Hong Kong must play to its strengths to benefit from mainland trade strategy

Opportunities lie in the ‘One Belt, One Road’ plan for the city to put to good use its knowhow in services and management

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2016, 3:51am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 December, 2016, 3:51am

Much has been said and written about opportunities for Hong Kong in Beijing’s “One belt, One road” strategy, and it is good that the city does not have to wait to be asked to a landmark summit on the initiative in May. President Xi Jinping is reported to have urged Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to send a delegation, saying Hong Kong should play an active role in the scheme.

Xi Jinping backs Hong Kong drive to ride belt-road trade potential

That gives the city just six months to come up with proposals for capitalising on Beijing’s plan to promote trade and economic cooperation along the ancient Silk Road routes through Eurasia and across the Indian Ocean. It became clear at the South China Morning Post’s annual China conference that Hong Kong needs to be realistic in its expectations and focus on its strengths. In that regard, conference speakers clarified the potential. Lu Zhongyuan, a senior adviser to the central government on economic policy, said that since the city cannot supply infrastructure, with most industry and manufacturing outsourced and its building costs very high, it should focus on participation through what it is good at – services.

Rejecting criticism that the initiative was intended to shift China’s excess industrial capacity offshore, Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group, owner of the Post, said the future of globalisation was the sharing of technology and markets, instead of relying on the control of capital to secure market share, labour and resources. The city’s strength in management, including legal services and finance, plays into the future internet age.

Chief executive highlights Hong Kong’s advantages under ‘One Belt, One Road’

Before long our monetary authority is expecting membership of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which will finance belt and road projects. Competition will be fierce, including from Singapore, which also hopes to become a legal arbitration centre for companies involved in joint venture projects. We need to understand our niche advantages and strengths if we are to become an integral player in the strategy.