Financial, tech sectors 'poised to lead the pack'

Chai Hua

The financial industry and technology innovation will take the lead in leveraging the opportunities created for Hong Kong by the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area, reckons Zhang Yuge, director of the Center for Hong Kong and Macao Studies at Shenzhen-based think tank China Development Institute.

The financial sector remains Hong Kong’s core competitiveness and will be the first to be focused on, he told China Daily in an interview ahead of the China Daily Roundtable, themed “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area: Prospects for Hong Kong”, which was held as part of the 11th Asian Financial Forum in the SAR on Tuesday.

Asked how he thought such new opportunities could be seized upon, Zhang noted there’re still certain financial regulatory curbs on the mainland, and Hong Kong could seek to have some of them removed in the bay area.

This would offer fresh opportunities for traditional financial institutions in the SAR, such as insurance and banking service providers, as all their products are still very competitive and irreplaceable in the area.

However, he cited the challenge brought about by internet-based financial tools that have become increasingly popular in Guangdong province, and this is one aspect Hong Kong’s financial institutions should work on.

Technology innovation, he said, is another key industry that’s most promising, and Hong Kong’s big advantage is its research and development capability.

Hong Kong has attracted many of the world’s high-end R&D (research and development) resources, not mentioning its own world-class universities. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched its first overseas Innovation Node in Hong Kong, while Karolinska Institute — a medical university from Sweden with a 200-year history — set up its first overseas branch at Hong Kong Science Park.

Zhang said they’ve chosen Hong Kong because of the city’s comprehensive institutional and legal environment, high level of internationalization and solid protection of intellectual property. But, they’re also eyeing the mainland market as the bay area’s development could integrate Hong Kong’s R&D ability with Guangdong’s market and industrial support.

He stressed that the Lok Ma Chau Loop is key to such fusion. “The loop could become the starting point for Hong Kong and Shenzhen to jointly build an innovation corridor along the Shenzhen River.”

This can link the development of the northeastern part of Hong Kong with Shenzhen’s Futian and Nanshan districts, which house a cluster of high-tech startups and companies, he said.

Under an agreement unveiled last year, Hong Kong and Shenzhen will jointly develop an 87-hectare innovation and technology park at the Lok Ma Chau Loop. The first parcel of land is expected to be ready for construction by 2021.

Referring to a comprehensive national science center being planned in the development blueprint of the bay area, Zhang suggested that it should be set up it in the technology park, bridging high-tech resources on both sides.

So far, the central government has approved three of such centers nationwide — in Beijing, Shanghai and Hefei, capital city of Anhui province — with investment in each project worth tens of billions of yuan.