Published: 17:16, November 15, 2022 | Updated: 17:16, November 15, 2022
Party Congress provides guidance for HK’s development
By Michael Ngai

In his work report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, stressed the importance of innovation in economic development, describing it as a “primary productive force”. In recent years, some Western countries have in effect launched a deglobalization process by piling up barriers to the movement of goods, services, capital and technologies. Therefore, achieving self-sufficiency in high-end technologies and building up a complete supply chain in manufacturing are especially important for China.

As a major international science and technology innovation hub built by China, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is home to technology innovation and talent with global influence. Under the national 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), the central government designated Hong Kong as an international innovation and technology hub. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s maiden Policy Address also proposed a series of policies to promote and support the innovation and technology industry, which is crucial for high-quality economic development.

Pursuing, retaining and cultivating talents

Both the financial services sector and the innovation and technology sector are important to Hong Kong. The financial services sector plays a key role in facilitating technological innovation and the development of technological innovation enterprises. According to the “Quarterly Report on General Household Survey” of the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, the number of employed people in the financial industry dropped from 216,100 in the second quarter of 2021 to 204,500 in 2022. In the same period, the number of employed people in the information and communication industry also fell from 137,800 to 127,000. There was also a drop in employment in the professional and business-services sector. The decline in employment, a considerable part of which came from young people, had a certain impact on the labor market.

According to an earlier survey with highly educated people from the Chinese mainland who are now working in Hong Kong, those who are engaged in professional, scientific, and technical activities are less willing to stay in Hong Kong for long-term career development than previously.

The key to developing the innovation and technology industry is to build the top talent pool. Policies in the chief executive’s Policy Address will surely attract more top talents to Hong Kong. Apart from courting talents, it is also necessary to retain talent. Providing high-quality accommodation, for example, offering preferential housing policies or apartments for talents, is always welcomed. Furthermore, support measures on spouses’ employment arrangements, children’s school selection, Cantonese courses, and medical insurance will relieve talents’ concerns too.

Meanwhile, we need to highlight Hong Kong’s distinctive status and advantages. Unlike other international financial centers, Hong Kong has the institutional advantages of “one country, two systems”. Hong Kong’s close connection with the world market and strong support from the motherland are its distinctive advantages. Hong Kong is ranked as the freest economy in the world. The central government fully supports Hong Kong in its effort to maintain its distinctive status and edges, to improve its presence as an international financial, shipping and trading center, to keep its business environment free, open and regulated, and to maintain the common law system, so as to expand and facilitate its interactions with the world.

While attracting talents, it is even more important to cultivate local high-level talents — to nurture future young leaders with an international perspective so that they can cope with global challenges. Eventually, it is also necessary to cultivate more local innovation and technology talents. In terms of education, primary and secondary schools need to strengthen STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) education, to provide opportunities for children to experience the fun and sense of achievement of creation. Children should be guided to have the value of “science, technology and innovation as social goods for development”. Moreover, teachers should encourage them to set lofty goals, and encourage capable and ambitious young people to join the science and technology career in the future.

To boost technology innovation and foster the integration of research and industry

Hong Kong has clear strengths in scientific research. Five universities in Hong Kong make the list of top 70 institutions worldwide. There are 16 State Key Laboratories, with a focus on electronic technology, medicine, biotechnology, etc. There are also six Hong Kong Branches of Chinese National Engineering Research Centres. The innovation and technological development of China is not decoupling from the world, but with more and more international cooperation. Over the years, Hong Kong has established a vast network of contacts with overseas countries and regions. Hong Kong has accumulated rich practical experience, which can help promote international deep-level scientific research cooperation.

At the same time, Hong Kong needs to step up efforts in the implementation and commercialization of research outcomes. The United States spent about $25 billion on the Apollo space program. After the scientific and technological achievements were converted into commercial use, the value of the derived industry exceeded $200 billion. Hong Kong needs to improve the transformation of research-and-development results. The scientific and technology products must meet with market demand. Transforming the innovation technology into commercial production will also boost the economic growth.

The Policy Address proposes a “Research, Academic and Industry Sectors One-plus Scheme” to support commercialization of R&D outcomes by university research teams. We also suggest cooperating more with the Greater Bay Area local governments on the mainland, to jointly set up industrial investment group with universities and enterprises. The industrial investment group selects the scientific research and achievements from universities, and conducts valuation, investment, incubation, and guidance. It provides opportunities for university professors and researchers to invest in their intellectual property and scientific research results and become shareholders. This market-oriented approach will shorten the process of innovative technology from research to application.

We are looking forward to the construction of the Hetao Shenzhen-Hong Kong Science and Technology Innovation Cooperation Zone, which will increase the cooperation and exchange of innovation and technology between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. It will help form a technology industry ecosystem of “research and production between Hong Kong and Shenzhen”. The platform, coupled with the supply chain of Shenzhen’s innovation and technology industry, can better promote the incubation of innovative technology projects.

Since China put lots of effort into implementing reform and its opening-up policy over 40 years, China has created miracles of rapid economic development and long-term social stability. China has become the world’s second-largest economy, the largest industrial country, the largest trader in goods, and the largest holder of foreign exchange reserves.

China cannot develop without the world, and the world also needs China. Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong can better leverage its notable strengths of having the backing of the motherland while staying connected with the world. The 20th CPC National Congress report shows the central government attaches high importance to Hong Kong and Macao affairs. The central government supports Hong Kong and Macao in growing their economies, improving their people’s lives, resolving deep-seated issues and problems in economic and social development, and promoting long-term prosperity and stability. The work report provides guidance for Hong Kong to pursue long-term prosperity.

The author is chairman of the Hong Kong Finance Association.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.