China’s science and technology minister has pledged to support Hong Kong in joining more national-level projects and in its efforts to entice global talent, as part of the nation’s push for greater self-reliance on the tech front amid tensions with the United States. To speed up the city’s development as an innovation and technology (I&T) hub to what minister Wang Zhigang termed a “globally competitive” level, the central and Hong Kong governments signed a new arrangement on Wednesday to promote talent flow, the sharing of resources and the transfer of technologies, as well as strengthening a coordination mechanism. During a meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu in Beijing, Wang urged the city to “make better contributions” to the country’s pursuit of technological self-reliance, a policy President Xi Jinping had spelled out as a top priority during the annual “two sessions” parliamentary meetings. China earmarks 2 per cent budget boost for science and technology At the signing ceremony, Wang highlighted Hong Kong’s long-time “integral contributions” to the country’s I&T development and its role as an important window for charting the country’s opening up. The Ministry of Science and Technology would also help Hong Kong to strategically use its strengths as a “key hub for the global I&T network” to support national efforts in this “critical year under the new development paradigm”, Wang said, referring to the Communist Party leadership’s once-in-five-years reshuffle. “We will support the participation of more research and development personnel from Hong Kong in national-level key projects, Hong Kong’s deeper participation in key international science projects, as well as I&T action plans for the Belt and Road Initiative,” he added, referring to China’s plan to grow global trade. The belt and road marks its tenth anniversary and to date 151 countries have joined the initiative. “[We will also] support Hong Kong to utilise its role as a super-connector, building platforms to foster exchanges in advanced technologies and gather local and overseas I&T talent,” he said. Following this year’s two sessions, the annual gathering of China’s legislature and top political advisory body, Wang retained his post as science and technology minister despite reaching the retirement age of 65. During meetings, policymakers stressed that science and technology were driving forces that could help the country achieve self-reliance and high-quality development. A push for institutional reforms also featured in meetings, including plans for the party to create a Central Science and Technology Commission, which would delegate tasks to the ministry, and a new ministerial-level National Data Bureau. The ministry will also receive new powers to oversee I&T development, a move that comes as several countries consider joining the United States in limiting China’s access to semiconductor technology. During a visit to Hong Kong’s Science Park last July, Xi hailed the city’s achievements in basic research and talent development and called for better synergies in the industry. Wang on Wednesday also praised Hong Kong’s I&T development blueprint and said he hoped the initiative would add to the “wisdom and momentum” pushing the country’s development. “We hope that Hong Kong will make better contributions in China’s speeding up of its high-quality development and technological self-reliance,” he said. The cooperation agreement was signed by the city’s Secretary for Innovation, Technology and Industry Sun Dong and Vice-Minister of Science and Technology Zhang Guangjun. New faces in Beijing after ‘two sessions’ is good news for Hong Kong: analysts Lee said the deal marked the turning of an important page in promoting Hong Kong’s role in supporting the nation and vowed to entice strategic industries and talent to the city. In the afternoon, Lee discussed cross-border anti-smuggling operations and risk management policies with mainland customs director Yu Jianhua. He also met commerce minister Wang Wentao, pledging to cooperate on the national goals of promoting consumption and attracting investment, a government release said. Separately, Hong Kong’s finance chief Paul Chan Mo-po visited Guangzhou to discuss the city’s integration into the Greater Bay Area with provincial leaders. Ilaria Carrozza, a senior researcher at the Peace Research Institute Oslo, said it was expected that the ruling party would bring Hong Kong “even more into the fold” to include it in national technological self-reliance plans amid ongoing tensions between the superpowers. “This is coupled by growing pressure and export controls measures from the United States and its allies, including recently Japan and the Netherlands, which will only increase the criticality of emerging technologies in the context of the global geopolitical competition,” said Carrozza, who specialises in China-US policies. China’s finance minister backs Hong Kong ‘broadening international cooperation’ She added that despite trade limits and political limitations faced by Hong Kong, the city had more to offer especially in biotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), smart city programmes and financial technologies such as virtual currencies. Lawmaker Jesse Shang Hailong, the managing director of AI firm SenseTime Hong Kong, said one of the local industry’s weaknesses was the realisation of R&D outcomes. “Universities and scientific research institutions produced fruitful results, but not many were commercialised or realised,” he said. In 2021, gross domestic expenditure on R&D in Hong Kong amounted to HK$27.8 billion, an 5 per cent increase over the previous year. Shang suggested Hong Kong authorities take the lead to procure more home-grown technologies, and strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights to attract international investment.