Hong Kong is ideally positioned to benefit from the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the Belt and Road Initiative but, to derive the most benefits, it will have to work hand-in-hand with both regional partners and the central government, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Monday.
“In two days’ time, I shall deliver my maiden Policy Address which, I hope, will contain not only initiatives for the coming year but also my vision for the future of Hong Kong,” Lam said in a keynote speech at a China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable luncheon.
“You can be sure that opportunities for Hong Kong under the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the Belt and Road Initiative will feature quite prominently.”
Hong Kong is in an ideal position to build on its key roles within the Greater Bay Area and as an important link for the Belt and Road Initiative, Lam told the luncheon held in conjunction with the roundtable forum themed “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area from the Belt & Road Perspective: Opportunities and Challenges”.
But to obtain the most benefits from the growth and development of the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong will have to work together with other cities in the region to avoid duplication in the use of resources and minimize barriers for the movement of people, goods and services. Going forward, Hong Kong will have to proactively seek opportunities.
“In my view, the Greater Bay Area will serve as the gateway between the Chinese mainland and the countries along the Belt and Road,” Lam stressed.
And Hong Kong, as the most international city in the bay area project, should prove itself to be a key gateway for multinational companies looking toward the Chinese mainland and mainland companies looking to tap markets overseas.
She said it’s difficult to overestimate the potential significance of the Greater Bay Area, which encompasses 11 cities and a population of 66 million, which is greater than the United Kingdom, and a GDP of US$1.36 trillion, equivalent to that of Australia.
From the first day of her administration earlier this year, the chief executive has been pushing to strengthen the SAR’s position in the region and is working with the central government to enter into a comprehensive agreement on Hong Kong’s role in the Greater Bay Area.
“All cities in the Greater Bay Area are excited about the future prospects and are pressing full steam ahead,” Lam said. “Hong Kong, the most international of the bay area cities, already serves as a multilateral bridge between the mainland and the rest of the world.”
With extensive professional services and a dynamic innovation environment, Hong Kong is ideally positioned to both benefit from and power the development of the Greater Bay Area and the Belt and Road project.
Conversely, the SAR’s role within the Greater Bay Area should help the city overcome two key challenges, said Lam. The first is a shortage of land that limits the development of many industries. The second is a relatively small market.
Another key role for Hong Kong will be in innovation to help power the Pearl River Delta region.
“If Hong Kong does not wish to be left behind, it’s important for us to join hands in the development of an innovation center,” she said. “We are regarded as one of the fastest growing technology startup ecosystems in the world.”
Zhou Shuchun, publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily Group, said the growth of both the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the Belt and Road Initiative present opportunities for the region in general and Hong Kong specifically.
“Hong Kong, because of its strategic position, has a significant role in those projects,” said Zhou.
He referred to comments President Xi Jinping made in Xiamen during the Dialogue of Emerging Markets and Developing Countries in September. The president said that “while the Belt and Road Initiative is about promoting the spirit of international cooperation, it is also about fostering a sustainable development”.
And promoting development will require looking at the long-term prospects of both the Greater Bay Area and its role within the Belt and Road Initiative. While the ongoing discussions about the importance of this key region are not new, the understanding of its significance has grown.
“It is not a new concept. It has been developed for some years at certain levels in the context of Pearl River Delta cooperation,” said Edward Chen Kwan-yiu, chairman of the University of Hong Kong’s School of Professional and Continuing Education, who moderated at the panel discussion.
“What is new is that the concept has been brought to a central national level as a central national strategy. The bay area is being talked about in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative. So, in two ways, it gives us some new ideas.”
Legislator and Executive Council member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who also chairs the Maritime Silk Road Society, said: “In the long term, we should explore whether we could build this tremendous area into something like a single market.”
“There should be reciprocal agreements for the free movement of people,” she said, adding that the easier flows of goods and people within the Greater Bay Area could help the region evolve into a more cohesive whole.
Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung said: “There’s a way we can build this 9+2 cities (nine cities in Guangdong province, plus Hong Kong and Macao) into an entity that will add up to more than the sum of its parts.”
“Hong Kong’s advantages in innovation and technology are well known. One of the most prominent advantages is our internationalization advantage,” he said.
A highlight of a new strategy for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is the development of an international innovation and technology hub, Yang said.
A working model
“Hong Kong will play a pretty important role in this part and the hub will probably be a model of Hong Kong working with Shenzhen and Guangzhou, the leading cities in the Greater Bay Area in innovation,” said Yang.
Ultimately, the division of labor for the 11 cities within the Greater Bay Area is likely to focus on the strengths of each other.
For Hong Kong, the Greater Bay Area provides both challenges and opportunities. This particular region is important to the development of China, said Li Xiaopeng, group president and vice-chairman of China Merchants Group.
He said China Merchants Group is committed to contributing its expertise in the development of the Greater Bay Area.
“Through the bay area, lots of companies can do business very easily,” said Li. “In the near future, we will continue to make a new and greater contribution to the (Greater) Bay Area.”
Companies would also benefit from a stronger ecosystem for business and “there is obvious room for improvement”, such as through a better transport infrastructure and financial system.
At the same time, consolidating resources could help strengthen the area. A case in point is the visible overcapacity in port resources that is visible throughout the Greater Bay Area, Li added.
Pansy Ho Chiu-king, executive chairman and managing director of Shun Tak Holdings, noted that both Hong Kong and Macao have already benefitted from their roles within the Greater Bay Area and from the “one country, two systems” principle that has been successfully implemented for two decades.
Going forward, the area as a whole could further benefit from regional links by not only driving the growth of industry, but also powering services industries like tourism, she said. “We can grow the Pearl River Delta to become a bigger destination for tourism.”
A way to do this might be to find ways to develop more multi-destination tourism, which the Greater Bay Area could develop. The authorities should work together to build on the trendy push to encourage travelers to visit multiple destinations in a single trip.
Ultimately, developing greater integration throughout the Greater Bay Area could prove to be a powerful driver of economic growth and a driver of a better quality of life for both the Hong Kong and the region as a whole.
“We should set our sights high,” said Ip.
Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of Hong Kong SAR
“We aim to develop an international innovation and technology hub in the Greater Bay Area which will no doubt also contribute to the Belt and Road Initiative. If Hong Kong does not wish to be left behind, it is important for us to join hands with these cities in the area.”
Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, Executive Council member and co-chair of the Maritime Silk Road Society
“The Greater Bay Area will provide invaluable opportunities for Hong Kong to expand outward, to use the area as our market to export our services, not just financial professional and business services but also personal services, which Hong Kong excels in, and also for our people to live a better life by living in the Greater Bay Area.”
Li Xiaopeng, vice-chairman and group president of China Merchants Group
“The governments need to encourage the consolidation of resources in the region. I still see overcapacity, how to improve the synergy to realize regional development as being among the questions that the governments need to consider.”
Pansy Ho Chiu-king, group executive chairman and managing director of Shun Tak Holdings
“The governments need to work together, and try to assimilate the efforts so there could be pooled resources to create what we call ‘one-journey-multi-destination travel’. In the global tourism context, this is a very trendy development.”
Edward Chen Kwan-yiu, chairman of the School of Professional and Continuing Education, University of Hong Kong
“Talking about this Guangdong-HK-Macao Greater Bay Area ... the concept has grown into a central, national strategy and, placed in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative, it brings plenty of new aspects for discussion.”
Nicholas Yang Wei-hsiung, secretary for innovation and technology
“Not long ago, if you look at the Fortune 500 companies, the top 10 companies are usually banks, oil companies, etc. Today that has changed. Today’s top 10 companies are dominated by innovation and technology companies.”