Hong Kong can tap huge Belt and Road market by leveraging its strengths
By Tu Haiming
Economic collaboration is the bedrock of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which provides the framework for business communities from different countries and regions to tap into each other’s markets as economic partnerships deepen.
Hong Kong has a big pool of business and professional talents from around the world, whose strong business acumen and execution capacity neatly befit the infrastructural and development needs of countries involved in the BRI. This affords Hong Kong great potential for cooperation with the Chinese mainland and other parties participating in this mega project.
Hong Kong’s distinctive advantages have much to offer the numerous projects to be implemented within the BRI. First, it can harness its well-renowned strengths in finance, trade and shipping to provide funding and freight transport services, contributing to achieving speedier completion and higher quality of those projects. Second, the city’s legal sector is ready to provide efficient international arbitration services to relevant parties to mitigate project risks. Third, Hong Kong can leverage its edge as a cosmopolitan city to pool and dispatch the talents necessary for various projects.
The BRI is also where the institutional advantages of “one country, two systems” come into play, with enhanced collaboration between Hong Kong and the mainland to achieve the much desired synergy. The globally competitive professional services sector in Hong Kong can find abundant opportunities to provide one-stop services in partnership with its mainland counterparts, which will greatly enhance project efficiency and overall benefits.
In a keynote speech delivered at the Seventh Belt and Road Summit, held late last month, Vice-Premier Han Zheng expressed his hope that Hong Kong will be able to strengthen its professional services and build an integrated service platform for the BRI. His expectation in a sense highlighted the city’s major strengths as well as the opportunities to be availed.
The BRI is by no means intended to offshore outdated production capacities or for dumping surplus products abroad; instead, it focuses on meeting the needs of the countries and people along the Belt and Road under the principle of “achieving mutual benefits through collaboration and cooperation”. The goal is to make up for the infrastructural deficiencies along the Belt and Road route and upgrade the development level of local industries. To this end, it is necessary to strengthen collaboration not only in traditional economic and trade cooperation but also in the domain of the digital economy and artificial intelligence; efforts should be dedicated to bolstering the links between trade and investment as well as aligning industries with the financial sector; and cooperation with markets outside the BRI will not only enhance global production capacity but will also allow for integration into the global supply chain and value chain. Thus, the BRI is in urgent need of an integrated service platform for its execution, something that Hong Kong is capable of forging.
Geographically, Hong Kong is strategically located in the heart of Asia, offering exceptional convenience for freight transport between BRI-participating countries. Institutionally, Hong Kong is a reputed free port that allows for the free flow of goods, capital and information; the city has a low tax system and a world-class business environment, along with an open, inclusive and diverse cultural landscape ideal for people of different nationalities, skin colors and cultural backgrounds to pursue their dreams.
The BRI would not succeed without the support of efficient financial services, and that’s where Hong Kong can play a significant role. The city boasts the third-largest international financial center after New York and London. At the end of 2021, the market value of the Hong Kong stock market exceeded $5.4 trillion, or more than 14 times its GDP; the total assets of its banking industry surpassed $3.3 trillion, or more than nine times its GDP. The assets under management were valued at more than $4.5 trillion, two-thirds of which came from abroad. Such remarkable financial prowess attests to Hong Kong’s ability and underpins the confidence of the business community in providing high-quality financial services for BRI infrastructure projects.
Han also expressed his hope for Hong Kong to strengthen personnel exchanges with other regions, which highlighted another major advantage of Hong Kong as well as the responsibility of the local business sector.
The BRI has accomplished many successes since its launch, and with its unique strengths, Hong Kong is in a good position to take the initiative’s achievements further. It can bridge business activities between the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world, serving as a key bridge connecting all parties involved in the BRI. The city will no doubt play a key role in facilitating personnel and cultural exchanges, hence strengthening the bonds between the peoples of BRI-participating countries.
Given its connection and extensive networks with other parts of the world, there is no better party than Hong Kong’s business community to take on the responsibility of promoting the BRI. The modernization of many developed countries in the West was achieved by plundering resources from colonized territories. The history of Western colonists repressing other countries for self-interests has, to a certain extent, hindered the imagination of many modern Westerners. The business community of Hong Kong can illustrate with vivid examples to the Western world that exploitation is not part of Chinese culture, and that the BRI is an open and inclusive undertaking that is meant to drive entrepreneurship in BRI-participating countries, and facilitate the alignment and optimization of rules and standard practices in international trade, investment and finance so that global economic governance will become progressively equitable and judicious.
The BRI is designed to benefit all participating parties, and the involvement of Hong Kong is imperative for its own benefits and those of other participants. Hong Kong’s business community is a participant, contributor and beneficiary of the BRI project; it conceivably shall be a principal propeller as well.
(This article represents the view of the author only.The author is a Hong Kong member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank.)