Belt and Road vi­sion: the HK-Qian­hai con­nec­tion

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - D O M I N I C L A M M A N-K I T

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.

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