Why Washington's China tech export ban can benefit HK

May 16, 2018 16:55
To get around technology trade hurdles, it is possible that Beijing would want Hong Kong to serve as a crucial bridge between Chinese and foreign enterprises. Photo: HKSTP

Twenty-four mainland scientists and professors working in Hong Kong wrote a letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping in June last year saying they were keen "to make a contribution to the motherland", according to Xinhua News Agency.

Almost a year later, they recently received a reply from the top leader.

Despite the late reply, Xi’s message was all encouraging.

The president has urged various mainland agencies to act quickly to move capital, talents and equipment to Hong Kong and help the city contribute to the nation’s ambition to become a tech power.

"Hong Kong has strong technology  roots, and there are many high-caliber tech talents there who love the country and Hong Kong. They are a key force to support the nation’s innovation-driven growth strategy,” Xi said in the letter.

The Chinese leader wants to foster stronger cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland, and he is supportive of Hong Kong's efforts to become a global innovation center.

It is said that the ministries of finance and science and technology have convened several meetings, and a number of trial schemes would soon be launched. The government will also provide funding support for specific projects carried out in Hong Kong and Macau.

Besides, more scientists from Hong Kong and Macau will be encouraged to participate in national science and tech planning, in a bid to further deepen and widen the tech cooperation.

Interestingly, Hong Kong has recently unveiled a new scheme to fast-track immigration process for overseas IT talents to work at two major local technology parks.

The city intends to bring in 1,000 tech talents from mainland or overseas in the first year. The new hires must be engaged in seven areas: biotechnology, artificial intelligence, cyber-security, robotics, data analytics, financial technologies, and materials science.

All this stokes speculation as to whether these initiatives are related to the recent US export ban on Chinese telecom giant ZTE.

Though US President Donald Trump has pledged to help ZTE get back to business, the whole episode has served to highlight the fact that China still lags far behind other leading economies in core technologies such as semiconductor chips, a shortcoming that could threaten the nation's economic security.

To get around technology import barriers, Hong Kong may have a special role to play under the “One Country, Two Systems”.

The city has an independent legislature and a sound legal framework. Therefore, it's possible to make Hong Kong as a buffer-zone.

For example, European and American companies can export their technology and equipment to Hong Kong, so that these foreign firms can work with Chinese counterparts while getting better intellectual property protection.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 16

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]


Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist