Leaders: HK's 'super-connector' role crucial in BRI

Yang Han

Leaders: HK's 'super-connector' role crucial in BRI

Hong Kong should further enhance its role as a “super-connector” in the Belt and Road Initiative, linking countries along the route and supporting them with high-quality professional services.

These remarks were made by speakers at a panel discussion during the Belt and Road Conference, a China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable event, in Hong Kong on Monday. Under the theme “Tapping Belt and Road Opportunities in the Greater Bay Area”, the event united delegations of government officials, business leaders and academic researchers from around the region.

“Hong Kong’s strength is on the maritime side,” said Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, co-chair of the Maritime Silk Road Society. “We are a maritime economy and we have always thrived on trade.”

Referring to the panel’s theme “When the Belt meets the Road in Hong Kong”, Ip noted the city’s strong connection with Southeast Asia, which not only builds business networks, but also links “hearts and minds” as many people from South China have emigrated to Southeast Asian countries since ancient times.

Ip expects Hong Kong to play an increasingly important role in fostering greater links with other countries, whether developed or developing, along the Belt and Road routes.

Thomas Chan Man-hung, director of the One Belt One Road Research Institute of Chu Hai College of Higher Education, said as the BRI links countries and regions together, it provides a platform for the further industrialization and economic development of all participants. Chan was the moderator of the panel discussion.

“One of the biggest challenges is to really separate the big idea of the initiative from how it will manifest itself in very different ways in different parts of the world,” said Paul McComb, director of general trade and investment of the British consulate-general Hong Kong.

McComb said the United Kingdom has realized the need for its senior leadership to engage in the initiative, get involved and make contributions. Also, he said that establishing criteria for the types of projects is key for creating a BRI asset class, as a lot of institutional investment is required to fulfill the ambitious initiative.

Abdul Qadir Memon, consul general of Pakistan in Hong Kong, said the city’s lack of involvement in BRI projects in Pakistan indicates great potential for the special administrative region.

“I believe it is because a lack of understanding,” said Memon, adding that more should be done to educate the city’s business people to grasp the tremendous opportunities ahead.

Noting the importance of participation from the private sector, Alfred Mutiwazuka, consul general of Zimbabwe in the city, said Hong Kong can play a key role in setting up private and public partnerships as a super-connector and as Asia’s financial hub.

“Infrastructure projects, by their nature, take years to generate returns. Therefore, it is normally hard to sell to private capital,” said Mutiwazuka.He said Hong Kong can help fill the gap with innovative solutions and support the success of the BRI with its professional services expertise in areas like legal, accounting and engineering.

Tengku Sirajuzzaman, consul general of Malaysia to Hong Kong and Macao, said Hong Kong is a very important partner for Malaysia as most of its exports eventually go to the Chinese mainland.

“The relationship between Hong Kong and Myanmar has been growing rapidly in recent years,” said Myat Thuzar Than, consul general of Myanmar. She said Hong Kong is the fourth-largest investor and a major trading partner of Myanmar.

“Hong Kong can not only play a role in financing and infrastructure, but also in providing professional services in the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor,” said Than.

Speaking for the young generation, Jenkin Yuen, a student at the Wah Yan College in Hong Kong, said every country along the Belt and Road can enhance education regarding the initiative while establishing a transnational education link, as the younger generation will be key to ensuring the longevity of BRI projects.