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Greater Bay Area

Hong Kong’s integration with the mainland is a two-way street, and both sides can be more flexible

  • Ken Chu says Hong Kong should play a more active role in integration with the mainland
  • Shenzhen’s advances can be a role model for development, especially in making the mainland a more attractive employment environment for Hongkongers
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2018, 4:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2018, 7:45pm

In recent weeks, the hottest topics on the minds of Hong Kong and mainland residents have been the opening of two major infrastructure projects, Hong Kong’s high-speed rail connection to the mainland and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. As the nation marks the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up, these connections are official steps to form a “one-hour living circle” between Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau, and will usher in greater movement of people, goods and services between the cities. As the nation continues to reform and open up, Hong Kong could play a more proactive, flexible role in integration with the mainland.

Looking back on the past 40 years, Hong Kong and mainland China have developed in complementary ways, and both sides are indispensable. Since the early days of reform and opening up, when Hong Kong and Macau accounted for 80 per cent of foreign investment in China, Hong Kong has always served as a bridge between the mainland and the international community. China took 40 years to modernise, a process that would have taken many other countries more than a century, and Hong Kong has been there every step of the way.

As Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said: “We are a contributor as well as a beneficiary in China's reform and opening up.” In the process of reform, Hong Kong has always built on its strengths to support the country’s needs. For example, Hong Kong has stepped up efforts to drive innovation and technology in recent years, setting aside some HK$50 billion from its budget to support development in biotechnology, artificial intelligence, fintech and other areas.

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Against this backdrop, the Hong Kong stock exchange reformed its listing regime to allow firms from innovative sectors and companies with dual-class share structures to list in Hong Kong. It resulted in the Hong Kong listings of Xiaomi, Meituan and other mainland tech firms. The listings not only bring more investment, but will also promote Hong Kong’s understanding of mainland internet companies and inspire young people to join the tech sector. This is a prime example of the synergy that can be created between Hong Kong and the mainland.

Our closest neighbouring city, Shenzhen, is the best testament to China’s reform and opening up. In 40 years, Shenzhen has made great advances in economic development, and arrived at principles known as the “Top 10 Concepts of Shenzhen”. The most widely known are “Time is money, efficiency is life” and “Innovation encouraged and failure tolerated”.

Indeed, these concepts can be brought into play in many aspects of the country’s development, especially with regard to flexibility in policy implementation. For example, many Hongkongers find it a hassle to seek employment on the mainland given the restrictions, and this has been the concern of many members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. In response, the state has issued a series of policies to improve the employment environment confronting residents of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan on the mainland. Residents of the three areas can now join the mainland’s housing fund scheme, be exempt from work permits, and enjoy tax breaks in Hengqin, a special economic zone in Zhuhai.

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Of course, as everyone knows, Hong Kong and Shenzhen are in different stages of development, and both cities have different strengths in terms of urban management and industrial development, which is why there is still plenty of room to learn from and be inspired by each other. Today, Shenzhen and Hangzhou are full of vitality, thanks to rapid development in hi-tech industries and flexible policies. Hong Kong’s present achievements are built on its rapid development in the past, and have benefited many people.

I truly believe that in the deepening of the country’s reform and opening up, Hong Kong can be more integral to the development of the country, so that Hong Kong’s youth can continue to access a wealth of opportunities.

Ken Chu is group chairman and CEO of Mission Hills Group and a national committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference