Saturday night Taiwan seemed to be boiling with joy as Ma Ying-jeou and Vincent Siew were elected president and vice-president. For those who have been suffering from economic setbacks and social polarisation for at least eight years under the terms of Chen Shui-bian, undoubtedly and understandably, they have high hopes for the future as Mr Ma and Mr Siew take over the helm.
Mr Ma's speech last night was one of the best speeches I have heard in a decade. His humbleness and prudence may draw criticisms of indecisiveness and a lack of resolution, but I think these are precisely the valuable attributes of a truly responsible statesman, the attributes that have been proved to be too scarce in supply.
I was particularly impressed by his tribute to his opponent Frank Hsieh and the Democratic Progressive Party for their achievements to Taiwan over the years. His apology for Mr Hsieh in a televised live debate also deserves high regards from all. Again, these acts demonstrate mutual respect and noble sportsmanship that is hardly seen in Chinese and even world politics these days. The relative clearance of dramatic showdown and emotional confrontation during the presidential campaigns also set a great example for all democracies.
While it is widely believed that relations between Mainland China and Taiwan would be less hostile than it was over the last eight years, I can't help thinking of the role Hong Kong can play as relations continue to improve across the Taiwan Straits, particularly their growing economic interdependence and closer social and cultural ties.
Certainly it was unfortunate for the whole of China, but the divided regimes of Kuomintang and the Communist Party have created an extraordinary opportunity for the growth of Hong Kong, both economically and socially. Should there be no regimes hostile to each other, Hong Kong can never leverage the middle-man's role across the Taiwan Straits to its own benefits. Its internationally renowned role as an entrepot, an ombudsman between the two Chinese governments, and the haven for those who are not welcomed or tolerated on either side of the Taiwan Straits, would never have flourished. To a great extent, Hong Kong's economic success was built on the bitter dispute between two political parties that has separated mothers from sons, brothers from sisters and wives from husbands for more than half a century.
As a Chinese by blood, I'm sure many fellow citizens in Hong Kong would join me to be more than happy to see cross-Straits relations moving towards the direction of reconciliation, although it is certainly not going to happen as soon as we would love it to be. But as a Hong Kong citizen, I can't help start worrying about the future of Hong Kong as a middle-man, a role that we have been playing for decades and still feeling complacent of.
Of course this is not to say we are reluctant to see the reconciliation between Mainland China and Taiwan. This will be one of the most significant events in not only Chinese history but world history as well. What I'm focusing on is how Hong Kong should change itself or adopt a different role as the circumstances change.
As we can see in the last two or three decades, changing political and economic policies in Mainland China have already put Hong Kong in a different position that, unfortunately, few of us could truly grasp. So many have been changing around us and we seem to have lost our direction. For at least more than a decade, we have been talking about change rather than rolling our sleeves to make the change. Perhaps some may say I'm being a bit too pessimistic here, but I'm always convinced that we'd better be humble and prudent when it comes to planning for our future and that of our next generations. Those claims that direct flights across the Taiwan Straits would have little impact on Hong Kong's logistics and travel industries are either unfounded optimism or sheer escapism.