Published: 00:28, March 25, 2021 | Updated: 21:33, June 4, 2023
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Hong Kong has a pivotal role in nation's 14th Five-Year Plan
By Chow Pak-chin

On March 11, the National People’s Congress approved China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25). Along with a long list of initiatives such as plans to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions and modernize its energy infrastructure, the plan pledges to strengthen Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center and enhance its awareness of matters related to national security and sovereignty.

The “Outline of the 14th Five-Year plan for National Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic of China and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035” — better known as the 14th Five-Year Plan — reserves a significantly large section detailing Hong Kong’s pivotal role over the next half-decade. 

The country has long recognized Hong Kong’s potential on the national level, and spares no effort in facilitating the progress of Hong Kong and allows it to play a key role in several sectors of China’s economic landscape. 

Technological and scientific innovation, civil aviation, finance and trade, and high-end development of our services industry lie at the heart of the 14th Five-Year Plan’s vision for our city. 

The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has been highlighted as the region’s up-and-coming scientific and technological hub that will be on par with Beijing and Shanghai, cities that are poised to become the latest technological hubs on the Chinese mainland.

The Plan will also utilize our internationally renowned educational institutions, including Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, University of Hong Kong, and Chinese University of Hong Kong. 

The administration under former Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had sadly failed to leverage Hong Kong’s technological resources. Leung Chun-ying, as CE-designate in mid-2012, entrusted the outgoing Tsang administration to move a motion in the Legislative Council to set up the newly proposed Innovation and Technology Bureau.

Unfortunately, filibustering tactics by the “pan-democrats” frustrated the proposal, not once, but twice. The bureau only came into being in 2015, halfway into the Leung administration ­— or more than two years after it was proposed.

The main functions of the bureau are to oversee strategic and policy matters in relation to innovation and technology in the SAR, including collaborations with the Chinese mainland. 

Technological and scientific innovation, civil aviation, finance and trade, and high-end development of our services industry lie at the heart of the 14th Five-Year Plan’s vision for our city

Thankfully, in its short history, the bureau has been able to launch various policy initiatives that have led to innovations in healthcare and the city’s infrastructure, among others; it has also been credited for creating job opportunities throughout the city. The bureau will also most certainly be useful for forging the integration in the socioeconomic development of the Greater Bay Area.

The joint development of the 11 cities in the Greater Bay Area, which has a total GDP comparable to that of Korea or Australia, will benefit the whole of Southern China, and not just in innovation and technology but the full range of collaboration. Of course, we need to overcome complications caused by hurdles such as two separate legal systems, currencies, customs regulations, etc., but once those hurdles are overcome, the integration will unleash immeasurable energy.

And as the world is slowly and painfully getting back on its feet after the challenges of 2020, China’s singularly successful management of the pandemic has allowed the nation to boost its international port and domestic civil aviation activities. 

Given Hong Kong’s status as a favored and internationally renowned civil aviation hub, it is only logical that the central authorities expressly support Hong Kong to “elevate its status as an international civil aviation hub”, in the words of the 14th Five-Year Plan. It is fair to say that while some mainland airports boast greater passenger and cargo numbers, not many airports in the world can match the reputation and efficiency of the Hong Kong International Airport. 

Plus, aviation hubs aren’t simply judged based on their cargo and passenger volumes. Case in point, London is another busy aviation hub but users’ experiences of its airport are no match of Hong Kong‘s, or for that matter, many other Asian airports.

While Hong Kong already operates at a high standard, it can aspire to improve itself even further and remain competitive, and this is where the 14th Five-Year Plan can lend valuable support, leveraging on the country’s huge size and rapid growth. 

Finally, in light of the changing face in Hong Kong, we must look toward nurturing relations between youth of Hong Kong and the mainland.

Exchange programs between universities on both sides of the boundary are a simple and traditional way to foster closer ties. Both Hong Kong and the mainland have prestigious tertiary educational institutes and would certainly benefit from educational exchanges. 

Education is also the perfect means by which we can enhance Hong Kong youth’s understanding of the SAR’s role in the nation’s development, not only in terms of our contribution but also in terms of Hong Kong becoming a weak link in national security.

National Security Education Day, which is on April 15, will allow both the central and SAR governments to demonstrate the efforts by both sides to plug loopholes in Hong Kong’s electoral system and fortify national pride in each and every citizen. 

Furthermore, the importance of the Basic Law underpinning Hong Kong’s status as a cosmopolitan city that enjoys a high degree of autonomy must also be stressed.

In the long run, we should do more to instill in our young people the spirit and the practical meaning of patriotism. It is hoped that the central authorities will soon find a way to relax the rules so as to allow Hong Kong youths to join the country’s armed forces and civil service to enhance the sense of belonging and participation. 

The possibilities are endless, and Hong Kong is in dire need of being given a push as our economy and local industries are hanging by a thread, with the unemployment rate harboring at a high level unseen for more than a decade. 

Both the mainland and Hong Kong have much to learn from one another, and by fostering continual cooperation and mutual development, both sides will benefit in economic and other aspects. 

And now more than ever, after the strain that our city has endured over the course of fighting the pandemic, we need our motherland to nurse us back to health so we can once again become the proud city that we once were.

The author is president of Wisdom Hong Kong, a local think tank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.