Location: Hong Kong
The full text of the speech, entitled "Hong Kong, China, and the
World," is available at:
Excerpts from the speech:
In its scale and speed, China's development is unprecedented, with
consequences that will reach deeply into every country long before
the world is ready. Whether or not China's emergence will be
positive or negative, cooperative or combative, no one yet knows,
not even the current Chinese leadership.
Despite increasingly strenuous efforts by a once all-powerful
regime to preserve its control, its economic reforms have released
powerful and transforming forces that by their nature are
uncontrollable. This lack of direction extends to China's expanding
influence in the world.
The advance edge of that influence is most obvious in
international commerce, where China's seemingly inexhaustible
capacity for growth is producing unsettling effects.
Already, China's economic prowess is making possible a rapid
expansion of its political and military power.
China's leaders do not appear to fully comprehend that the
advancement of their own interests requires an understanding of the
interrelationship between their actions and the well-being and
forbearance of the rest of the world.
China's enormous size guarantees that its rising influence will
transform the international system.
The most important feature of the existing international order has
been the willing acceptance by the United States of responsibility
for ensuring the stability and security of the international system
as a whole.
Those who decry the unilateral efforts of the United States as
arrogant and pernicious often express their preference for the
benefits of a multipolar world in which the rise of other powers
will offset the dominant role of the United States. They may soon
get their wish.
The rising power of countries such as China will likely constrain
the United States from acting alone and decisively. Organizing
cooperative efforts to respond to threats will require much more
time and tortured negotiation, with irresolution and paralysis an
increasingly likely outcome.
Currently, both North Korea and Iran are attempting to arm
themselves with nuclear weapons. The United States has taken the
lead in trying to prevent these unambiguously threatening ambitions
from achieving fruition.
China's role regarding these threats has fallen between offering
begrudging help and doing outright harm. In North Korea, China
possesses vastly greater influence with the regime than it claims,
but China has brought only the mildest pressure to bear on
Pyongyang, and with very limited results.
Even as the United States attempts to persuade the international
community to take action to prevent these extraordinary threats to
the world from becoming a reality, Beijing has made clear its
determination to veto any effort by the United Nations Security
Council to do so.
As China evolves from a regional power into a global power, its
ability to actively contribute to or undermine order and stability
in the international system will grow as well. China could well
upend the whole, becoming a revolutionary power blind to the
consequences for itself. Or it could become an ally in the need for
a joint effort to reinforce the security of the international
system as a whole. In large part, the course will be determined by
the nature of the political system that ultimately emerges in
Communism is dead in all but name. While liberation from a ruinous
ideology has allowed reforms to take place, it has also resulted in
a growing problem for the regime whose legitimacy is based upon
that very ideology. What will replace it?
There is a danger of a virulent form of nationalism being used to
legitimize the regime and to drive an aggressive foreign
A far more benign prospect for China and the world is the
democratic one brought into being in a gradual transition.
Whether or not the people of Hong Kong and the government in
Beijing wish or even recognize it, the unique status and relative
freedom of Hong Kong have made it the preeminent testing ground of
the possibilities of China's political evolution, the most
difficult and important test being whether greater freedom and
democracy can be made compatible with the Beijing's insistence on
order and stability.
Progress toward democracy requires simultaneously achieving three
separate and somewhat contradictory goals: 1) a gradual and
continuous expansion of freedom and democracy, including increasing
control by the people of Hong Kong over their own affairs; 2) the
preservation of order and stability and the absence of overt
challenges to the government's authority; and 3) maintaining strong
economic growth. A significant failure in any one of these would
probably be sufficient to undermine them all.
For the leadership in Beijing, the course of managed change will
always carry the risk of a radicalization of the democracy
movement's demands and a possible showdown far more dangerous than
at present. But efforts to forcefully hold in place the status quo
are likely to result in the very disorder that its policies are
attempting to prevent.
Hong Kong's success in this Long March of short steps would be
applicable to the rest of China as a model of how political
liberalization can be reconciled with enhanced stability and
China's modernization. For those in the leadership in Beijing who
understand the wonders that political liberalization would make
possible for China, this is the best option they will have of
mapping out a path through a treacherous and unexplored
The entire world has a vital interest in ensuring that China's
rising power is channeled into productive directions and away from
the threat of a revolutionary impact that would wreak havoc on the
international system it is entering. This outcome that can best be
ensured by an increasingly democratic and cooperative China, one
prepared to accept broad responsibilities commensurate with its
increasing power. Hong Kong's fate will be the best measure of the
possibility of China's democratization.