Integration into GBA strikes a chord in Hong Kong
This article appeared originally in the CHINADAILY on 27 Oct, 2021.
Authors: Renee Ho, lead of Community Studies and Edison Au-Yeung, research intern at Our Hong Kong Foundation
In recent months, two central government delegations have visited Hong Kong with the aim of making the city a better place. The first, dedicated to promoting the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), launched a series of events in Hong Kong, where it highlighted the importance of the special administrative region's integration into the country's overall development and the unrivaled development opportunities on the Chinese mainland. The second, we believe, will prompt a fresh round of "buildups" in our city as an engineering exhibition is boosting the cooperation of landmark-making construction projects to make the financial center a livable and loveable place for residents.
Both delegation teams stressed the need for Hong Kong and the mainland to complement each other's strengths, to collaborate in economic development, and to exploit the plethora of opportunities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Beijing has underlined the significance of the region, elaborated on the nation's development plan and galvanized the HKSAR to keep on the right track of the "one country, two systems" principle. The second team, a group of engineers and scientists from the north, impressed all in Hong Kong with fantastic infrastructure and construction projects both in the mainland and the waterfront city, making them the talk of the town and boosting the sense of national pride to a new height.
The latest national Five-Year Plan highlighted a new development strategy based on the "dual circulation" of domestic and overseas markets, with the Greater Bay Area as an integral part of the plan. Our Hong Kong Foundation's first Community Studies, held in August, reached out to 1,012 Hong Kong permanent residents aged 18 or above to gauge the public's views on the subject. Most respondents believe that the joint development of Hong Kong and the rest of the cities in the GBA will benefit the economy in Hong Kong, the study found. Among those who expressed a view, over 70 percent agreed that "the joint development will increase the potential market size and create more opportunities for businesses in Hong Kong"; 55 percent agreed that "the development of the GBA will attract more multinationals to set up offices in Hong Kong, creating job opportunities for the local residents".
The Hong Kong government, thanks to the impetus fueled by the residents, is seizing the opportunities offered by the "dual circulation" strategy. They are fully tapping the advantages of "one country, two systems" and complementing development on the mainland. The cooperation and coordination among the construction industries across the border show the force of the integration trend.
Many respondents reported that the threshold for mutual recognition is still too high, information is lacking and the process is too complicated. To promote mutual recognition, the Hong Kong government may set up a dedicated department to coordinate with Macao and the nine mainland cities in the GBA to investigate the needs of trades and industries, adjusting the thresholds, and simplifying the process. Importantly, Hong Kong professionals deserve mutual recognition across the border and to enjoy social benefits equivalent to their local counterparts.
The 14th Five-Year Plan established Hong Kong as the center of eight development areas. The advantage of the "one country, two systems" framework helps in consolidating Hong Kong's position as an international financial, shipping and trade center, a global offshore renminbi business center, an international asset management and risk management center, as well as a legal and dispute resolution service center for the Asia-Pacific region. In addition, the plan has proposed four new centers, including supporting Hong Kong to be an international center for innovation and technology, and a center for art and cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world. Technological innovation takes the top strategic position. However, Hong Kong has long suffered from an unbalanced industrial structure. Our study found that young respondents want the government to support and develop new pillar industries. Fifty-five percent of the respondents agreed that Hong Kong's collaboration with mainland cities in the GBA will spur the development of innovation and technology in Hong Kong and help upgrade and transform various industries. Sixty-six percent of the respondents also agreed that the GBA will give Hong Kong's creative communities more space to thrive.
It is worth noting that 66 percent of the respondents believe that more Hong Kong people are now willing to relocate to mainland cities in the GBA, because they recognize that integration into the GBA is the prevailing trend. Nowadays, most Hong Kong people, regardless of their background, acknowledge the economic benefits generated by the GBA. Therefore, the Hong Kong government should take into account people's focus on economic benefits when formulating development strategies and promoting the GBA. The government should also step up its efforts to improve professional accreditation across the border, streamlining the conversion of qualifications and facilitating the exchange of talent. At the same time, the people in Hong Kong should enhance their awareness of the principle of "one country" before the city can fully adopt the "two systems" adroitly to come up with resourceful feasible means to capitalize on its entrenched strengths to coordinate with the sister cities in the promising land of the GBA. The trend is overwhelming, but the city needs to harness its power to embrace a new round of construction development in the region.
Nowadays, most Hong Kong people, regardless of their background, acknowledge the economic benefits generated by the Greater Bay Area. Therefore, the Hong Kong government should take into account people's focus on economic benefits when formulating development strategies and promoting the GBA.