Belt and Road vision: the HK-Qianhai connection
On Dec 7, I went from the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) to Shenzhen’s Qianhai district by car at 8 am, arriving around 9 am in time for the celebration of the fourth anniversary of President Xi Jinping’s visit to Qianhai and the grand opening of the Chow Tai Fook Global Goods Shopping Centre (CTF HOKO) in Qianhai. I witnessed for the first time the vision and vast potential of business interaction and other cooperation between these two regions. To start with, now mainlanders can purchase many Hong Kong products at Hong Kong prices without the inconvenience of obtaining travel documents to the SAR.
At 11:30 am, we drove back to HKCEC, arriving around 12:30 pm, in time for the opening of the China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable: Hong Kong Super-Connecting the Belt and Road.
In his opening remarks, Zhou Li, an editorial board member at the China Daily Group and publisher and editor-in-chief of China Daily Asia Pacific, noted that, “It is a hugely ambitious project and we, members of the public and the media, are keen to see tangible results.”
Stephen Ng Tin-hoi, chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, gave an insightful address in which he observed, “We should be proud Hong Kong has the world’s freest economy and its most open market, and Belt and Road (B&R) promises a tremendous opportunity for at least the next decade or two. Yes, new markets are never easy. Yes, new markets mean risks. And yes, we need to learn, and make mistakes.” He also reminded us that “Belt and Road is happening with or without us. It is up to us to decide whether we wish to be left behind. I suggest we shake off our increasingly parochial mentality and instead open our eyes and minds to this exciting new era.”
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying commented that Hong Kong is ideally positioned to reap the benefits of the B&R Initiative, and that “Working together — the government, business and community — we, Hong Kong, will be the key link, the super-connector for Belt and Road, and Belt and Road economics and the Chinese mainland.”
Another distinguished speaker, Ivan Chu Kwok-leung, chief executive of Cathay Pacific Airways, emphasized, “Helping people — young people — understand the huge opportunities unleashed by the Belt and Road Initiative is key.”
While all the speakers agreed on the importance of the B&R Initiative for a better future for Hong Kong, an obvious question was specifically how Hong Kong should start this project. In this respect, having just visited Qianhai an hour ago, I was delighted that Professor Edward Chen Kwan-yiu, president of the Qianhai Institute for Innovative Research, suggested the Hong The author is chairman of the World Eye Organization and World Culture Organization. He was also a former member of the US President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities during former president George H.W. Bush’s administration.
What a great opportunity for Hong Kong to be a prominent player in this voyage, especially in partnership with Qianhai which offers favorable incentives to work with Hong Kong companies and talents!”
Kong-Qianhai connection could be the first B&R connection that maximizes the strengths of both places, and upon which Hong Kong’s superconnectivity could be built. Professor Chen even suggested: “One Belt, One Road is possibly a lifeline to revive Hong Kong’s entrepot position.” He further noted that to super-connect, we must first connect, and HK-Qianhai might be the best first step in this direction.
In addition to being the latest demonstration of the cooperation on innovation between Guangdong province and Hong Kong, in 2013, President Xi proposed a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to start from Tianjin via the coastal regions of East China to Shenzhen (Qianhai), the ASEAN countries, South Asia, Kenya and finally to Southern Europe and Rotterdam. What a great opportunity for Hong Kong to be a prominent player in this voyage, especially in partnership with Qianhai which offers favorable incentives to work with Hong Kong companies and talents!
Taken together, Dec 7, 2016 marked the 75 th anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, a tragic event symbolizing the horror of war and aggression. With the fourth anniversary of Qianhai and the China Daily Asia Leadership Roundtable: Hong Kong Super-Connecting the Belt and Road, this date might now also be remembered as a milestone for the pursuit of President Xi’s “China Dream” of peace, harmony and collaboration.