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Hong Kong economy

Chinese cities can reach great heights, but will never become Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong has irreplaceable strengths, and must not aspire to become another Chinese city but to build on its uniqueness to reinforce its national position
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 6:05pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 9:48pm

Upon reading the letter from Josephine Bersee (“Hong Kong ‘just another Chinese city’? It should be so lucky”, December 17), it seems to me some of your readers think Hong Kong is merely a small island off mainland China that enjoys high autonomy.

Hong Kong is much more than a special administrative region of China, it is a place that allows China and the rest of the world to do business with one another. Without Hong Kong, its unique capitalist economic structure and democratic governance, where would today’s China be?

Hong Kong might not have the most glamorous skyscrapers or the most efficient high-speed railway system, but it remains the freest economy in the world, with over 2,000 foreign enterprises based in the city, doing business around the world and, of course, with China. The Hong Kong dollar is a stable currency thanks to its connection with the US dollar. These are advantages that China would not be able to replicate at least in the near future, and then there is China’s heavy reliance on Hong Kong’s incomparable geography and economy.

If Hong Kong somehow becomes just another Chinese city without all of its uniqueness, the entire country will be severely affected, at least for a few short years before China finally frees its market. That’s not the kind of shock therapy mainland China or Hong Kong can handle.

It is undeniable that Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai and other coastal Chinese cities have developed at a frightening pace, but each is still just a Chinese city. They will never become Hong Kong, simply because the difference in governance between the two sides is like night and day. Moreover, their development will reach a plateau just like Hong Kong’s did.

Hong Kong’s outsize role in the development of China’s stock market

Hong Kong itself has a lot to improve on nonetheless, but the improvement we need is not to aspire to become another Chinese city, but to build on our strengths and uniqueness to further accelerate the development of China and reinforce the position of Hong Kong.

The go-to argument for giving up Hong Kong’s autonomy now is that China has regained its sovereignty over Hong Kong, and the city should do its part to integrate back into the mother country. That, however, doesn’t mean Hong Kong should just be like a Chinese city just for the sake of national unity.

Hong Kong can be a part of China without transforming into just another Chinese city. In fact, it is better for everyone if Hong Kong remains as a window to China for the world.

Andy Lau, Tsuen Wan