Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Why the West and Japan should stop preaching to a rising China

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Jean-Pierre Lehmann

Jean-Pierre Lehmann says the imperialist powers of old should acknowledge their own bloody history of plunder and exploitation, and work with Beijing to find a path to a peaceful rise, which so far is unprecedented

This year marks the anniversaries of a number of Asian historical landmarks. July 1 was the 20th anniversary of the handover of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the UK to China. August 8 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Asean declaration, the founding document of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. This Friday, July 7, marks the 80th anniversary of the Japanese invasion of China, triggering the Pacific war that lasted until Japan’s surrender on September 2, 1945.

July 7 should be a day for reflection. Such was the case on June 6 three years ago, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, when the French president François Hollande hosted, among others, US president Barack Obama, Britain’s David Cameron, Canada’s Stephen Harper, Germany’s Angela Merkel and Russia’s Vladimir Putin. This was one further indication that, while there are tensions in the Atlantic, the breakout of war, as occurred twice last century, is extremely unlikely.

Over the decades since the end of the second world war, there has been a great deal of dialogue, confidence-building and the establishment of solid institutions. Germany, for all the atrocities it committed, has been an exemplary European citizen and is arguably the Atlantic’s greatest guarantor of peace, just as it has proffered unconditional apologies.

Just as Germany has been the solution for peace in the Atlantic, Japan remains a critical problem for peace in the Pacific. In light of the composition and conduct of the Japanese government – with, inter alia, the Defence Minister Tomomi Inada paying regular visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, a sort of mausoleum for Japanese war criminals – it is highly unlikely that there will be reflection, let alone apology.

The Pacific war and its many ramifications tend to be ignored in Japanese education and public discourse generally. July 7 will not be marked by public forums among Japanese leaders, let alone with their Chinese, Korean, Singaporean or Filipino counterparts.

Instead, we hear of Japanese kindergartens spreading anti-Chinese and anti-Korean xenophobic messages and hotel chain proprietors (Toshio Motoya of APA) distributing in all rooms copies of his writings in which he denies the Nanking massacre occurred and claims that the Korean “comfort women” were not sexual slaves but prostitutes.

But the lessons from July 7, 1937 extend beyond Japan. The 21st century is witnessing the rise of another great global power: China. Though there has been a good deal of debate among Chinese intellectuals on the implications of great power rise, illustrated in the seminal 2005 article by Zheng Bijian (鄭必堅), “China’s Peaceful Rise to Great Power Status”, there has been little reflection among the other great powers on how they might contribute.

If one looks at, for example, the current membership of the G7, all the countries, with the sole exception of Canada, achieved great power status through war, conquest, plunder, imperialism, exploitation, enslavement, and so on. Thus, while Japan is a major problem for peace in the Pacific, its warmongering corresponded to a pattern set by other G7 members, including the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy – and indeed by others including the Netherlands, Belgium and Russia.

While it has become seemingly pervasive for the Western powers and Japan to mount their high moral horses and admonish China that it should “play by the rules”, they fail to explain why at the time of their rise to great power there were no rules or, if there were, they were egregiously flouted.

Thus, the eloquent 1839 letter by the Canton commissioner Lin Zexu (林則徐) to Queen Victoria, imploring her to stop her subjects from forcefully infesting China with opium, was contemptuously ignored. Throughout the 19th and most of the 20th centuries, the “great” powers plundered the planet, including of course China. What rules were the British and French playing by as they pillaged the Beijing Summer Palace in 1860?

Nor is the behaviour of the Western powers just ancient history. American atrocities perpetrated against Vietnamese and Laotians continued into the third quarter of last century. As depicted in the excellent book by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, in fact the US has been pretty much continuously at war throughout the second half of the 20th century and most recently in the 21st, with the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

One of the most compelling recent publications on the rise of China is by Geoff Dyer, The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China, in which he draws compelling parallels between the rise of the US as a great power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – manifest destiny, the Spanish-American war of 1898-99, resulting in the colonisation of the Philippines, and so on – and the rise of China in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The 1823 Monroe Doctrine, seeking to establish a US exclusive sphere of influence over Latin American, ultimately came to concrete fruition a few decades later with, among other things, the metamorphosis of the Caribbean as an “American lake”. This, Dyer suggests, is comparable to what China is aiming to do vis-à-vis Southeast Asia generally and the South China Sea [9] in particular – that is, that it should become a Chinese lake.

The argument that these were different times with different parameters does not wash. The main difference from a Chinese viewpoint was that, whereas then the Western powers and Japan were extremely strong and China was extremely weak, today, the Western powers, the US in particular, remain strong while China is no longer weak. Thus, in seeking to draw inspiration from the methods and achievements of great powers rising, what models are there other than the Western and Japanese imperialist nations? There is no precedent for peaceful rise.

This should not, of course, imply that while previous great powers looted and engaged in outrageous brutality, it is now “China’s turn”. But it strongly suggests that serious and honest reflection is called for, not only on the part of the Japanese, but also on the part of the other great powers, and on that basis to engage in genuine dialogue – not sermons – with China. Instead of getting on their moral high horses, sermonising from the alleged position of liberal values, far more constructive would be to admit – and eventually apologise – that in fact they behaved often abominably, feeling bound by no rules except that might is right.

This would seem the only viable means to engage China in its rise to great power, to contribute constructively to the unprecedented peaceful rise, and thereby to have some hope that peace may reign. Finally, after centuries of warfare, one could hope that great power bellicose rivalry might be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Jean-Pierre Lehmann is emeritus professor at IMD, founder of The Evian Group, and visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong

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Theresa May must not let the EU hold Britain to ransom in Brexit talks

CommentInsight & Opinion
Grenville Cross says with Brussels likely to play hardball, the British prime minister should make it clear the UK has the will and strength to go it alone, as opportunities beckon beyond the euro zone

After Britain voted last June to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, the Lisbon Treaty’s departure mechanism, on March 29.

If divorce terms are not settled by March 29, 2019, Britain will exit without a deal. European Council president Donald Tusk says “there is no time to lose”.

Despite her election setback, May will oversee Britain’s strategy once formal talks begin on Monday. The negotiations will be tough and tortuous, and probably nasty. May must, however, stick to her guns, as the deal she secures will define Britain’s future.

Many Europeans, given the huge problems caused by open borders, the euro zone and the democratic deficit, now openly praise Brexit. Some in Europe will undoubtedly want to punish Britain for its audacity, and to deter others. The EU, traditionally intolerant of dissent, will play hardball in the talks.

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has described how, after Greece’s anti-austerity Syriza government won a huge electoral mandate in 2015, the EU ruthlessly clamped down. Its central bank cut off emergency liquidity for private banks, bringing Greece to its knees. Syriza was forced to capitulate to EU demands, causing untold misery to ordinary Greeks and an unemployment rate of 23.5 per cent.

The EU cannot bully the UK in the same way, but Varoufakis nonetheless warns Britain against the EU’s negotiating net. He predicts a campaign of attrition by the EU, exploiting Britain’s political divisions. Although Varoufakis advises May “to avoid negotiation at all costs”, she must talk to the EU in good faith, while making clear Britain will not cave in to threats.

The European Commission claims Britain may have to pay as much as £85 billion (HK$845 billion) to leave the union. This is a bluff. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales has found that, taking into account rebates owed to the UK and the realisation of Britain’s investment in the European Investment Bank, the Brexit charge could be about £15 billion. Even this could not be legally enforced.

The EU, however, is desperate for British cash, and for good reason. It is hugely expensive, and wasteful.

Apart from its more than 32,000 civil servants, the EU is now expanding its fledgling foreign service, with offices around the world. The patience of European taxpayers will snap at some point but, in the meantime, the UK must not be held to ransom.

Moreover, Britain is not, as some suggest, dependent on EU trade. British exports to the EU have been falling since the euro zone was formed and now only account for 12 per cent of Britain’s economy.

The EU states, however, need to sell their products to Britain, and this will not change. The EU had a £60 billion trade surplus with the UK in 2015, and if it imposed tariffs it would be shooting itself in the foot.

The terror attacks in London and Manchester have highlighted the urgent need for the UK to secure its borders and control who enters, impossible under Europe’s open borders policy. Mass EU immigration has also placed huge strains on housing, social services and schools, and gravely affected the quality of life of ordinary Britons. If Brussels tries to prevent May from reducing immigration to manageable levels, she must be prepared to walk away. She should, however, seek the greatest possible access to the single market, through a new free-trade agreement.

If the EU tries intimidation, May must point out that they rely on British markets, intelligence and armed forces, and that everyone will benefit from an amicable separation. Britain, on course to be Europe’s largest economy by 2030, has always looked outwards, and its future lies in exploiting emerging markets.

At least 14 countries, including Australia, Brazil, China and India, want free-trade agreements with the UK. Once EU red tape is cut, the financial sector could save £12 billion a year, and it will be possible to export to millions more customers from the rising economies.

Although the prospect of breaking away from a dysfunctional political union is exhilarating, the price of separation must still be right. If the EU insists on intolerable terms, May must call it quits. The EU should understand that, if pushed, Britain has the determination and strength to go it alone.

Grenville Cross SC was a backer of Vote Leave

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Make Britain great again, for the sake of Europe and the world

CommentInsight & Opinion
Jean-Pierre Lehmann says the glory days of empire may be long gone, but there is still time to rescue a Britain roiled by Brexit and a snap general election from its political and psychological rut

The continued ­decline of Britain will induce a ­decline of global civilisation. Illustration: Craig StephensWhen I am in Hong Kong, I usually stay in Causeway Bay. I often take a stroll in Victoria Park where invariably I pass in front of the majestically imposing statue of Queen Victoria. This ­allows me to reflect upon the remarkable rise of the British empire, of which Hong Kong was more than just a symbolic hub. In many ways, the history of Hong Kong, colonised following the first opium war, reflected the determination and brutality of British imperialism.

During my latest stay, teaching a course on Asia and globalisation, I read an extraordinary book: Nemesis: The First Iron Warship and Her World, by Adrian Marshall. It covers in meticulous detail the construction, command, crew and trajectory of the warship.

Architectural dynamics are ­explained, the commanders and crew are brought alive, and the narrative of its exploits is jaw-dropping stuff. While the British rulers, ­including, of course, Queen Victoria, may have thought they were bringing civilisation to Asia – or, at least free trade, which to the elite of Victorian times was synonymous with civilisation – the men on the empire-building ground acted with brutal savagery.

One of the most memorable lines goes: “[a] characteristic typical of many Victorian men [was] a genuine and open love of war”. It’s what got the national adrenaline going.

In the decades following the opium wars, a lot of water has flown under the British imperial bridge.

Hong Kong was “returned” to China 20 years ago. At present, what is left of the empire are Bermuda, Gibraltar and the Falklands.

The retention of these territories is allegedly ­because its inhabitants were offered a choice through a referendum. There was no referendum in Hong Kong. There may yet be another epilogue shortly: if Brexit does occur, Gibraltar may be ­absorbed by Spain.

Britain’s post-second-world-war exit from most of its colonies in Asia and Africa went reasonably smoothly, certainly when compared to France’s messy bellicose de-colonisation. But the famous pronouncement by American statesman Dean Acheson, president Harry Truman’s secretary of state from 1949 to 1953, that “Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role”, has remained resonant throughout the decades, and emphatically so in June 2017.

Acheson’s assessment applies especially to Britain’s attitudes and policies towards the European Union. I was living in the UK in 1975, when the referendum was held under Labour prime minister Harold Wilson on whether to join the then European Community; the result was an emphatic 67 per cent “yes”.

The debate, however, had been rancorous. A significant part of the population, including some who voted “yes”, felt uncomfortable being “European”. In the ensuing decades, Britain has tended to be a Euro naysayer – for example, by ­refusing to join the Schengen (borderless) Area – and, at best, a sideline player.

The EU itself has, in recent times, suffered from mediocre leadership, bureaucratic aloofness and a most uninspiring image, especially to young people.

Be that as it may, the main point about Brexit today is not whether it was justified, but that it has been so messy and murky. Boris Johnson, who in his Brexit campaign compared the EU (which deservedly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012) to Hitler, was appointed foreign secretary. That is deplorable.

Indeed, Prime Minister Theresa May’s government can best be described as that of a mother hen leading a flock of headless chickens. To think that this is a country that ruled an erstwhile empire over which the sun never set. Morality aside, the efficacy of British rule was admirable, indeed quite amazing.

The most appropriate word to describe the British situation following last year’s referendum is “pathetic”. Following May’s “snap” election, she is more of a hybrid mother hen/lame duck. And soon she may be a dead duck. The Eurocrats and European political leaders are having great difficulty wiping the smirks off their faces.

Where Britain goes from here, whether Brexit will occur, or whether there will be “repent” followed by “return and remain”, and what role, if any, it will assume remains ­obscure.

Contemporary Britain brought a great deal to the planet, including in the worlds of the arts, academia, ­research, science, think tanks, ­humanitarian and charitable ­organisations, NGOs, entertainment, finance, business and industry – notably start-ups, the media, and as a model in many ways of progressiveness and tolerance.

Though British imperialism may have been imbued with racist ideology and practice, as well as abuse of human rights, and while xenophobia keeps lurking in some of the more insalubrious corners of Britain – notably the tabloid press – many former colonials have ­assumed some of the highest positions among the British elite. To cite only the most glaring contemporary example: the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is of Pakistani origin.

Whether these assets can be preserved in the kind of unknown political universe Britain seems headed for – one that might be termed a ­“banana monarchy” – remains to be seen. One must hope, not just for the sake of Britain, but also that of Europe and indeed the world, that somehow it will get out of this political and psychological rut into which it has fallen.

Britain, whether “Great” or not, has a lot to offer. The continued ­decline of Britain will induce a ­decline of global civilisation.

Jean-Pierre Lehmann is emeritus professor at IMD, founder of The Evian Group, and visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong

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The global order is crumbling and we need a fix to curb humanity’s worst instincts

CommentInsight & Opinion
Jean-Pierre Lehmann calls for renewed faith in multilateral institutions that work for the common good, to ensure a fairer playing field for all in trade and international relations
I was in Cancún in 2003 for the WTO ministerial meeting to witness the initial cracks in the global governance edifice.

The World Trade Organisation was established in 1995 following the completion of the GATT Uruguay Round. It was hailed as the first institution in this new era of globalisation, a new global dawn. The post-war global trade regime had been dominated by the rich countries in what came to be known as “The Quad” – Canada, the European Union, Japan and the US. So-called third world countries were on the periphery. If they got to be too “uppity” – that is, competitive – such as the four “Asian tigers” (Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore) in garments and textiles, the quad would respond with various means of protection: in this case, the Multi-Fibre Agreement, which lasted from 1974 to 2004, by imposing quotas.

The system was grossly unfair, the playing field was heavily tilted against developing countries, but for the most part they had not minded too much as they were pursuing mainly autarchic economic policies. Trade with the rich countries, as the influential Argentine economist Raúl Prebisch warned, would result in neo-colonial exploitation.

In the wake of the Chinese market reforms launched by Deng Xiaoping ( 鄧小平 ) in the 1980s, there has been a global market revolution whereby developing countries realised the benefits trade could bestow to development and poverty reduction. Thus, they sought to join the global trading system. For the benefits to accrue, however, there was an imperative to level the global trade playing field. Hope was raised when in 2001 China – historically one of the most acute victims of Western and Japanese predatory imperialist trade policies – was admitted to the WTO and its members committed to the launch of the Doha Development Round.

Two years later, in Cancún, Mexico, these hopes were dashed. From the moment we arrived, it was clear that whatever “concessions” may have been granted in the spirit of Doha, mercantilist resistance would dominate the spirit of Cancún. The talks collapsed and the Doha round fell into a coma. Various attempts at reviving the round having failed, it lies there in Geneva in its apparently permanent comatose state.

Especially illustrative of the sad fate of Doha in Cancún was the issue of cotton trade. Cotton plantation owners in the US are heavily subsidised, thus American cotton is dumped on global markets, especially at the expense of poor African cotton farmers. Efforts by African negotiators to rebalance the playing field were staunchly resisted by the US – 2004 was an election year and financial contributions from cotton plantation owners were important.

The year 2003, however, will be remembered for more than the collapse of Doha. It was the year that saw the illegal US-British invasion of Iraq. By any account, it was one of contemporary history’s most catastrophic geopolitical acts, the cataclysmic consequences of which remain part of the global landscape today and are unlikely to dissipate soon. While the US government was calling upon China to be a “responsible global stakeholder”, it was causing havoc in the Levant.

With Doha and Baghdad, it became apparent that the world was entering a Darwinian era in which the stronger prevails and where might, when exercised by the powerful, is right. After the illegal invasion of Iraq, the US was not subjected to sanctions, nor excluded from any global club, such as the G8. When, on the other hand, a decade after the American invasion of Iraq, the Russians illegally invaded Ukraine, all sorts of sanctimonious hell broke loose, sanctions were imposed and Russia was expelled from the G8. What is sauce for the Russian goose is not sauce for the American gander!

Thus China’s flouting of the Hague tribunal decision in respect to its disputes with the Philippines in the South China Sea, under the terms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, was by no means an aberration in global affairs of the early 21st century, but very much part of a pattern. While the US has condemned and even threatened China over the issue, Washington has in fact refused to be a signatory to the UN convention.

Where the effects of the collapse of the edifice of global governance may in fact be the most harmful in the long term is over climate change. The bilateral Sino-American agreement to ratify the Paris climate accord reached at the Hangzhou (杭州) G20 summit in September last year was seen as a most notable breakthrough. But President Donald Trump’s threat to withdraw from the agreement once again dashes hopes and further crumbles the collapsing edifice.

The launch of 59 US Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat air base last week in retaliation for the alleged use by the Assad regime of chemical weapons may seem morally justified. Nonetheless, the legality of the unilateral action is dubious.

There is no doubt that the use of chemical weapons, especially on civilians, is a repulsive crime against humanity. From a more cynical realpolitik perspective, however, once again the consequences may depend on who is using them. The US made ample use of chemical weapons in its wars in Indochina. When Iraq, at the time a friend of the US, used chemical weapons in its war against Iran in the 1980s, Washington looked away.

We live in a world full of magnificent opportunities and some notable achievements. The latter are especially reflected in the significant reduction of poverty in many parts of the world. A decade after its 1975 victory in war with the US, Vietnam undertook radical economic reforms, as a result of which acute poverty was reduced from 50 per cent of the population to a remarkable 3 per cent.

The impact of the amazing IT revolution, in particular that of mobile telephony, has generated unprecedented connectivity for billions who once lived in isolation. The Hong Kong-based Indonesian home helper can today speak to her mother in a remote Java village – something unthinkable not that long ago. Many more positive examples can be cited.

That’s the silver lining. The great big black cloud looming over the horizon, however, is the global decline due to Darwinian anarchic lawlessness. This is occurring in a time of socio-political turbulence, with the vituperative rise of nationalism, and heightened big-power rivalry, especially between China, Russia and the US. Conflicts of all sorts – territorial, religious, ethnic, trade, monetary, climate, and so on – are threatening.

When I went to Cancún in 2003, I had two grandchildren. In the meantime, I have had five more, hence seven. I worry for their future.

For their sake, indeed for the sake of all new generations of humanity, we urgently need to restore, repair, refurbish and renew the edifice of global governance and especially solidify its foundations. This must be a collective effort, involving much more than governments, including civil society, business, academia and the media. A total collapse would be catastrophic.

Jean-Pierre Lehmann is emeritus professor at IMD, founder of The Evian Group, and visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong

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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