Hong Kong can prosper if it seizes the opportunities offered by the 'One Belt, One Road' initiative
Hong Kong's laissez-faire economy and state planning may not appear a comfortable fit, but the role envisaged for the city in the mainland's 13th five-year plan should play to its strengths. The plan pledges Beijing's support for Hong Kong to take part in the nation's "One Belt, One Road" development strategy and to play a bigger role in China's further opening up to the world. This reflects lobbying with Beijing by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for the concept of Hong Kong serving as a "super connector" between the mainland and the rest of the world. The 13th five-year plan document, expected to be submitted to the National People's Congress for ratification in March, contains a section on deepening cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong, which promises to "give full play to Hong Kong's unique advantages". Amplifying this, National Development and Reform Commission chairman Xu Shaoshi said the city had an edge in developing talent and financing.
The plan resonates with a vision articulated by speakers at the South China Morning Post's inaugural China Conference earlier this week. They exchanged views on how Hong Kong could leverage its strengths to play an integral role in the globalisation of China's economy. The opportunities to be created for the city by Chinese companies going global were underlined by an architect of "One Belt, One Road", Ou Xiaoli from the NDRC, who said that this year Chinese direct investment overseas would exceed foreign investment in China. Ou suggested the city should join forces with provinces such as Guangdong to develop new markets and industries.
Two speakers in particular highlighted the agility and flexibility needed to grasp these opportunities. Cosco Pacific executive director Dr Kelvin Wong cited the company's decision, after acquiring a port in Turkey, to form a joint venture with a family that had always run it in order to tap into their knowledge of local conditions. Bank of China (Hong Kong) deputy chief executive Lin Jingzeng sees mainland banks rolling out branches along new trade routes to support management models more familiar to local banks than foreign ways.
Ou was right to say that Hong Kong needs to do more to live up to the chief executive's expectations for the city to become the nation's "super connector". This calls for a frank assessment of our strengths and weaknesses and for an effort to learn more about doing business along the trade routes.