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Align with National Initiatives for Co-development

By CGCC Vision

At the recent seminar on strategies and opportunities under the “Belt and Road” initiative held in Beijing, NPC Standing Committee Chairman Zhang Dejiang expressed four hopes for Hong Kong’s participation in the initiative: that it would focus on the country’s needs and take the initiative in aligning with national development strategies; leverage its strengths as it cooperates with the Mainland to improve advantages and mutually complementary benefits; promote an innovative mindset; and foster exchanges between Belt and Road countries in the spirit of the Silk Road.

Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary Patrick Nip believes this shows that the Central Government supports and values Hong Kong. In particular, it treasures and wants to make good use of Hong Kong’s unique strengths in finance, economy, trade and professional services. He pointed out that Hong Kong should actively and proactively tie in with the country’s development and play the role of “Leveraging Hong Kong’s Advantages, Meeting the Country’s Needs”, and realize Chairman Zhang’s hope that “the country’s development will always need Hong Kong and will also surely help the SAR in making accomplishments”.

In the 13th Five-Year Plan, the chapter dedicated to Hong Kong and Macao clearly supports the role of the two special administrative regions in the Pan-Pearl River Delta Region cooperation, and promotes the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area as well as major cooperation platforms among provinces and regions. Nip mentioned that after the HKSAR government signed the framework agreement in the presence of President Xi Jinping last July, it gathered views from various chambers of commerce and organizations to discuss how to promote the development. He disclosed that the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau has actively discussed with the NDRC and the governments of Guangdong and Macao to formulate the plan for development. At present, the plan has been submitted to the Central Government for approval and will likely be announced in the near future. He believes that the development plan will provide a clearer outline of Hong Kong’s functions and positioning, which will help concretely implement the various plans and projects.

Bay Area values overall development

The Bay Area has extraordinary potential. In Nip’s view, the difference between the Bay Area and the past cooperation between Guangdong and Hong Kong lies mainly in that the former takes into account the development of the entire area. Therefore, complementarity of strengths within the region is of paramount importance in order to reap the benefits of staggered developments. However, as the Bay Area consists of two systems and three different customs zones, it is inevitable that there will be obstacles in institutional design and the situation is more complex than that of other bay areas in the world. Therefore, the Bureau’s priority is to promote interconnection and interoperability in the region. The Bay Area is the most open of bay areas, and Guangdong has a huge market while Hong Kong is geared to international standards. Nip believes that mutual cooperation will maximize each other’s potential; and to promote cooperation, a coordination mechanism is indispensable. He pointed out that cooperation among the three places is now coordinated by the NDRC and a coordination mechanism will be set up in the future to implement the relevant plans through the NDRC, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council and relevant central ministries and commissions. In his view, as the various city clusters within the Bay Area must promote complementarity of strengths and staggered development, Hong Kong can, under the “one country, two systems” principle, promote institutional innovation and strengthen the flows of personnel, goods, funds and information to establish an effective coordination mechanism. He mentioned that the Government will set up an office for the Bay Area to facilitate connection with the relevant departments of the Mainland and Macao, coordinate communication and cooperation among different departments within the HKSAR government, and liaise with chambers of commerce and professional bodies in a one-stop manner.

Continuation of reform and opening-up

Actually, the HKSAR Government’s cooperation with the Mainland is in no way limited to the development of the Bay Area. Nip said that the country’s further reform, opening-up and economic development involve many provinces and cities. Hence, the Bureau will fully strengthen cooperation with these provinces and cities. At present, Hong Kong has discussed cooperation with several cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Fujian. Areas of cooperation include commerce and trade, innovation and technology, professional services, arts and culture, youth exchange and so on.

Nip said that as this year marks the 40th anniversary of the country’s reform and opening-up, the HKSAR Government plans to organize activities to let the public learn more about the important people and stories over these four decades. He believes that this is of great significance to the review and prospect of the reform and opening-up. The “Belt and Road” initiative and the Bay Area development will be the tangible embodiment and opportunity for the Mainland to further deepen reform and opening-up, especially to promote the development of thriving traditional industries and explore new economic growth drivers. In this process, strengthening cooperation with the Mainland will bring great opportunities for Hong Kong’s future development and jointly usher in a glorious future.

This article was first published in the magazine CGCC Vision March 2018 issue. Please click to read the full article.

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