For Immediate Release
Experts and Business Leaders Discuss the Way Forward
at Greater Bay Area Conference
HONG KONG, Nov. 18, 2020 – Co-organized by China Daily, Silk Road Economic Development Research Center and Council for the Promotion of Guangzhou-Hong Kong-Macao Cooperation, the Greater Bay Area Conference “GBA: The Way Forward” was held on Nov. 18, 2020. Over 400 experts and business leaders, including 25 consul generals, joined the hybrid event.
The Honorable Mr. C Y Leung, GBM, GBS, JP, Vice-Chairman, the CPPCC National Committee; and the Honorable Mrs. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, GBM, GBS, Chief Executive, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region delivered keynote addresses. The Honourable Mr. Tan Tieniu, Deputy Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, also participated in the event.
In the keynote address, CY Leung highlighted that the Greater Bay Area (GBA) has provided a great opportunity for the development of Hong Kong, and it is time that we prepare the way forward for Hong Kong in this exciting region. He identified three key elements in this preparation – research, messaging and community. To prompt various sectors in Hong Kong into actions, “we should aim to change mindsets and attitudes. Being the most international city and the super-connector in the Bay Area, Hong Kong should also take upon itself the task of engaging the international community, fulfilling its function to also build an international innovation and technology center, among other things,” he said.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pointed out four principles in guiding Hong Kong’s participation in the Bay Area blueprint. They are: adherence to the "one country, two systems" policy, mutual co-operation and win-win arrangement, putting innovation and technology at the top of our agenda, and greater emphasis on supporting young people and nurturing talents.
“The central government has given and will continue to give the Hong Kong SAR unwavering support in developing our economy and improving people's livelihood. What we have to do is to operate within the framework of "one country, two systems", uphold the constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Basic Law, and safeguard national security. It is up to us to turn those support measures into opportunities, and such opportunities are so abundantly available in the GBA. Rest assured, I and my governing team are doing all we can to grasp these opportunities. This is for the future of Hong Kong, our businesses, our community and our young people,” the Chief Executive said.
Zhou Shuchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and China Daily publisher and editor-in-chief, said via a video link from Beijing, “Fastening the integration of the regions in the Greater Bay Area is important to the overall development of GBA. The just-signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, the world’s largest free-trade deal, will surely inject new impetus into regional development and prosperity, and provide with bountiful opportunities for GBA cities as well.”
In the welcoming remark, Joseph Chan Nap-kee, chairman, Silk Road Economic Development Research Center, said 2020 marks the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and it is a crucial year for the Greater Bay Development. Recently, the work plan of “Framework Agreement on Hong Kong /Guangdong Co-operation” has been signed. This plan jointly takes forward 57 measures covering 8 major areas to further deepen the co-operation between Guangdong and Hong Kong. The GBA, which has a closer proximity amongst the 9+2 cities, would benefit the most. He expressed his belief that Hong Kong will never be replaced and that Hong Kong and other cities in the area complement one another.
Focusing on the Healthcare Sector
The first panel discussion, titled “Reshaping Healthcare Sector amid COVID-19”, was moderated by Dr. Fung Hong, executive director and chief executive officer of the CUHK Medical Centre. Five distinguished speakers examined how healthcare sector in different cities can work together to serve the Bay Area. They were: Dr. Ko Wing Man, former secretary for food and health, HKSAR government; Prof. Clifford L.K. Pang, president, Clifford Group and Clifford Hospital; Mr. Wilson Tang, chief executive, BOC Life; Mr. Steven Tse Siu-kei, general manager of Wuhan Asia General Hospital; and Prof. Anthony Wu Ting Yuk, National Standing Committee Member, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.
While talking on the pandemic’s impact on the life insurance business, Wilson Tang said in terms of new business annualized premium, their premium for whole Hong Kong market dropped about 45 percent compared to that in 2019. However, the demand for life insurance protection, like medical insurance, has been increasing since the outbreak of COVID-19.
The impact on the long term mortality is minimal even after the outbreak of COVID-19, he pointed out, and said that he thought the mortality was still under control. Hopefully the impact of COVID-19 to the whole industry, to new business of life insurance, should be temporary.
Ko Wing-man pointed out that the provision of teleconsultation and high levels of the so-called tiered medical care services would require further innovations, such as the establishment of teleconsultation centers in different Bay Area cities with video conferencing and diagnostics support. At present, there are still unresolved barriers or difficulties. In the context of medical, legal liability and professional patents, it would be timely for governments of the Bay Area cities including Hong Kong to come together and establish the legal and professional framework to facilitate the development of I&T and AI-based new model of delivery of healthcare services, he said.
Clifford Pang said traditional Chinese Medicine has played a very important role in fighting the pandemic, with sound clinical effects, which also alleviated the burden of the patients and the government. “Traditional Chinese Medicine will continue to be the focus of our development.” The increasingly intelligent technologies in recent years will continue to support the free online healthcare consultation service, which will minimize the health risk of visiting hospitals, he said. Hong Kong’s edge in healthcare services lies in its high-standard international practice, from which GBA can draw and benefit. But we still need to formulate policies in healthcare services among cooperative regions of GBA, to achieve a healthcare policy alignment between Hong Kong and Guangdong province. He looks forward to a joint healthcare delivery services system in the Greater Bay Area, said Pang.
“Fortunately, we have received help from numerous organizations and numerous charity groups within Hong Kong during the pandemic, which helped us to pull through this challenging time. During the time we have fought difficult battles, together with local governments, to help as many patients as we can. We have also managed a module hospital, which we had intake over a thousand patients with zero death rate and zero infection among our medical staff. We were receiving help from all over the world, especially from Hong Kong. And on behalf of my father (Tse Chun-ming, chairman of Hong Kong Asia Medical Holdings), we would like to thank you everyone,” said Steven Tse Siu-kei.
Anthony Wu Ting-yuk said that the 16 policy measures in GBA (promulgated by the central government last November) are very supportive of the healthcare development in the region. It allows the use of Hong Kong-registered drugs and common medical devices in designated Hong Kong-owned healthcare institutions in GBA. Therefore, Hong Kong and mainland citizens working and living in the Bay Area can access the latest Hong Kong-approved drugs and treatments. Home to 70 million people, the Bay Area is a great testing ground for cross-border collaboration. He suggested that when it comes to reshaping our healthcare system, “we should broaden our horizon”.
Fung Hong said that telemedicine consultation services, telepharmacy, health insurance and other innovative healthcare technologies had already happened even before the pandemic. But it’s the COVID-19 that pushed everything to advance faster. “It also provides us a food for thought about how can we deliver better healthcare services and spur a further change (for the better) to our healthcare system.”
Focusing on Opportunities brought by New Infrastructure
Dr. Winnie Tang, founder and honorary president, Smart City Consortium, moderated the second panel discussion themed “Technology Infrastructure: The New Engine of Economic Growth”. The session brought together five prominent speakers from technology sector: Prof. Shusong Ba, managing director and chief China economist, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited; Ms. Ashley Galina Dudarenok, founder, ChoZan and Alarice; Mr. Gordon Guo, deputy head, Internet & Enterprise Solution, China Mobile Hong Kong Co. Ltd; Mr. Tony Tsang, CEO, DYXnet Group; Ir. Allen Yeung, former chief information officer, Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, HKSAR government; and Mr. Max Yuan, founder, chairman and CEO, Xiao-i. They had in-depth discussions about how technology infrastructure can drive further economic growth and create a sustainable future, and how technology infrastructure can help people ride out the difficulties caused by COVID-19.
Winnie Tang said since the outbreak of COVID-19, the central government has initiated a new infrastructure plan as the core development priority to revive our economy. “In Hong Kong, we have also embraced a lot of new infrastructure development and that helps support building Hong Kong as a smart city, or cooperate with other neighboring cities to become a smart city cluster in the Greater Bay Area.” There is a high hope that the Great Bay Area, together with the new infrastructure plan by the central government, will lead the innovation development in the world, she said.
She pointed out that the Greater Bay Area ranked second among science and technology clusters in the Global Innovation Index (by Cornell University), which is very encouraging. “However, we should think about what we shall do more and how we should create synergy with our neighboring cities to rank even higher and to develop ourselves as a smart city (cluster),” she said.
Shusong Ba said that the outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated the process of digitalization. At the consumption level, digitalized businesses, such as e-commerce, online education and online medical services, are growing rapidly as millions of people are restricted to their homes. In the first three quarters of 2020, China’s online retail sales reached $806.5 billion, a year-on-year increase of 9.7 percent. That reflects the important role of digitalization in boosting retail sales, improving people’s livelihood, and leading to smarter and more environmentally-friendly city clusters. At the corporate level, industries need to utilize technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence and big data to digitalize the entire working process, including research and development, production and circulation, so as to transform and upgrade business models and organizations.
“I would like to talk about stories. Let us together envision the future. When it comes to infrastructure, when it comes to technology, when it comes to connecting the major cities in the Pearl River Delta, this is basically what it’s going to look like. Building infrastructure is all about changing the way we do things. For example – 5G coverage. Looking at mainland China, we are truly living in the world beyond tomorrow. If you want to see the future, you literally have to fly to Shanghai, you go to Shenzhen and this is what the future world’s going to looks like. We here in the Greater Bay Area have the opportunity to plug in to this beautiful, common knowledge and common learning…Let’s say e-commerce. In mainland China, ecommerce it’s not just about selling things online and offline. It’s about building an ecosystem,” said Ashley Galina Dudarenok.
Gordon Guo pointed out that the new infrastructure is the fundamental of the digital economy. As one of the biggest bay areas in the world, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has the advantage in resources, in terms of the logistics, manufacturing, internet, as well as famous industries such as finance and tourism. In Hong Kong, China Mobile Hong Kong launched 5G service in April this year, and it already covers 94 percent of the urban areas and more than 80 percent of the population. It is estimated that in 2020, China will invest 1.2 trillion yuan in new infrastructure. It will be a major engine for economic growth. With new technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence, there will also be new consumption scenarios.
Tony Tsang said the GBA has pretty similar resources (compared with Silicon Valley). A lot of the cities are very effective and there's division of labor (among the cities). “So, we have manufacturing bases in Shenzhen, in Guangzhou. We have tech centers, software development. Hong Kong has more of an international vision and can use that to do more in financial and strategic planning, he noted. He said he wanted to bring the message that GBA has a lot of opportunities. Saying that the GBA has a very promising future, he expressed his belief that it can do better than what he has seen before 20 years ago in Silicon Valley.
Allen Yeung said that in the 2.0 era, because of the Internet of Things, a lot sensors were collecting data and use such data to manage cities more efficiently. Looking ahead, such data in fact will help to build a digital trend and “with that we can use intelligence to predict better planning for the future smart city. We need a different set of framework in terms of how we adapt innovation. We have seen hard rules and regulations are in place because of how we are running the cities. But because of the use of innovation, it tends to push the boundary of such rules and regulations. So we cannot just sit and do nothing without changing such rules and regulations and try to see how we can put a better framework in terms of adapting innovation.” Piloting is a very effective way of allowing certain rules and regulations for new innovations to take place, he said, adding that it takes the collaboration of the government, the academics and the industry to work together, to pilot new innovations from many different dimensions.
Max Yuan explained the reason why artificial intelligence is important in new infrastructure and the Fourth Industrial Revolution is because it is not just a simple industry. Artificial intelligence cannot only create new industries that have never been seen before, but more importantly, can serve as an enabler to all conventional industries. New infrastructure is not just about online businesses or smart cities. It is about how all industries can embrace the new technology and create more values through transformation and upgrade. It is a critical moment for the Greater Bay Area, the whole China and even the world to transform themselves. How AI can be integrated into various scenarios will be key for future development.
Exploring the New Role of Hong Kong
The third panel discussion, titled “Will Hong Kong Change Its Role in the Greater Bay Area”, was moderated by Prof. Edward Chen Kwan Yiu, chairman, HKU School of Professional and Continuing Education. Ms. Annie Wu, honorary chairman, Beijing Air Catering Co., Ltd delivered the keynote addresses. Five distinguished speakers examined how various sectors can work together to reap benefit from the new opportunities in the Greater Bay Area. They are: Prof. KC Chan, chairman, WeLab Bank and senior advisor, WeLab; Mr. Steve Chuang, deputy chairman, Federation of Hong Kong Industries; Prof. Witman Hung, principal liaison officer for Hong Kong, the Shenzhen Qianhai Authority; Dr. Wang Peng, assistant to the President, Wuyi University; and Dr. Allan Zeman, chairman, Lan Kwai Fong Group.
In the keynote address, Annie Wu Suk-ching explained the role of Hong Kong in the Bay Area. She always hopes that there should be more cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Witnessing the development of the GBA, she said her wish has been granted. Although there are some changes in the recent business environment, Hong Kong still keep its competitiveness, she said. Hong Kong can utilize its professional expertise in finance, international litigation and mergers and acquisitions to bring overseas businesses to the city first before they start doing business in the Bay Area. The city can also bring technologies from overseas institutions into the Bay Area by using Hong Kong as a steppingstone. She said the development of GBA provides more opportunities for youngsters in Hong Kong to develop their careers, not only in the GBA, but through GBA to develop their careers in the whole country. She urged the youngsters to grasp the opportunities in the GBA.
Edward Chen Kwan Yiu said globalization is important for Hong Kong. Last weekend, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) finally was signed. Fifteen countries last week released this free trade agreement, including ASEAN countries, and China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand. This is an important step towards regionalization. With globalization coming back and regionalization being enforced, he hopes Hong Kong will face a better external environment.
KC Chan said every firm, a startup or a large company, in Shenzhen, in the Chinese mainland wants to benefit from having international capital. So, Hong Kong’s role in that regard will not change even if there is a growing domestic financial market in Shenzhen. Can Hong Kong do more to facilitate financial investment or overseas capital investment into the startup, fintech and technology industries in Shenzhen, in the GBA and beyond? “That is really a more important question for us to ask.”
“Also when we talk about the ‘dual circulation’, mainly there will be a huge domestic sector in China alongside the export industry. Can Hong Kong be a financial capital where we can bring investment into the Chinese market to support ‘dual circulation’? “I think that is a very interesting prospect for Hong Kong. Given that China’s growth story will be here to stay for a long time, many foreign investors would love to get into China’s domestic consumption,” said KC Chan.
Steve Chuang said the “dual circulation” concept presents a lot of opportunities for Hong Kong companies. In the past, Hong Kong companies mostly did business with the US and Europe. Right now, there is huge potential in the domestic market. “Look at the GBA, with a population of 72 million and US$1.6 trillion of GDP, the market is slightly bigger than that of the UK, or Italy, or France. And if we look at the GDP, it is close to that of South Korea.”
“I would say that the GBA becomes a home market to Hong Kong companies. In the past, because Hong Kong’s home market was a little bit too small, it’s very hard to develop to a great scale. Right now, we have 72 million in the home market to start with. That is amazing. That is a huge opportunity. Now as Hong Kong businessmen and companies convert to explore the Chinese mainland, the GBA is a good starting point,” Steve Chuang said.
Witman Hung said in the past month, there were so many news in Shenzhen because of the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. “And if you look at the success of Shenzhen, a key reason is that the city has continued to reform and open up. I think it’s time for Hong Kong to learn from it. We need to change and rethink. There are two new things we can do to serve Hong Kong’s role to the GBA and also to the Chinese mainland.” The first is to use Hong Kong’s strengths in brand design and promotion to help mainland brands upgrade and boost domestic circulation. The other one is to develop Hong Kong into a talent center to attract professionals who are affected by the Sino-US relationship and the pandemic, he said.
Wang Peng said the GBA blueprint is a momentous national strategy, which will carry significance for the three places, or even the country’s overall development in the next 10 years, 20 years or even longer. “Given the institutional differences in political, legal and economic systems in the 11-city cluster, we need to need to seek synergy to create unique values.” Jiangmen can take full use of its advantages, such as its connections with overseas Chinese, relatively low land and labor costs, to strengthen cooperation with Hong Kong and other Bay Area cities, especially in the development of marine economy, high-end technology and higher education cooperation, he said.
Allan Zeman said, “When we talk about the GBA, we're talking about an incredible market. The region has 72 million people and jobs. Its overall GDP is mind-boggling. The Greater Bay Area can only get stronger and stronger. And the ability of Hong Kong to service is what we've always done best. We have professionals for that. And that will continue. The brand will continue. Hong Kong has to look beyond its 7.5 million people. Look at the opportunity. Look at one big global eastern market. And that's the strength of Hong Kong. The future for Hong Kong is very bright.”
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About Silk Road Economic Development Research Center
Silk Road Economic Development Research Center was established in 2014. Other than analyzing the future trend and impact of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Center is also able to provide propositions on how Hong Kong can integrate into the long term development of the Initiative. As stakeholder and participant of this Initiative, the Center has provided a wide variety of studies and support for the government, businesses, and associations, also hopes to gather like-minded experts to provide in-depth analysis on the direction of the Initiative as a think tank, under the support of macro policies, to contribute by identifying opportunities for Hong Kong.