Date
19 January 2017
Hong Kong can serve three roles as a hub for the OBOR initiative: its financing center, professional service center and information and data center. Photo: HKEJ
Hong Kong can serve three roles as a hub for the OBOR initiative: its financing center, professional service center and information and data center. Photo: HKEJ

How Hong Kong can be more than a super connector

Most people say Hong Kong should be a super connector to support China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative.

I don’t disagree with this idea, but Hong Kong can be more than that.

I believe the city has the potential to serve three roles as a hub for the OBOR initiative: its financing center, professional service center and information and data center.

Since China’s opening-up began decades ago, Hong Kong has been the major source of funding for the mainland.

However, as more Chinese companies and citizens are “going out”, foreign countries have been increasingly interested in the offshore renminbi business.

In the mainland, the government and private sectors have both accumulated a considerable amount of money.

As a result, despite remaining the largest direct investor in the mainland, Hong Kong’s share in total direct investment has been shrinking.

The total investment needed for OBOR is huge. China cannot rely only on its own money.

It needs to attract foreign investment, especially from countries along the OBOR routes.

As Hong Kong is an international financial center, many countries put money in the city, which ultimately goes into the local property or financial market, as well as the mainland market.

We can try to attract foreign funds in Hong Kong to invest in the OBOR initiative.

More importantly, by doing so, Hong Kong can establish a community of interests with the destination countries.

In addition, Hong Kong has cheap but high-quality information technology and telecom infrastructures.

It can provide world-class data centers, making it an ideal place to set up a cloud computing center.

So the city can also be an information and data center for the OBOR initiative.

As the mainland’s free-trade zones develop, the Hong Kong government should lead the way in establishing an open platform for the exchange of trade data, enabling all stakeholders to participate in the initiative.

We should encourage high-end talent to move to Hong Kong.

The government could issue a special work visa for talent related to the OBOR initiative and provide support services to make these professionals feel at home.

Overall, playing these three central roles can make the city more than a super connector, by providing special value-added services.

The private sector and the authorities should work hard to achieve these goals, as they will help Hong Kong to find a new position in a more competitive world.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 19.

Translation by Myssie You

[Chinese version 中文版]

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MY/DY/FL

Managing Director of Qianhai International Liaison Services Ltd.

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