The Shenzhen Special Economic Zone has developed by leaps and bounds in the past 40 years. It has surpassed Hong Kong not only in total GDP but also in areas such as technological innovation and application. Shenzhen’s success can and should inspire Hong Kong to be energetic and motivated again. In order to keep its advantages and competitive edge, Hong Kong must be a proactive participant in and contributor to the country’s higher quality reform and opening-up with daring innovations while playing a leading role in the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area in collaboration with Shenzhen. It is time for Hong Kong to set sail again and head toward a better future of limitless opportunities for Hong Kong society, especially for the younger generations.
Once upon a time, Hong Kong residents focused their knowledge and energy on economic development with remarkable adaptability, versatility, innovation and perseverance to become the leader of the “Four Asian Tigers”. In the early stage of the nation’s reform and opening-up, a large number of Hong Kong businessmen took the lead in investing on the mainland, bringing in copious amount of funds, talent, technology and management expertise to the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and other regions. Hong Kong also demonstrated its market operation mechanism and regulations for the mainland to apply in its economic reform and opening-up. In doing so, Hong Kong found tremendous room and ways to grow economically, with astronomical profits and sustained prosperity to boot.
The new strategic deployment plan for Shenzhen not only lists core requirements for the next phase of reform and opening-up but also points the way for Hong Kong to cooperate with Shenzhen in joint development by taking full advantage of their strengths and unique conditions. This shows that the central government sincerely cares about the future of Hong Kong and is ready to help the SAR get back on track and start anew after a year of turmoil
In the past 40 years, by learning from Hong Kong’s advanced market economy and successful experience, Shenzhen was totally focused on socioeconomic development, admittedly by trial and error because it had no prior experience whatsoever, and achieved great success of its own in leaps and bounds. In 2018, Shenzhen’s GDP surpassed Hong Kong’s to hit 2.4 trillion yuan ($385 billion), while the number of new high-tech companies based there exceeded 17,000. What started as a construction boom at a breakneck pace is now known for systematic efficiency updated at lightning speed, underscoring Shenzhen’s ascension toward higher-quality development ahead of the nation.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong, which used to be Shenzhen’s motivation and role model, has fallen victim to wanton politicization of anything and everything in recent years driven by political bigotry. Not only has its reputed rule of law been undermined, along with other core values of Hong Kong society, many people have been deceived by misinterpretation of the “one country, two systems” principle as well, at the expense of socioeconomic development. All the deep-rooted social problems that have plagued Hong Kong remain intact today because of endless political wrangling and sabotage. It is fair to say the contrasting experience of Shenzhen and Hong Kong shows how easy it is for a successful economy to lose its bearing and drive. Shenzhen’s success in pioneering reform and opening-up should be a wake-up call as well as inspiration and motivation for Hong Kong to stop sulking and complaining right now. Instead of obsessing with “what if” and “what could have been”, Hong Kong should take a page from Shenzhen’s book and figure out the best way to be a reliable partner in simultaneous development and progress. Together, the two economic powerhouses can and should thrive as a regional center of international finance, trade and shipping and logistics, in which Hong Kong has a lot of expertise and experience to offer down the road, as well as a technological hub.
The central government has assigned Shenzhen a fourfold historic mission in the new era — to establish a pilot economic zone to demonstrate the success of socialism with Chinese characteristics; to develop into a thriving city that represents a modern and prosperous socialist country; to enhance its capacities and standard of implementing a new development philosophy; and to deepen reforms at all levels that will promote the development of the Bay Area. As such, President Xi Jinping put forward six approaches to fulfill this historic mission. He emphasized the importance of leveraging the development of the Bay Area, which provides an invaluable opportunity to integrate the markets of Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong province through the alignment of regulations and systems as well as the facilitation of personnel exchanges and flow of goods between the three places. President Xi also mentioned the need to deepen the reform and opening-up of the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone, along with developing the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park at Lok Ma Chau Loop. If Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao are able to achieve seamless collaboration in social and economic development, it will certainly entice young professionals of the two SARs to study, work and live on the mainland. Meanwhile, more efforts should be devoted to promoting the exchanges between young people of the three places, which will help the two SARs’ youths to strengthen their sense of belonging to their motherland.
The new strategic deployment plan for Shenzhen not only lists core requirements for the next phase of reform and opening-up but also points the way for Hong Kong to cooperate with Shenzhen in joint development by taking full advantage of their strengths and unique conditions. This shows that the central government sincerely cares about the future of Hong Kong and is ready to help the SAR get back on track and start anew after a year of turmoil. Of course, the country will not stop and wait for Hong Kong to catch up, but is never too late for the SAR to jump on board the reform and opening-up train, especially by playing a leading role in the Bay Area project. Hong Kong will surely benefit from the complementary and mutually beneficial cooperation with the rest of the nation. We should not hold back on innovation, especially in keeping all systems and mechanisms up-to-date to facilitate the seamless convergence and efficient operation of the Bay Area economy. As the regional market integration makes headway, Hong Kong will find it easier to integrate its own development into the nation’s overall development strategy, creating more opportunities for Hong Kong youths to pursue their career development in the Bay Area and elsewhere in the country.
The author is a current affairs commentator.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS