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Oriental Pearl forever


Winton Dong

  | Editor: Jane Chen  | From:  | Updated: 2017-07-03

A bird’s-eye view of Hong Kong with Victoria Harbor in the middle. Xinhua

Email of the writer: dht0620@126.com

Situated on the southeast coast of China, Hong Kong’s strategic location on the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea has made it one of the world’s most prosperous metropolises. Due to its international fame, the city is nicknamed the “Oriental Pearl.”

Since its return to the motherland on July 1, 1997, Hong Kong has become a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China under the principle of “one country, two systems.” Such an arrangement allows the city to enjoy a high degree of autonomy, including retaining a capitalist system, independent jurisdiction, rule of law and free trade.

After China’s introduction of the reform and opening-up policies in the 1980s, many Chinese cities took the chance to enter a boom of export-oriented and foreign direct investment-driven economic expansion and then successfully shifted to industrial upgradating after the traditional processing industry lost steam. During the process of China’s economic takeoff and transformation, investment, expertise, new technologies, international standards, advanced management and human resources from Hong Kong consistently contributed to the nation’s quick economic growth. Despite the fact that Hong Kong has also witnessed comprehensive development in a variety of sectors in the past years, its leading position is now greatly challenged by other Chinese cities. In 1997, Hong Kong’s GDP accounted for more than 16 percent of China’s total. That proportion, however, has sharply decreased to 3 percent at present.

In order to give more incentives to Hong Kong and make the “Oriental Pearl” shine again, President Xi Jinping made a three-day visit to Hong Kong between Thursday and Saturday to attend festivities marking the 20th anniversary of its return to the motherland and the inauguration ceremony of the fifth administration of the SAR. Xi’s visit at such an important moment has fully demonstrated the significance that central authorities attach to and their support for Hong Kong.

The Central Government has also been taking pains to support the SAR government in terms of growing the economy, improving people’s well-being, advancing the progress of democracy and promoting social harmony. Such support could be easily seen in a series of Hong Kong-oriented policies, as well as in the placement of the city in a strategic position in the national 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), the Belt and Road Initiative, the proposal of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, Shenzhen-Hong Kong Stock Connect, the construction of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and other large-scale infrastructural projects to make the city’s development with that of the mainland closer.

With the Belt and Road Initiative as an example, it is a national economic development strategy that has already connected China with 65 countries and 4.4 billion people, forming a group generating about 40 percent of the world’s total GDP. As China progresses with its vision of reviving the ancient trade links, the landmark initiative delivers an alluring prospect for Hong Kong to think bigger, aim higher, seize more opportunities and go global further. On the one hand, the leading role of finance in defining the mainland’s position in the promotion of the Belt & Road Initiative fits well with the city’s edge as a global financial hub. On the other hand, with greater international use of the renminbi as an irreversible trend, Hong Kong is an ideal place to be an offshore renminbi center.

As for its position in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong’s economic structure is different from those of other cities within the city cluster, which offers the SAR an opportunity to explore complementary development with the other cities. For instance, financial and professional service industries have developed quickly and enjoyed comparative advantages in Hong Kong. These are two sectors that the city can further cement and expand to the bay area.

Hong Kong has also been recognized as the world’s freest economy and most competitive region. The decision of Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) on June 20 this year to include 222 A-share big-cap stocks into its Emerging Market Index and All Country World Index would further strengthen Hong Kong’s role as the gateway to accessing the mainland stock markets under the existing stock connect programs with Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Apart from these advantageous industries, the city’s unique role also lies in its high degree of internationalization. Its economic, social, cultural and legal systems are well-connected with the world and it has a large pool of international talent.

On March 26 this year, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made history in Hong Kong as the first female leader by winning 777 votes (67 percent) in the chief executive election. Lam swore in on Saturday as the fifth chief executive of the SAR after being appointed by the Central Government. She vowed to enhance the communication mechanisms between the government and diverse sectors of society, reunite Hong Kong and “heal the political divide and ease the frustration” in society, listen to the people’s voices, while promising to use down-to-earth methods to overcome social problems, especially those faced by younger generations, to create a better future for them.

A sense of belonging is very important for human beings. Hong Kong people should take pride in China’s tremendous accomplishments and in their Chinese identity, and also be confident about Chinese culture. The SAR government should give a prominent place to the country’s Constitution and national education, promote Basic Law education in schools, lay more emphasis on Chinese history and culture, so as to offer its citizens, especially the youth, a more objective perspective to think, analyze and look at the country with a historical view and in light of its development.

In terms of its business environment, Hong Kong enterprises are advised to change their traditional market dynamics. For example, Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Disneyland, once very profitable companies mainly attracting mainland passengers and visitors, both reported losses and rolled out massive programs to lay off redundant employees this year. Such experiences tell us that Hong Kong’s unique role as a “super-connector” between the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world is a fluid one. In a fast-changing world, Hong Kong needs to be quick to adapt to new environments and keep its position. For Hong Kong companies, in order to remain highly relevant to the mainland’s economic development and benefit from it, they must try their best to be in line with national strategies.

As we all know, young people are the future of Hong Kong. With Hong Kong’s narrow space and a limited area of only 1,104 square kilometers, young people in the SAR have been encouraged to cross the border and find business opportunities, job vacancies and even happy marriages on the vast mainland in recent years.

However, looking and moving north to the mainland is not always a smooth or simple process for them. For example, Hong Kong students on the mainland are not entitled to schooling in primary and secondary public schools, making it hard for them to settle in and enjoy a steady education. Moreover, the mainland’s complicated system and red tape such as the special work permit and other requirements have been met with much disappointment from many young people from Hong Kong. All of these obstacles should be carefully studied and cleared by the central authorities in the near future.

The road to splendor is always thorny and a rainbow will come after the rain. With the support of the central leadership and local governments, with the concerted efforts of all Chinese people and local citizens, we have many reasons to believe that Hong Kong will find new growth points under the context of national development and will show its cutting edges again.