The people of Hong Kong are today more receptive to the mainland, a commentator said in an exclusive interview on Monday.
Hong Kong marks the 10th anniversary of its return to the motherland on July 1.
Cao Jingxing, a senior analyst with Phoenix Television, said this is evidenced by the fact that many Hong Kong people are now learning Putonghua. The city's main languages are English and Cantonese.
Cao moved to Hong Kong from Shanghai almost 20 years ago and since then has observed Hong Kong's society as a journalist would.
He told Phoenix Television that today knowledge of Putonghua had become a prerequisite to finding a good job in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong universities are also keen to accept more mainland students. In the early 1990s, an average of 100 students a year went to Hong Kong to study.
Last year, the University of Hong Kong accepted 270 mainland students.
Cao describes in his book, Ten Years in Hong Kong, that people born during the British occupation despised mainland Chinese.
The situation has changed since the return in 1997.
"There is no doubt that some people in Hong Kong still think themselves as more internationalized and civilized, but most have changed their way of thinking in the past 10 years," Cao said.
He said it is the mainland's economic benefits to Hong Kong that has largely changed the mindset.
"After the last British governor Chris Patten left Hong Kong the city was hit by the Asian financial crisis in 1998. Hong Kong would have had to endure a much longer and more miserable era, had it not been for the firm ties between Hong Kong and Beijing," Cao said.
Even before 1997, the Pearl River Delta was already home to a large number of Hong Kong's manufacturing enterprises.
The central government has granted Hong Kong many preferential policies such as tax exemptions for Hong Kong-made goods, easier to travel to the city, and the signing of Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA).
More recently, lenders were allowed to issue RMB bonds in Hong Kong.
Cao said of all Asian economies, Hong Kong is the largest beneficiary of Chinese mainland's development.
Lured by business prospects, Hong Kong people are increasingly looking to the mainland, he said.
However, some issues still remain.
The middle class, a generation that grew up under British rule, still lack a sense of belonging to China, Cao said.
They do not know much about Chinese history and culture, and some do not acknowledge their Chinese identity.
The next generation is also a concern, Cao said.
As more highly qualified people come to Hong Kong, young people are facing fierce competition. Hong Kong's education system does not equip the young with enough knowledge, so many of them will find it difficult finding jobs on graduation.
"But we cannot blame Hong Kong's return for this," Cao said. "The whole environment has changed."
However, these issues should not eclipse the general success of Hong Kong in the past 10 years, he said.
Its economy has recovered since mid-2003, and the city is once again a leading financial hub.
Time Magazine apologized in its latest edition for its sister publication Forbes' incorrect prediction a decade ago that Hong Kong would gradually die after its return.
So the question arises: Can cross-Straits relations be settled by following Hong Kong's pattern?
He suggested the three direct links - trade, mail and transportation - should be achieved first, and through these links, the two sides will gradually integrate with each other.
Once economic reunification is realized, a political resolution will be achieved eventually, Cao said.
(China Daily June 21, 2007)