26 October 2016
While China offers tremendous prospects, Hong Kong will remain a special place due to its independent judiciary and rule of law, says Allan Zeman. Photos: Xinhua, HKEJ
While China offers tremendous prospects, Hong Kong will remain a special place due to its independent judiciary and rule of law, says Allan Zeman. Photos: Xinhua, HKEJ

I dream about HK, and now even more about China

If Hong Kong is my love at first sight, China is the place I want to stay happily thereafter.

I have this strong feeling after witnessing the massive military display of the Chinese Army and Air Force early last month, when I had the privilege of joining a group of Hong Kong delegates for the commemoration of 70 years of the end of World War II.

I came to Hong Kong in 1967 in the midst of a turbulent time here. I was a teenager looking out to build my dream in the fashion and clothing business. I ended up realizing my dreams not just in fashion, but also in property, restaurants and entertainment through Lan Kwai Fong Holdings.

When I look back, I know I made the right decision to start in Hong Kong, a place which you can fall in love with at first sight. I often say, Hong Kong is a miracle place. If you have a dream today, you can make it happen the next day.

The same can be said about China these days. After more than three decades of strong economic growth, China has become the second largest economy in the world after the United States. Hopes are high that the two major economic powerhouses will work closer together after President Xi Jinping’s recent trip to Washington, bringing peace and prosperity to the world.

China had an amazing economic run that other countries can only envy. Last year, China’s GDP was 63.6 trillion yuan, or about US$7,593 per capita. Seven cities including Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong have developed into middle income places of their own by the World Bank standard.

The rise of the middle class presents a golden opportunity for those who want to capitalize on a once-in-a-lifetime boom. I am lucky to be involved in some projects in mainland cities from Haikou to Shanghai to Chengdu, enjoying a first-person experience in the emerging China and witnessing a changing scene in lifestyle.

We are working hard to make it more international while keeping the very unique Chinese characteristics.

In the past years, I have been to China almost on a weekly basis. I met, and have hired, many energetic and creative young people there. The more I talked to mainland youngsters, the more I felt their happiness. The new generations of Chinese have the urge and the hope to strive for the better, a striking similarity to what I saw in Hong Kong in the early days after I first arrived.

Kudos to China’s current leadership team spearheaded by President Xi, who has personally devoted a lot of efforts to make a better China through initiatives such as the anti-corruption drive and economic and business cooperation with other nations.

One such initiative is “One Belt, One Road”, the going-out strategy which not only allows China to help other emerging countries along the Maritime Silk Route with the modern infrastructure they want, but also ensures the next phase of growth in the Chinese economy.

This, meanwhile, brings along another golden opportunity for Hong Kong to facilitate the national policy objectives. The city, with its specialty “go-between” role that bridges the East and West, can consider itself entrusted with a key task.

Against this backdrop, it is very important for Hong Kong to understand China better and help the country thrive. Our can-do spirit, openness to different cultures and our entrepreneurship will be a great asset that China can leverage in its aspiration to play a leading role in the world.

Hong Kong has been holding well to its own identity and global reputation. As long as we can keep that, we will continue to be a great and shining world city.

While it is possible that Hong Kong may be surpassed by some mainland cities in the future, at the end of the day the special administrative region will continue to be a great city that is well loved and respected by all.

That is because we have an independent judiciary, rule of law and a robust legislature system.

My 48 years in Hong Kong have raced by very quickly, but I have not forgotten my dreams. I am always dreaming about Hong Kong, and now even more about China – an exciting place for entrepreneurs to try out their wonderful ideas in a great land of opportunity.

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Chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Group

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