Mr. Shangkong

Hong Kong's prospects bright even with competition from Shanghai

The city has been a gateway linking China with the outside world for more than a century and it can continue to play that role for years to come

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 June, 2015, 9:00am

If you have read this column every Monday over the past year, I guess you would feel that we have talked quite a lot about the historic and present-day interplay of Shanghai and Hong Kong. That's exactly why the column is called "Mr. Shangkong".

When my CEO asked if I could moderate one of our own forums about the future of Hong Kong, of course I said yes, because I felt I had been engaged in that debate since I arrived in Hong Kong. I am from Shanghai, so my local friends in Hong Kong are always asking me pretty much the same question - which city is better in your view? Shanghai or Hong Kong?

I clearly remember in autumn 2008, when I was relocated by my former employer to Hong Kong, what happened when I got out of the airport and into a taxi.

"Where are you from?" my taxi driver asked.

"I am from Shanghai."

"So why are you coming to Hong Kong? Shanghai is the future, isn't it?"

My driver was apparently a bit shocked at my readiness to relocate to Hong Kong.

That was my very first experience with a Hong Kong taxi driver and that was in 2008, at around the same time that Beijing said it aimed to make Shanghai one of the world's three top financial centres by 2020, on par with New York and London.

Five years on and I'm still in Hong Kong. I love the city and feel proud to call it my home.

I very much agreed with one of our five panellists who told an audience of business leaders assembled by the South China Morning Post recently that Hong Kong has been a gateway linking China with the outside world for more than a century and that it can continue to play that role for many years to come.

The comment came from Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung. He also noted that Hong Kong had proved to be good at attracting people from all over the world.

He cited the recently announced plan by the University of Chicago to open a campus in Hong Kong as an example of how the city continued to play its gateway role by attracting not only money but talent as well. Another panellist at the forum, Vincent Lo Hong-shui, the chairman of Shui On Group, was a bit worried about the future of Hong Kong.

"Unfortunately, the community in Hong Kong has become overly critical," he said. "I am very worried about the political situation in Hong Kong - it is my biggest worry for the city."

Lo is considered an "old friend" of Shanghai. When he developed the Xintiandi project in Shanghai more than a decade ago, the city was still nothing more than a "sleeping beauty".

Lo was one of the first to participate in its growth story. Now the metropolis is known for its efficiency in both government and business and some claim it is even more efficient in these respects than Hong Kong.

I could tell that both our panellists have a soft spot for Hong Kong and that they want to see positive change in China too. The success of Shanghai and the whole of China doesn't need to come at the expense of Hong Kong.

After all, competition is not a bad thing.


George Chen is the Post's financial services editor. Mr. Shangkong appears every Monday in the print version of the SCMP. Like it? Visit