Belt-and-road initiative is a gold mine for Hong Kong

The days of Beijing handing out economic favours to the city have long passed; now, it’s up to us to seize the opportunities on offer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 11:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 11:03pm

Amid deepening concerns about our relationship with the central government, visiting state leader Zhang Dejiang (張德江 ) yesterday mapped out the clearest expectations yet on Hong Kong’s development. In his keynote speech on the country’s “One Belt, One Road” development strategy, the National People’s Congress chairman expressed full support for the city to participate in the initiative. While he acknowledged that our strengths in logistics as well as financial and professional services have put us in the position to play a contributing role, he rightly stressed the need for Hong Kong to seize the opportunities more proactively.

For first time, Zhang Dejiang spells out how Hong Kong can seize key role in One Belt, One Road

This is the first time Beijing has spelled out how the city can complement the national policy of strengthening ties with more than 60 counties along the belt and road, a reference to the ancient Silk Road and maritime routes by which China reached out to the world centuries ago. The four areas we should be focusing on are professional sectors, internationalisation of the yuan, person-to-person exchanges, and cooperation with the mainland on developing belt-and-road businesses, according to Zhang.

These directions have already been highlighted over the past two years by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who believes we can act as a “super-connector” between the mainland and the rest of the world. Zhang’s recognition of the city’s potential to contribute to the state’s strategic development initiative is as much an endorsement of our status as a boost to our economy.

China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ is the perfect stage for Hong Kong to showcase its strengths

Yesterday’s address was the first by a state leader since the 79-day Occupy protests in 2014 and last year’s ill-fated political reform package. Beijing’s expectations of Hong Kong remain economy-oriented. Even though our public agenda is still dominated by social and political strife, Beijing clearly believes that the way out lies in fostering economic development.

It should be noted that Hong Kong is not the only place eyeing the belt-and-road strategy. Singapore, for instance, has been exploring ways to gain from the initiative. We should heed the state leader’s call to sharpen our international competitiveness and play a more proactive role on this front.

The days of Beijing handing out economic favours to Hong Kong have long passed. As Zhang said, the opportunities arising from the belt-and-road initiative are ours to seize. Not only can we contribute to national development, it is also in our own economic interest to explore new areas of growth.