Mind the Gap

‘One Belt, One Road’ presents golden opportunities for Hong Kong graduates

Demand for managers in areas like logistics and construction will create jobs in NGOs and multinationals in infrastructure development

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 November, 2016, 2:41pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 10:26am

I am reluctant to give career advice to young people. I am afraid I will sound like the old guy in the film ‘The Graduate’ who tells a sceptical Dustin Hoffman that, “There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it.”

But when I was asked by a group of them, I emphasised that whatever you choose to do after graduating in Hong Kong, you need to look beyond the local economy and if possible seize career and education opportunities based on changes in geopolitics and global business.

“Internationalism is not a bad thing, but why must we go to ‘One Belt, One Road’ countries?” asked Polytechnic University student union president Franco Wong Chak-hang in a recent SCMP interview. He added: “This looks simply like propaganda for China’s policy to please China’s leaders.”

Understand that the balance of geopolitical and financial power has been shifting gradually to the One Belt One, Road region

The low and malignant level of debate on both sides of Hong Kong’s political and class divide has evolved into a deliberate and even necessary correlate that young people accept as a symptom of a government that really represents tyrannical capitalist rule. They should not let their dogma blind them in the same way Dark Ages clerics confused medical problems with demonic possession.

Fresh graduates need to take a bold and experimental viewpoint to develop unshaped opportunities that fulfil near and long term goals. As a former World Bank Group officer, I have firsthand experience in the One Belt, One Road countries and can understand the pitfalls and obstacles, as well as the opportunities for companies, executives and young job seekers.

That golden, entry level analyst position with a big American investment bank is becoming extinct. The Chinese government is thinking about allowing and licensing American banks to operate directly in China. They will eventually bypass Hong Kong as a gateway to selling financial services and products in the mainland. Soon they will not need local joint venture partners. I wrote about this last year - the biggest opportunity for US banks is to do domestic business with offices all over China. And this will require hiring more mainland than Hong Kong candidates.

Leave the troubling problem of how One Belt, One Road will be financed and managed to others. Hong Kong students and graduates need to understand, craft and grasp how skills built in this important region can benefit their career inside and outside of Hong Kong.

Understand that the balance of geopolitical and financial power has been shifting gradually to the One Belt One, Road region. The incoming Trump administration will probably seek better relations with the Russians, which may even restore some badly needed stability to Syria and the surrounding areas.

Hong Kong students should see it as a chance to learn languages and customs in a vital region.

Most importantly, they can diversify and break out of their limited career opportunities in Hong Kong.

Studying and working in these countries won’t be easy compared to Hong Kong. But if One Belt, One Road moves ahead there will be demand for managers in areas such as logistics and construction. The result will be jobs in both NGOs and major multinationals in infrastructure development such as Halliburton or Bechtel. And you’ll learn another language and culture, and maybe contribute to poverty alleviation.

Peter Guy is a financial writer and former international banker