40 years of reform and opening up

Hong Kong and Macau must adapt to change and actively participate in country’s future development

  • President Xi Jinping marked the 40th anniversary of Beijing’s economic reforms by applauding the contributions of the two cities, but both must grasp science and technology in the years to come
PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2018, 8:46pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2018, 9:24am

Hong Kong can be proud of its role in China’s growth in the 40 years since economic reforms were implemented. President Xi Jinping marked the anniversary yesterday with officials, business and political leaders from the city and Macau in Beijing, applauding the “unique and irreplaceable” contributions of the two special administrative regions. But there can be no resting on laurels in changing times, with the nation accelerating its opening up and moving into the next phase of development. There is every need to embrace Beijing’s plans through adapting, adjusting and integrating.

The role Hong Kong and Macau have played in growth and development have largely centred on being the mainland’s windows to the world. They have been bridges through which investment and trade have been conveyed in both directions. But the factories producing low-cost goods with cheap labour that were so important to China’s rise are out of step with Beijing’s growth model; the future is hi-tech, not low. That has to be especially so with China at a critical stage in its development and rising protectionism spearheaded by the United States through its trade war and anti-globalisation stance.

China’s strategy is to deepen reforms and further open up its economy to the world. The more that happens, the less Hong Kong and Macau are needed by foreign companies and investors to act as bridges. But that does not mean the cities will lose their shine and significance in the nation’s development. Xi made that plain in his speech yesterday, stressing that their unique place will continue through participation in the “Belt and Road Initiative”, its ambitious regional infrastructure push, and the “Greater Bay Area”.

‘Irreplaceable’: Xi praises Hong Kong, urges integration with China’s plans

The latter brings Hong Kong and Macau together with nine sister cities in Guangdong with the goal of creating a financial and innovation hub. But that can only come about through integration and cooperation in areas including technology and innovation, financial services, education and entrepreneurship. Such plans bring untold opportunities, just as did the reforms initiated by the late paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, four decades ago. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said it would enable contributing to “the country’s needs with our strengths, and improve the life of people in Hong Kong and the mainland”.

At such a juncture, there is every need to reposition. Xi put it succinctly, saying the lessons of history should be reviewed to determine the future direction. Hong Kong and Macau have strengths that they can build on and enhance. But they also need to look forward and adapt to the changed circumstances through science and technology and, importantly, moving closer and integrating with the mainland.