Business programmes can help Hong Kong executives tap into the fastest-growing manufacturing region in the world TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, impoverished farms and dusty villages dominated the landscape of the Pearl River Delta (PRD). Since Deng Xiaoping starting opening up the Chinese economy in 1979, the PRD has evolved into the fastest-growing manufacturing region in the world's most rapidly growing major economy. It now dominates the world's supply chain for light consumer goods, garments and accessories, with most of its exports being funnelled through Hong Kong. According to the Trade Development Council (TDC), Hong Kong companies now employ 11 million workers in the PRD, which has a population of about 48 million. 'Operations in the PRD also benefit from the value-adding services easily available in Hong Kong,' the TDC said. 'Companies can source or manufacture competitively in the PRD and use Hong Kong's logistical, financial, legal, design and marketing services to export their products to the world.' Retailers and multinationals alike have established major sourcing centres in the region in recent years. Wal-Mart, Ikea, Carrefour, General Electric, Siemens, Du Pont and Bosch are rubbing shoulders with an increasing number of small and medium enterprises - both foreign and domestic. But the growth in manufacturing is causing another major shift in the region. A new class of relatively well-off consumers is also being created. 'The PRD is home to more than 24 million permanent residents [not including the migrant labour force],' the TDC said. 'Rapid economic development in the region has made them the mainland's biggest spenders.' And it all boils down to one thing: the old rules no longer apply. 'This is one of the fastest-growing places in the world, and Hong Kong is on its doorstep,' said Gilbert Wong, executive director of the Poon Kan Kai Institute of Management (PKKI), the executive education and management arm of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Hong Kong. 'Hong Kong's role is growing as a facilitator for the PRD to become one of the key industrial and commercial centres in the world.' Hong Kong has always been a service centre. As it increasingly integrates into the Chinese economy, the services it provides have to broaden. There has also been a deepening of financial and logistics services. 'Hong Kong has to develop a mindset that is both international and Chinese,' Dr Wong said. 'In the past, it was an export economy, with exports going to the United States and Europe. Now more imports are going into China. In the past, you had to learn English. Now you have to learn English and Putonghua.' PKKI will offer a graduate diploma in China business law this autumn, providing participants with an introduction to China's legal system, business practices and capital markets as well as an overview of international trade. 'The reason for this programme is quite simple,' Dr Wong said. 'With the opening of China and China's entry into the World Trade Organisation, more companies need to conduct business there or in a Chinese business environment. For this reason, their business activities will inevitably be influenced by the legal context of China.' The programme consists of four modules: China's business environment, legal systems and business law, international trade and cross-boundary trade law, and corporation and finance law. 'We will look at economic issues related to the business environment, the different kinds of enterprises [state owned, foreign direct investment and private enterprises], financial systems, accounting systems, labour markets and, in particular, the regional development of the PRD,' Dr Wong said. Faculty will be drawn mostly from professors at HKU's Faculty of Business and Economics and Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University. All have had research and teaching experience in Chinese business practices, Chinese law and/or international trade law. Some staff will share their expertise and experiences as practitioners of Chinese law, as deputies of the national legislature and as members of various public bodies. 'One of the distinctive features of the programme is that we will have two study tours to Guangzhou,' Dr Wong said. 'We will visit Sun Yat-sen University as well as institutions that administer the legal regulations, such as local courts, the taxation office and the company registry. We may also visit industrial and commercial enterprises.' The deadline for applications is September 15 and classes will start in October and run to May next year. Classes will be held two evenings a week or Saturday afternoons. A bachelor's degree or its equivalent and at least three years of postgraduate professional experience are needed. Tuition fees are $39,500 and include the two study trips. The programme has been approved as a reimbursable course under the government's Continuing Education Fund Scheme. PKKI offers executive education, management consultancy, action research and internet resources. Certificate programmes and customised corporate training are also offered. It was established in 1990.