- Rather than eroding Hong Kong’s competitiveness, the central government’s proposal should be seen as an opportunity for this city to contribute to the nation’s development
Should Hong Kong be worried about the grand plans for Shenzhen? There is no dispute that a number of initiatives that have been unveiled by Beijing as part of wide-ranging reforms are direct competition, while others could be perceived as drawing away talent. With the political crisis still raging and no certainty about the outcome, the timing has understandably led to speculation and questions. But whether a wake-up call or coincidence, there can be no doubt that such an experiment is good for the nation and being on Hong Kong's doorstep, an opportunity for the city.
The directive outlined in a document issued last weekend by the Communist Party's Central Committee and the State Council aims to make Shenzhen a model for the nation, one of the world's leading cities and a benchmark for others to follow. In doing so, it hopes to better develop the Greater Bay Area (GBA) plan that brings together the Hong Kong and Macau special administrative regions and Guangdong province. Reform for Shenzhen will inevitably lead to closer integration of the economy of Hong Kong and Macau through a more efficient flow of people, capital, technology and information. That has to be seen in mutually beneficial terms.
But Hong Kong people may see some of the specifics as pure rivalry. International organisations and big companies would be encouraged to set up branches or headquarters in Shenzhen. A big data centre for the GBA would be located there and an international intellectual property exchange and a maritime university, among much else, established. Reforms would be implemented in the financial, legal, medical and social sectors. Hongkongers living and working in the city would be granted residential status.
Hong Kong being so close to Shenzhen can also be viewed in terms of advantage, though. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor highlighted that last Tuesday, contending the cities had the closest relationship of any in the GBA and had a good partnership through joint projects. Carefully considered policies for Shenzhen would be positive for both cities and bring complimentary benefits, for Hong Kong, particularly in technology innovation. Rightly, Lam pointed out Hong Kong's strengths, among them rule of law.
The goals for Shenzhen are lofty, but seemingly attainable given its remarkable achievements in 40 years as a pioneer of China's market reforms. They call for the city's "economic strengths and development" to rank among the best in the world by 2025 and for it to be a "global benchmark" by 2050. All will be done by coming up with ideas from across the nation and elsewhere and, with Beijing's approval, trialling with an eye on adoption by other Chinese cities. Hong Kong should see the plans as a benefit rather than a threat.
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