hong Kong is facing a similar dilemma. With increasing social movements and political demonstrations, the SAR is transforming from an economic city into a political city, where politics and society are highly polarised. Gradually, people seem to be getting used to divisions and confrontations, forgetting the wisdom of making compromises and consensus. It is time for Hong Kong to rebuild a much-needed consensus, not only on its internal governance, but also on its role as a go-between for China and the world.

Finally, we should be aware that the EU and Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” are both unprecedented political experiments in supranational and national governance. Despite the challenges and the crises that have emerged, they are still something worth fighting for, because they represent future possibilities, and hope.

Dr Yan Shaohua is an Asia fellow at the EU-Asia Institute, ESSCA School of Management, and a member of the One Country Two Systems Youth Forum

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Who can save the world from being trampled by Trump?

CommentInsight & Opinion
Kevin Rafferty says the US president’s apocalyptic policies pose a grave risk, not only for the future of America as a nation, but the fragile planet itself
Commentators and pundits, American and foreign, have sadly misunderstood US President Donald Trump. They expected him to calm down and become presidential, at least when he became the unlikely ­Republican candidate, or when he beat Hillary Clinton – or, at the very least, when he went through the solemn pomp and panoply of the inauguration and he took possession of the Oval Office.

It is now clear that Trump must be taken both literally and seriously, however outrageous his demands, however personal, dark and unrealistic his world view. He will not let it stand in his way that he was the choice of only 27 per cent of eligible voters or that he lost to Clinton by 2.8 popular million votes.

He believes that if he promised or threatened it on the campaign trail, victory gives him the mandate to do it. And he has set to work like a Force 13 hurricane, caring little about anyone standing in his way.

For America itself, there will be a price to pay as Trump’s hyperactivity in producing executive orders, firing people and hectoring bosses to bring factories back raises heavy protectionist costs. But the rest of the world has greater reason to beware. Being “Trumpled”, that is, trampled by Trump, is a real danger not only for other countries but for the fragile planet itself.

In his inaugural address, Trump thumped out his determination to “Make America Great Again”. With little grace or eloquence, he let out an angry patriotic roar vowing to recreate brilliant shining America, improve education, bring back industry, create jobs, get rid of crime and restore power to the people, not the corrupt elite of Washington.

He went to work immediately. His now notorious refugee and immigration ban even on people vetted and given visas was only the culmination of the first week of his hurricane. Trump claimed that all he wanted to do was keep the US safe from the “bad dudes” out there. But terrorists from the countries banned were responsible for zero American deaths between 1975 and 2015, whereas terrorists from Saudi Arabia killed 2,369 Americans, and those from the United Arab Emirates killed 314. Both these countries were missing from Trump’s list.

For a sense of perspective, jihadists have killed 94 people in the US since 9/11, but 301,797 Americans have been shot dead by other Americans in the past decade, 21 of them by toddlers. Between 2005 and 2014, nine Americans were killed by Islamic jihadists – who in most cases were US citizens, not immigrants.

Trump started with an order to undermine Obamacare; he went on to authorise building the infamous wall with Mexico, and perhaps impose duties of 20 per cent on Mexican goods to pay for it; to remove roadblocks from the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines; to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and promise to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico; he expressed his personal support for torture to extract information; he promised new trade deals and pressured US firms to bring jobs back; he pledged a stronger military to crush America’s enemies; and sacked four key state department management officials with 150 years of combined experience in “house cleaning”. Dissenting bureaucrats were told to obey or quit.

In between, he attacked the media for not seeing the hundreds of thousands of invisible people really occupying the empty spaces on the National Mall at his inauguration, and for not counting up to five million fraudulent voters who had denied him victory in the popular vote.

Americans have only themselves to blame: they voted Trump into power. Foreigners are not so lucky: they clearly get no say in Trump’s world.

If Trump carries out the foreign policies he promised, the already fragile global geopolitical, economic, trade and environment system will be devastated. Economic progress made by many developing nations will be threatened as America turns inwards and protectionist.

There are bigger dangers to the Earth itself. Trump’s professed policies risk subjecting the world to a slow suffocating death as he disregards international climate change treaties [10] and encourages a new carbon economy. Or it could suffer a fiery death in war as Trump destroys old alliances and picks fights that could escalate dangerously. This, of course, is all too apocalyptic. But Trump’s policies are apocalyptic.

That’s why editors of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the “Doomsday Clock” 30 seconds closer to midnight, now just 2½ minutes away.

Trump’s way of changing the world is equally dangerous. He continues to behave like a real estate mogul, cajoling, hectoring, bullying and shaming rivals or clients to grovel to get his way.

Sadly, it is hard to see any world leader with the stature and courage to challenge Trump in the name of the fragile Earth. World Bank and International Monetary Fund leaders, quick to give their opinions on Brexit, threats from disease and other crises, have been silent, perhaps for fear of upsetting their largest shareholder, the US.

There is talk of Trump getting together with his best buddy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, to carve up the 21st-century world as Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill divided the post-second-world-war world at Yalta.

Who gets to control Europe, China, Japan and the rest of Asia, Africa and Oceania may be up for grabs, unless China is brought into a triumvirate to control the world.

This would require an unlikely deal by the dealmaker, not least because of his strident claims that China stole US jobs and sapped the strength of its industry, and his condemnation of Beijing’s island building in the South China Sea.

Both President Xi Jinping ( 習近平 ) and Premier Li Keqiang ( 李克) have spoken up for the global commons but, to be a true world leader, Beijing would have to throw off centuries of history of the Middle Kingdom used to seeing neighbours as vassal states paying tribute. It would require China to join forces with other leaders in Asia and Europe in asserting the overriding needs of the Earth.

German chancellor Angela Merkel understands the need for global wisdom, but she and other European leaders are threatened by populist parties, encouraged by Trump and sometimes by Putin, who would happily break up the European Union.

Japan has been a great beneficiary of the peace and economic progress since the second world war. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s sights are set on a deal with Trump and rewriting history, rather than seeking allies who could make common cause in keeping the world – including the US itself, which would suffer from protectionism – open and safe against Trump’s threats. Abe and UK Prime Minister Theresa May should understand that being America’s mistress can only end in disaster when Trump makes the rules.

The important point is that Trump is wrong: the fragile Earth of the 21st century needs leaders with global, not greedy nationalistic, solutions for our common problems.

Kevin Rafferty worked for the World Bank and reported from Washington DC under six US presidents

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2016年接近尾聲,媒體紛紛製作它們的大事回顧︰著名期刊《外交事務》(Foreign Affairs)以「系統失序?國際體系的未來」(Out of Order? The Future of the International System)作為總結2016年及展望2017年國際政經發展的主軸,《經濟學人》更以塔羅牌的方式揭示來年數個國際政經關係重點,似乎對來年不表樂觀。畢竟如《外交政策》總裁兼總編羅斯科夫(David Rothkopf)撰文,雖然他對未來仍有一點信心,但從一般人的視角而言,2016年可說是多災多難的一年。

在中東地區,阿勒頗的戰事看似平息但背後的人道問題正一一浮現,敍利亞內亂似乎沒有平息的跡象;「伊斯蘭國」(IS)的影響力在2016年下半年看似減弱,但不少歐洲國家甚至土耳其的恐怖主義襲擊均與他們直接或間接扯上關係。在歐洲及美國,英國的脫歐公投及言論出位的特朗普(Donald Trump)當選美國總統,被視為本年兩隻影響深遠的「黑天鵝」。而在亞洲,菲律賓總統杜特爾特(Rodrigo Duterte)言行舉動,南韓總統朴槿惠因閨蜜干政及瀆職正面對彈劾審訊,南海仲裁下南中國海再無一島,九段線不再有效等,2016年國際情勢之多變,令不少國際關係學者均要重新審視既有的理論是否已經不再適用,新的時代是否降臨。


布魯金斯學會高級研究員Shadi Hamid在11月分析美國大選時以「歷史終結論的終結」(The End of the End of History),暗諷政治學大師福山(Francis Fukuyama)在冷戰結束時的豪言壯語,指冷戰結束及西方勝利代表人類歷史的終結︰意識形態分歧成為過去,理想主義及身份政治不再,國際及國內政治及經濟生活將由資本主義下的經濟分析、技術官僚、民主制度所支配,認為福山的分析在這次美國大選中徹底崩潰。當然,福山作為一個新保守主義者,近年的政治立場與當天發表的歷史終結論時早有不同,但Shadi Hamid以及近日提出「冷戰終結的終結」(The End of the End of Cold War)的資深傳媒人Julia Loffe的分析不無道理,2016年確實是反映主導後冷戰系統的兩條支柱──資本主義自由市場及自由民主制度,似乎經歷着大幅度的修正。


然而,在討論這些指摘的同時,我們不妨回歸已故政治學者亨廷頓(Samuel Huntington)第三波民主化出現的原因︰威權政體的認受性下降;經濟發展令部分發展中國家的經濟得到改善;教會的角色轉變,改為積極推動公民社會發展;部分區域的雪球效應;以及美國及西歐國家外交政策積極推動。但回望這些因素,有部分從沒有出現,例如伊斯蘭教對於行使西方民主制度一直保持距離,認為西方的自由民主體制並不切合伊斯蘭社會及文化;雪球效應並沒有在亞洲、北非及中東地區出現,而因為中國的經濟崛起及俄羅斯有效地運用其經濟及政治資源,反而令中俄的國際影響力在今年美歐內亂情況下不跌反升,因而阻止了區域雪球效應。

另一方面,西方國家在2008年及2009年面對經濟困局須集中處理國內經濟問題,無暇推動全球民主化的步伐,外交政策也因資源所限未竟全功,因而影響第三波民主以及冷戰後所建立自由世界秩序(Liberal World Order)穩定。

被西方社會視為「非自由民主」的世界悄悄崛起,同時「自由民主」世界的逐步沒落,進一步令西方社會反思冷戰後的世界系統是否出現根本問題︰經濟的全球化加速了人口、資本、服務及貨品流動的同時,其對應的本土社會政策卻沒有得到改善,令全球化經濟利益並沒有化為本土社會實質感受的利益,只剩下一堆堆的數字;當西方社會要求國民擁抱普世價值,本土民選政府卻沒有能力改變區域政策,只不過因為德國總理默克爾(Angela Merkel)單方面放棄《都柏林規定》(Dublin Regulation),其他歐盟國家便要強忍接受,是否「真民主」可謂見仁見智;而對於西歐社會的宗教及文化少數而言,他們本相信歐洲社會真的是一片信奉普世價值的樂土,卻發現原來當中偏見處處,心裏有鬱結卻口難開。

本土vs全球 精英vs平民



亨廷頓在分析第三波民主時曾指出,精英在民主化及民主過渡的角色十分重要,他們既扮演着民主改革的推動者,也是支撐民主制度鞏固的中堅分子。宏觀而言,當民眾對傳統精英失去信任,部分被排除於傳統「政治精英」之列被民眾承認為新的KOL(Key Opinion Leader),這就是政治體制出現根本改變的開始。不難發現,新的KOL如瑪琳.勒龐(Marine Le Pen)、特朗普或意大利的格里洛(Enrico Grillo)等,他們都善用第一層的二元對立,被民眾視為代表他們挑戰第二層二元對立的代表,替他們向冷戰後的自由世界秩序說不。

2017︰雖有天意 事在人為

國際關係學者George Modelski曾以經濟學的長波理論,配合國際關係學說中有關戰爭及霸權更替的歷史事實及分析,提出國際政治其實有它的周期演變,87年至122年左右就會是一個循環。有趣的是,122年前法國無政府主義者Emile Henry及Martial Bourdin策劃了Café Terminus及皇家天文台的炸彈襲擊,開啟了歐洲社會以襲擊來宣示政治信念的「行動宣傳」(Propaganda of the deed)時代,似乎與今天獨狼式襲擊有異曲同工之妙。而1893年1895年間塞爾維亞裔美籍工程師特斯拉(Nikola Tesla)、意大利工程師馬可尼(Guglielmo Marconi)及俄國工程師波波夫(Alexander Stepanovich Popov)發表有關無線電通訊的成果,似乎與今天社交媒體興起也有一定程度的類似。假如以87年為界,1929年更是世界大蕭條(The Great Depression)的開始。

但不論是以87年或122年為界,及後數年的國際政治動盪均不是全球社會希望見到。是世事自有天意還是事在人為,作為占星研究者的我會相信前者,但作為國際關係研究者的我卻認為,人類的想像力及行動力既然可以製造黑天鵝,自然也可以創出白天鵝。正如歷史學家Yuvai Noah Harari指出,當年選出希特拉 (Adolf Hitler)的人今天建立了歐洲核心的民主德國,當年致力反對資本主義的,卻成為資本主義最大的受益者。


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A way to ease the pain of Brexit for all parties

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Lawrence J. Lau

Lawrence J. Lau says a ‘Brexit-neutral’ plan offers a chance for EU members and third countries to settle trade terms with London so that none is left worse off in the uncertain wait for Europe and Britain to sort out their agreement

Almost everyone was taken by surprise when voters in the United Kingdom chose Brexit, including even, or perhaps especially, ardent supporters of Brexit in the UK itself. However, buyer’s remorse has begun to creep in. Nobody seems to know what the next steps should be for the UK, but, for better or worse, Brexit is going to have to happen. It is in the best interests of not only the UK and the European Union but also the rest of the world if the UK and the EU can come to a mutually satisfactory agreement on their post-Brexit relationship quickly and amicably. Prolonged uncertainty is not good for anyone.

According to a recent article in the Financial Times, in addition to negotiating with the EU on their future relationship, the UK must also negotiate to join the World Trade Organisation, presumably with its 160-odd members, and also individual trade agreements with 53 countries to replace current ones under the EU.

Given the high degree of interconnectedness among world economies, any agreement between the UK and a third country may depend on the EU-UK agreement and vice versa, especially if the third country is a major trading partner of the UK, such as China, Japan and the US.

However, these new trade agreements with third countries are likely to require iterated rounds of protracted negotiations and the uncertainty will inevitably affect the flows of both trade and investment. But the first order of business is clearly the EU-UK agreement.

I would like to put forward a “Brexit-neutral” proposal to facilitate the negotiation of the EU-UK agreement. The basic idea consists of three parts: first, as an interim arrangement, the UK agrees with individual third countries that, before Brexit takes effect, London will continue to honour its obligations under the existing agreements between the EU and the respective third countries; similarly, the individual third countries will continue to honour all their respective obligations to the UK as an EU member. (No one will object to this part, which is required by law and treaty.)

Second, in the interim, the UK agrees with each individual third country that any right and privilege granted to it by the EU will also be granted by the UK. In return, the individual third country also agrees to grant to the UK any right and privilege that it grants to the EU. Third, the interim agreement between the UK and any third country will become the default agreement when Brexit finally takes effect.

Under such a “Brexit-neutral” agreement, no one is made worse off. The UK is not going to get a better deal than the EU with any third country, but it is also not going to get a worse deal. Individual third countries are also not going to get a better or worse deal. They should therefore all be relatively neutral about the proposed interim agreement and can presumably reach agreements with the UK relatively quickly. Everything else can await the eventual EU-UK agreement.

These agreements between the UK and third countries can be renegotiated by the contracting parties after Brexit officially takes effect, without the pressure of time and uncertainty. Of course, they can also choose to allow the default agreements to stand.

Given the relative similarity of the economies of the UK and the EU, the UK and the third countries should be able to abide by these default agreements without too much hardship, at least for a while.

The “Brexit-neutral” proposal has the advantage of simplicity – an agreement should take only one page. It should be readily agreeable between the UK and any third country. No complex and iterative negotiation is involved, and no third-party approval is required – no third country or economy can block such an agreement, not even the EU, and no third country will be able to take advantage of the uncertainty during this period. The UK can also avoid, or at a minimum delay, the arduous process of having to negotiate agreements with the large number of individual countries.

It is hoped that such interim agreements will reduce and perhaps even eliminate potential strategic gaming on the part of the other countries, which will, among other things, complicate the negotiation of the EU-UK agreement itself.

Lawrence J. Lau is the Ralph and Claire Landau Professor of Economics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong

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Goodbye and good riddance to the European Court of Justice for post-Brexit Britain

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Grenville Cross

Grenville Cross says one laudable outcome of the UK’s decision to leave the EU is its Parliament and judges will no longer be subordinate to the bloated, overbearing court

Sovereignty, trade and border issues apart, Brexit also involves the UK’s withdrawal from the Court of Justice of the European Union.

This court, distinct from the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, was established in 1952 and is housed in Luxembourg. It has ultimate jurisdiction over the UK’s Parliament and courts, and currently comprises 28 judges, one for each state, each earning more than Britain’s prime minister, while its lower General Court has a similar complement. Many of the judges, strangely, never practised law before appointment, let alone had senior-level judicial experience, but came instead from an academic background.

Like other EU institutions, the Court of Justice is hugely expensive. In 2015, it had a budget of €357 million euros (HK$ 3.11 billion), almost triple that of a decade ago, with 2,144 employees. The Grand Chamber is decorated in gold, with a vast gold mesh net suspended from the ceiling, while gold-coloured decorations adorn the many buildings. The court complex, with its two accompanying towers, cost half a billion euros to build, but still cannot accommodate all the court’s employees.

Court cases are numerous, as there is no filtering process to weed out frivolous litigation. Documents have to be translated from a party’s original language into French, the official language, and then back again once the judgment or opinion is available. The court’s 1,000 translators, all qualified lawyers, translate about one million pages of judgments and rulings each year. Batteries of interpreters, who differ from translators, attend court sessions to provide simultaneous interpretations.

The 2007 Treaty of Lisbon gave sweeping new powers to the court, which it has eagerly deployed. It seeks to ensure that EU law is applied in the same way in every country, and that EU institutions and member states obey it.

Its judges have, for example, fined Microsoft for breaching competition rules, and held insurance companies to have been discriminatory for offering cheaper insurance to women drivers. As the EU has expanded, and promoted “ever closer union”, so the European Court of Justice has sought to advance EU integration. Its remit has penetrated new areas, including immigration, asylum and home affairs.

In 2013, for example, when Theresa May, then Britain’s home secretary, sought to refuse entry to the UK to a known terrorist with a French passport, the court allowed his appeal after his lawyers argued that he was entitled to a detailed explanation, thereby potentially compromising sensitive intelligence.

More recently, the court has, with scant regard for parliamentary sovereignty, reviewed the UK’s Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, designed to promote internal security, with a judgment expected shortly.

As Apple’s recent tax case in Ireland has shown, the EU Commission now tells governments what taxes should be levied, even if it causes big firms to relocate. Although the Irish government plans an appeal to the European court, it should not hold its breath. The UK has already lost similar cases before the court, and, in 2005-2014, the government had to repay £7.9 billion (HK$79 billion) to companies that, although taxed legally under British law, were able to turn European law to their advantage.

It is now clear that matters concerning national security, criminal justice and border control must be handled exclusively by British judges, familiar with local conditions and respectful of Parliament. The UK’s judicial system, which, unlike its continental counterparts, is based on common law, is second to none in terms of quality, efficiency and value for money, and must no longer be subordinate to others. Britain will be well rid of the European Court of Justice, along with its gold mesh.

In this year’s Queen’s Speech, Queen Elizabeth said her government would “uphold the sovereignty of Parliament and the primacy of the House of Commons”. After Brexit, British courts will also, once again, hold sway in the land, which, in an ancient democracy, is as it should be.

Grenville Cross SC is a criminal justice analyst