Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah discussed Hong Kong’s role in China’s “one belt, one road” initiative in a state media interview, furthering political speculation over his chances in the 2017 chief executive elections.

In an interview with Chinese state news agency Xinhua, Tsang spoke about his views on the “one belt, one road” initiative to media for the first time. Tsang said that, “if [Hong Kong] can seize this opportunity, Hong Kong’s basis for development would be certain for the next 30 or even 50 years.”

Chinese University senior lecturer Ivan Choi Chi-keung speculated that the interview, written following Tsang’s symbolic handshake with Xi Jinping, showed that the central government has not yet confirmed its support for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to win a second term.

Financial Secretary John Tsang
Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah. Photo: GovHK.

Xinhua reported Tsang said that Hong Kong cannot focus solely on the local population as the local market cannot support Hong Kong’s economic development. Tsang said that new markets must be found in order to continue growth, especially for Hong Kong’s major industries such as finance and trading.

According to Mingpao, Choi thought that Tsang’s chances of being a contender in the next chief executive election had increased significantly following his handshake with Xi Jinping last month, during the meeting for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The central government has not toned down the speculation but instead published the interview with Tsang.

Choi added that the chief executive had only just visited Beijing last week for the official purpose of discussing the “one belt, one road” initiative, so if state media wished to discuss the issue, Xinhua could have interviewed Leung.

Speculation was raised over whether the central government continued to approve Leung’s work last week. In the visit for discussing “one belt, one road”, the Hong Kong officials visiting did not include secretaries related to finance or economic development. Following the visit, Leung cited a high ranking central government official’s support for his work. However the news was not covered in state media.

On Sunday, Tsang also published an official blog post commenting on the Greek financial crisis. Tsang said the incident reminded him that the government needs to maintain robust finances since it plays an important role in maintaining the society’s stability. Tsang added that when the ruling party is faced with a financial crisis it will still have to face reality regardless of its political beliefs.

The “one belt, one road” initiative, announced in 2013, focuses on strengthening China’s cooperation with the “silk road” countries stretching from Central Asia to Europe. The initiative aims to further China’s role in global affairs and to export China’s excessive production capacity following its economic slowdown to other countries. The initiative is closely linked with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a new international financial institution with 51 founding members and to be led by China.

Arthur Lo is an undergraduate student currently on a gap year. During Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement protests, he worked as a fixer, translator and producer for foreign media outlets such as Al-Jazeera.