Hong Kong’s role as China’s window to the rest of the world has been declining, but the city should focus on its niche as an offshore yuan settlement centre and providing financial and professional services in the mainland’s global strategy, according to speakers at a summit on the nation’s 13th five-year plan. State Council researcher Li Wei said Hong Kong still plays “an irreplaceable role” in offshore yuan business and the “one belt, one road” strategy. “The talk about the possible marginalisation of Hong Kong in the future development of China are not realistic and are unfounded,” said Li. Make China’s belt and road initiative a two-way street, says German consul general in Hong Kong He said although economic and trade development had created some competition for the city, the fact Hong Kong was one of the world’s freest economies and a hub of global capital flows won its privileged position in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. He also dismissed the argument that room for cooperation between China and the city was decreasing. Li said foreign direct investment from Hong Kong into the mainland had seen stable growth of 3 to 5 per cent every year, and the city’s re-export business still accounts for 15 to 20 per cent of China’s total exports. “Hong Kong is the inseparable flesh and blood of China”, said Li, “All Chinese are proud of the status Hong Kong has achieved today.” Beijing follows the route well travelled by Admiral Zheng He in its belt and road initiative Li assured the audience – members of the city’s business bodies – that the mainland would “support the prosperity of Hong Kong as always”. Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung, who also attended the forum, said Hong Kong should strengthen its role as an offshore yuan settlement centre and help the internationalisation of the currency. He said Hong Kong’s renminbi reserve stood at 947 billion yuan despite a recent slight drop. The city’s daily transition was around 1 trillion yuan in the first two months this year. At the same event, Vice Minister of Commerce Fang Aiqing gave the city “tips” for taking advantage of the nation’s blueprint in the next five years, suggesting it adjust its position. One Belt, One Road still poses obstacles, say Hong Kong businesses “Only if Hong Kong brings its advantages into the larger strategy of China … can it continue to make progress in the opening up of China and achieve better development itself,” he said. Like other speakers, Fang highlighted the city’s role as a fundraising platform in the belt-road initiative, and welcomed Hong Kong to get “deeply involved” in the Silk Road Fund and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank while strengthening its role as an offshore yuan settlement centre. Fang also said the new round of opening up would be service-oriented, an area in which Hong Kong excelled and had great experiences to offer. To develop the Pearl River Delta region, the vice minister suggested the city participate in various experiments in nearby free trade zones such as Qianhai, Hengqin and Nansha. “I am confident that the two sides can be perfectly engaged,” Fang said.