I completed a longish essay recently for foreign publications on how personal computers, communications satellites, blue-laser data storage, instant translations, the Internet and other paraphernalia might transform China. While working on that paper I read about Microsoft titan Bill Gates exhorting his thousands of fans at Qinghua University to devote themselves to technology because soon American software firms would recruit programmers in China for the global market. Gates' prediction and my own faith in the liberating power of information technology have spawned another thought: why not turn Hong Kong into the cyber-capital of Asia the way Silicon Valley has done for the United States? Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has called on Hong Kong to go for 'high-value-added' business. This is the time to extend trade in goods with the mainland to trade in brainpower. We have many geniuses in China today working on information technology, such as specialised software, in competition with their peers in India. Those flourishing on the mainland could do even better in Hong Kong with our climate of enterprise, superior quality of life, cosmopolitan nature, energy, appreciation of talent and other stimuli. Over the past few years, 'post-industrial' Hong Kong has been casting round for a new defining role to make up for the loss of its manufacturing industries heading north. For the past few months we have also been fretting about the dearth of tourist arrivals. Our economy, though still robust, desperately awaits a new direction and Chinese technologists can provide it if we act promptly and decisively on our inherent advantages. China has embraced technology, hoping it would launch the country to the front line of development within a generation. President Jiang Zemin, a technocrat himself, routinely pays tribute to the scientists, technicians and engineers. We should entice the top talents to Hong Kong, with our Government offering tax breaks, facilities at the proposed Science Park and other incentives. This way we can bring tenants to our unoccupied industrial estate and foster a competitive environment for our annual crop of 6,000 fresh graduates of science and technology courses. Hong Kong is an ideal centre for incubating Chinese information technology because we have a very vibrant city that features the attributes - the freedom and contact with the rest of the world - that have long set us apart and above the East Asian competition. Chinese cities are already developing state-of-the-art infrastructure for further technological innovations. What they still lack, relative to Hong Kong, is the combination of global outlook, excitement, the long history of a free market, specific patent laws and general bustle on which the cerebral thrives. The same is true in the US, where distance from the urban hub is not a handicap for someone living in the country. Yet the brainiest software writers in America flock to Silicon Valley, despite the more expensive property prices and steeper costs of living, and because of its proximity to San Francisco's cultural ambience and great universities (Berkeley, Stanford, California Institute of Technology). Hong Kong has always been a conduit for commerce and can be the same for information technology. We must not let this opportunity slip by because, as I write, people like Bill Gates are eyeing the brilliant brains of China just as our manufacturers once coveted the nimble hands of our own kind across the border. If we hesitate, others will catch us napping and the Chinese renaissance may pass by.