A view of the Qianhai economic zone on August 25, 2020, in Shenzhen, Guangdong. The Qianhai plan is visionary, strategic and groundbreaking. Photo: Getty Images
Gary Wong Chi-him
Gary Wong Chi-him

How to ensure Hong Kong’s youth capture Qianhai’s opportunities

  • The Hong Kong government needs a concrete plan to capitalise on the expanded zone in Shenzhen
  • Qianhai could offer young Hongkongers the jobs they crave, along with the bustle of city life, green space and a chance to own a home

Economic development policies are, in essence, policies for youth. With their energy and positive outlook, young people often have ambitious goals and are eager to make their mark on society. Hence, they are more likely to take up the key role of driving the economy while also becoming one of the greatest beneficiaries of that economic growth.

In this context, Beijing’s plans for Hong Kong, as part of the recently announced expansion of the Qianhai economic zone, is great news, particularly for the 1.6 million citizens aged 15-34 in Hong Kong. As development of the Greater Bay Area accelerates, the Qianhai plan is an invitation for young Hongkongers, who account for 22 per cent of the local population, to jump into the driving seat.
The Qianhai plan is visionary, strategic and groundbreaking. It aims to break the barrier between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, creating a new market in Qianhai to encourage reforms, stimulate demand and create new opportunities for people and companies in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, across the Greater Bay Area and beyond.

This new market will be a platform for innovation and experiments in reforms for growth sectors including modern services, international trade, high-end technology, artificial intelligence, maritime services, green finance, health care, creative culture, and legal and dispute resolution services.

The plan guides local governments in establishing the necessary conditions and enhancing the operating environment for Qianhai to attract more private-sector participation and private investment. It also offers tangible support in proposing to increase the size of the Qianhai cooperation zone from 14.92 sq km to 120.56 sq km.


China’s Shenzhen city builds giant air-conditioning system to cool entire Qianhai economic zone

China’s Shenzhen city builds giant air-conditioning system to cool entire Qianhai economic zone

All this is highly relevant to the youth of Hong Kong. It is important to connect the dots between the opportunities in Qianhai and the expectations of young people because local governments need to formulate measures to attract more young people to join and engage in this critical mission of economic development. At the moment, this topic is not widely discussed among Hong Kong youth.

First, the Qianhai plan is expected to create more jobs with growth potential that are attractive to young people. In a recent survey, conducted by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, jobseekers aged 18-34 said their top three considerations are compensation, career advancement and job nature.

The Qianhai plan encourages companies to embrace technological trends and create innovative products and services targeting large domestic and global markets. As employers, these companies would be capable of providing a dynamic workplace culture, relevant market exposure and exciting growth prospects linked to future financial rewards – a good match for the criteria of many young jobseekers in Hong Kong.
Second, on a similar note, the Qianhai plan is expected to encourage more young people to pursue entrepreneurial endeavours. The central government is committed to enabling better infrastructure and robust regulatory mechanisms, so that young entrepreneurs from Hong Kong can start a company easily and enter the Greater Bay Area market smoothly.

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The Qianhai plan welcomes a diversity of service-oriented businesses. This is also a good match for Hong Kong youth, who are mostly interested in launching projects in media, design, consumer and social impact sectors. For hardcore technology start-ups that have higher entry barriers, Qianhai has abundant resources and expertise pools to offer as well.

Third, Qianhai is expected to become more cosmopolitan under the plan. As Shenzhen airport adds more flight routes to connect with countries and regions in the Belt and Road Initiative, and as the Shenzhen World Exhibition & Convention Centre organises more international conferences, Qianhai will become a vibrant place full of people from different cultures.

Young Hongkongers who enjoy the city hustle and bustle should get a familiar feeling in the future Qianhai. In moving to Qianhai, they would also be able to exchange ideas frequently with their mainland Chinese and expatriate colleagues and learn from them, quickly building valuable professional contacts and personal relationships.

Last but not least, the Qianhai plan is expected to create a quality living environment. Tech-savvy youth would find it very convenient to live in Qianhai, given the city’s hi-tech amenities including shops and restaurants.


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Hong Kong can't miss Greater Bay Area boat in post-Covid-19 recovery, Victor Fung of Fung Group says

More importantly, the massive expansion of Qianhai’s land area would allow urban planners to add elements such as green parks and open spaces for day-to-day arts, cultural and sports events.

The rich experiences in Qianhai would entice young people to stay longer, and local governments could take the opportunity to experiment with affordable new housing models and, more specifically, a public home purchase scheme at discounted prices, targeting middle-income Hongkongers willing to work and live in Qianhai for at least a few years.

This would support young Hongkongers in overcoming the home ownership challenges in their home city while not compromising their quality of life. Ultimately, the Qianhai plan would help address the most pressing challenge of housing in Hong Kong.
All in all, the Qianhai plan is closely connected with the development of youth in Hong Kong. To fully realise the benefits for our younger generation, the Hong Kong government should devise a concrete action plan with measurable goals and a timeline that aligns with the key objectives of the Qianhai plan, and deepen collaboration with other local governments in the Greater Bay Area.

Gary Wong Chi-him is a board member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies