HONG KONG — China is not telling the United States to “move over,” but to “make room” for it as “a respected and responsible member of the community of nations,” Tung Chee-hwa, the chief executive of Hong Kong, said in an interview.
Nor does the worlds most populous nation have any territorial ambitions against its neighbors, said Mr. Tung, who has served since Hong Kong was handed back to China when the British flag was lowered in 1997 after a century and a half as a British crown colony.
“You wont find anyone who wishes to expand and absorb more land and more people,” Mr. Tung said.
Mr. Tung, a former shipping tycoon, was tapped at the outset as Beijings favorite candidate to administer Hong Kong under a system of “one China, two systems” that guarantees the territorys capitalist system until 2047. He was elected by a 400-member committee that was strongly influenced by Chinas wishes.
But with excellent connections both in Beijing and the United States — where he spent 10 years and where his children were born — he is also a strong advocate for better relations between the two Pacific Rim powers.
“It would be useful for scholars on both sides to figure out where they wish to be 50 years from now and then work back from there,” he said. “Thats what the U.S. and Europe did 50 years ago, and their respective objectives were achieved beyond their wildest dreams. …
“The relationship between the United States and China is, without question, the most important in the world, for both powers and also for Hong Kong and Taiwan,” Mr. Tung said.
“There may be some in America looking for new enemies, trying to portray China as the next Soviet Union, but let me assure you that the (Peoples Republic of China) is not an enemy or adversary of the U.S. [and] not even a rival.”
Asked for his thoughts on Chinas handling of the April 1 incident over the South China Sea, when a Navy EP-3E surveillance aircraft had to make an emergency landing on Hainan island, Mr. Tung replied, “How would the United States have handled a similar incident off its coast with a Chinese aircraft forced to make an emergency landing at a U.S. Air Force base?
“My view, which is widely shared by knowledgeable Chinese experts, is that China has no wish to conquer other places. Their priority and only objective is getting on with their economic progress. Neither does China wish to challenge the United States, nor for that matter does it have the ability to do so.
“America is not being told to move over, but to make room for China as a respected and responsible member of the community of nations,” Mr. Tung said.
Mr. Tung, whose term expires in 2002, presides over a Hong Kong economy that grew by 10.9 percent last year but is expected to slow to 4 percent this year in the face of a global economic downturn.
Chinas long economic boom has drained much high-tech talent from both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Roughly 300,000 people, mostly middle managers, have moved from Taiwan to mainland China. Shanghai, now a close rival of Hong Kong, is the destination of choice.
That migration reflects a growing web of mutual interests woven by China and the two capitalist systems of Hong Kong and Taiwan through trade and investment.
In recent weeks, two top Taiwanese officials have visited Beijing. A senior leader of Taiwans opposition Nationalist Party also received a warm welcome there.
Mr. Tung has signed off on a “three cities forum” with the mayors of Taipei and Shanghai to be held in Hong Kong later this year. Hong Kong is the principal conduit for Taiwanese trade and investment in mainland China, which to date totals about $50 billion.
Some 200 Hong Kong business executives are in the remotest parts of western China this week to explore investment opportunities.
Asked about the detentions and deportations of some Falun Gong members when Chinese President Jiang Zemin was in Hong Kong from May 8 to 10 for the Fortune Global Forum, Mr. Tung said, “We have every right to bar people who come to Hong Kong solely to demonstrate and disrupt or disturb an important international economic forum. This does not breach freedom of expression and association for the people of Hong Kong as guaranteed by our basic law for 50 years from the 1997 handover.”