World beyond Greater Bay Area also holds promise for Hong Kong youth
- While the Greater Bay Area is an important part of Hong Kong’s future, it is not necessarily right for every young person in the city
- There are also opportunities to be had in major mainland cities like Beijing and Shanghai, rising inland provinces, Southeast Asia and the wider world
Don’t get me wrong, I am not a sceptic. As a pillar of Hong Kong’s economic trajectory, it is vital that the city’s leadership ensures our financial and legal industries not only complement the 86 million-strong megalopolis of which we are a part, but also help to steer it. The Greater Bay Area offers Hong Kong firms and investors a substantial market and stimuli that ought to compel our domestic re-industrialisation.
Finally, a healthy dose of realism is needed. While the Greater Bay Area might be suited to the cream of the crop among our tech, start-up and entrepreneurial talent, the relatively low wages in other sectors render it a tough sell for young people seeking to balance career development on the mainland with working towards buying property here.
For starters, Hong Kong should adopt a dual strategy of broadening and deepening interaction with the rest of the country. The first aspect would involve better regional collaboration with rapidly developing inland provinces and directly administered municipalities – Hubei, Sichuan and Chengdu being among the top candidates. This can take the form of opening doors for managerial, business-oriented Hong Kong talent.
The government must capitalise on Hong Kong’s competitive edge as a financial nexus, attracting more mainland family and private wealth, as well as high-net-worth citizens. This will help create new employment opportunities for youth who choose to remain in Hong Kong. Integration must not be equated with assimilation into the Greater Bay Area.
Furthermore, Hong Kong youth can look towards Southeast Asia for vibrant career and self-development prospects. The dynamic collective of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations provides significant opportunities for young people to cut their teeth in the education, governance and public policy fields.
Our education system must, in turn, provide the necessary linguistic and cultural training so young people can adapt to the local conditions. The study of Malay, Bahasa Indonesia and Vietnamese should be widely available as optional modules. English is important, but so are these regionally prominent languages.
Finally, let’s not forget what makes Hong Kong unique and valuable to China – our internationalism, rejection of isolationism, openness, cosmopolitan nature and lack of jingoistic closed minds. These virtues can also make our youth great bridge-builders and connectors.
When geopolitical crises threaten China’s ties with the world, which have brought the country’s population vast benefits, it is imperative that Hong Kong youth step up. They can serve as mediators between East and West, equipping foreign firms with insights into the often murky workings of the Chinese economy.
Similarly, those in Hong Kong who have their country’s best interests at heart should strive to help China better interpret and interact with the world. Hong Kong youth should look to the rest of the world.
Brian Wong is a DPhil in Politics candidate at Balliol College, Oxford, a Rhodes Scholar (Hong Kong 2020), and the founding editor-in-chief of the Oxford Political Review