Business and govt leaders advise HK to play greater role in nation’s development

Zhou Mo and Edith Lu

Business and govt leaders advise HK to play greater role in nation’s development

Hong Kong should use its strengths to play a bigger role in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and fit itself into the country’s “dual- circulation” development pattern, business and government leaders told a forum in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

They made the remarks at a panel discussion titled “Will Hong Kong Change Its Role in the Greater Bay Area?”, part of the Greater Bay Area Conference held in Hong Kong on Wednesday. The conference, with the theme “GBA: The Way Forward”, was co-organized by China Daily and the Silk Road Economic Development Research Center.

“Hong Kong’s role as an international financial center will not change. But what we do in the Bay Area should change,” said KC Chan, chairman of WeLab Bank and senior advisor of WeLab Ltd.

Although the neighboring city of Shenzhen has developed its own financial market, Hong Kong still plays a vital part in the market, Chan said.

The development of Shenzhen’s financial market is largely a way for companies in the country to get funding from domestic investors, while the role of Hong Kong lies in helping these companies get capital from overseas, he said. “So Hong Kong’s role in that regard will not change even though there’s a growing domestic financial market in Shenzhen,” he added.

But Chan also noted that Hong Kong should do more to facilitate the connectivity of financial markets between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland so that Bay Area residents have greater access to financial services in the special administrative region.

He also emphasized the importance of developing fintech as the future of financial development in Hong Kong. “In the future, the competitiveness of the financial industry will not just be defined by the number of initial public offerings. It will also be defined by how technology can really help you do financing and help you do investing and fundraising,” Chan said.

Witman Hung, principal liaison officer for Hong Kong at the Shenzhen Qianhai Authority, compared Hong Kong with Shenzhen, a role model of reform and opening-up in the country, saying it’s time for Hong Kong “to reform and open up” as well.

“We have been so complacent about our system. We think it’s perhaps the best in the world. Maybe it is. But still there’s room for improvement,” he said.

As the country now makes great efforts to promote the “dual-circulation” development pattern, Hong Kong should take full advantage of its edges to fit itself into the national strategy, Hung said.

The “dual-circulation” model makes the domestic market as the mainstay while allowing domestic and foreign markets to boost each other. It was presented by the Chinese top leadership earlier this year to build up its economic resilience and that of the world.

One thing that the city excels in is design, branding and advertising, Hung said.

“When we do domestic circulation, we need to upgrade the value of our brands. All our internal circulation is based on Taobao. It’s not going to support the GDP, so we need to move up the value chain for our mainland products,” he said.

Hong Kong, which has been helping international brands with design, branding and advertising, has talent in this area, he said.

Hung added that another thing that Hong Kong can do is attract more talent through the city’s strong academic competence and internationalized environment.

Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group, said he believes that the most important thing for Hong Kong to do is to think positively instead of negatively.

“From past to present, we build brands in Hong Kong and we take them to the whole country. And these brands of Hong Kong are something accepted worldwide,” he said.

“Now when we talk about the Bay Area, we’re talking about an incredible market with 72 million people and a GDP of $1.68 trillion, which is mind-boggling. Our brands from Hong Kong will continue (to grow) and (we should) look beyond the city’s 7.5 million people. Look at one big global Eastern market.”

Zeman also said the recent signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership by 15 Asia-Pacific countries marked the establishment of the world’s largest trading bloc and would shift the global business landscape.

“The power of the West is going to come to the East. In the past, Hong Kong was always looking to and learning from the West. But now we can see the East is where the future is. The system here works, and it’s really something Hong Kong can benefit from,” he said.

“If you want to make money and you want to really be successful, I urge you to come back to Hong Kong, and this will be the place where you’ll thrive.”

Other panelists called for greater collaboration between Bay Area cities to promote integrated development of the southern region.

Steve Chuang, deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said that the manufacturing sector in Hong Kong has adopted a “4R” strategy — response, reset, revive and reinvent — in the past two years to deal with various problems arising from the trade tensions and the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the Bay Area will become a home market for Hong Kong companies, as they are now selling to the mainland some products that they used to export to overseas countries.

Wang Peng, assistant to the president at Wuyi University in Jiangmen, pins high hopes on the prospect of Hong Kong-Jiangmen cooperation.

Located on the western periphery of the Bay Area and separated from the Pearl River estuary by its neighboring cities, Zhongshan and Zhuhai, Jiangmen — one of the nine Bay Area cities on the mainland — is known as the hometown of countless emigrants who live in over 100 countries and regions throughout the world.

“Many Hong Kong people’s ancestral homes are in Jiangmen, and these kind of connections have tied Jiangmen and Hong Kong closely,” Wang said.

“We can see increasing investment from overseas to Jiangmen in the past several years,” Wang said. “With comparatively low land and labor prices, I believe Jiangmen will be a good place for Hong Kong investors to test some new investment models first.”