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HK to play key role in resurgence of ‘Asian century’ – World

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In several Western countries, the “demise of Hong Kong” has become an all-too-common narrative in recent years and the rhetoric has been ratcheted up dramatically to attract or distract voters during an election year.

This is a strategic move by those desperately trying to hold onto power or those vying to win the hearts of their electorates. To be seen as taking a strong stance against China, which has been vilified in the Western media for years, is somehow deemed to reflect strong leadership qualities. And perhaps it does for those with an appetite for conflict or who are consistently engaged in war under the guise of peace.

Concerns are raised daily among friends or colleagues overseas about our public safety in Hong Kong, reflecting the influence of these misleading narratives on their local audiences, particularly in the United States and many European countries.

Interestingly, most of the rhetoric is coming from countries where violent crime, shootings and stabbings are the order of the day. In some cities, people are not free to travel safely at any time of day or night, and in most cases, even their public transport systems are unsafe, and service standards are frighteningly low due to old infrastructure. Extraordinary levels of petty crime are commonplace in most cities in the Western world.

In New York City, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul was forced to send in 750 members of the National Guard to protect commuters. Around the same time, it was reported that a survey conducted by the Citizens Budget Commission of New York suggested that half of the population, or over 4 million people, were planning to leave New York City within the next five years because of the deteriorating quality of life.

While Hong Kong once faced unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic, the city has demonstrated remarkable resilience.

Despite current economic challenges and geopolitical complexities, Hong Kong is in a more robust medium-to-long-term position compared with many international counterparts. Unlike many cities in Western countries, where short-term political considerations drive policies, Hong Kong has charted a steadier course, focusing on pragmatic solutions rather than electoral appeal.

This is not to say that there isn’t much work to be done in Hong Kong. It is important to acknowledge the efforts of the government and the local business community to navigate these difficult times.

Some observers think China’s economic miracle may have led to a certain complacency in Hong Kong, as the property and other key sectors reaped significant financial benefits.

The pandemic’s devastating impact resulted in an early wakeup call for the government and business leaders. Recognizing the need to develop new economic growth drivers to compete in a rapidly changing world, they have moved quickly to address the complex challenges ahead. These include adapting to the accelerating pace of technological advancement and the growing influence of generative artificial intelligence.

Our robust infrastructure and strategic location underpin our role as a global hub for trade and finance. While Hong Kong has navigated periods of uncertainty, its fundamentals as a thriving international business center remain strong. The city’s agility and capacity to evolve at a pace unimaginable in Western economies have allowed us to weather challenging times and capitalize on emerging economic trends and opportunities.

Our unique “one country, two systems” framework, strategic location at the heart of Asia, strong relationships, and connectivity with regional neighbors are fundamental to our future prosperity.

So, rather than being “finished”, increasing numbers of well-informed people believe that Hong Kong appears poised to leverage its unique strengths and forge new competence in several high-value sectors. This is reflected in the growing number of leading foreign academic and research institutions establishing a presence in the city.

The most high-profile doomsday forecast was from Stephen Roach, former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, in his opinion piece in the Financial Times in February. It received extensive social media coverage, and upset many people in or closely connected to Hong Kong because of its headline: It pains me to say Hong Kong is over.

However, such sensational comments tend to be designed to increase media exposure, particularly on social media, but fail to reflect the reality or capture the opportunities that exist and strategies being deployed to reinvigorate the economy.

Roach believes that Hong Kong’s prosperity completely depends on the Chinese mainland’s prosperity and economic growth. This view disregards the strategic development of new business opportunities not only within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, but also from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, closer commercial ties with several markets in the Middle East, and deep ties with many existing trade partners.

His subsequent statement last month at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club reiterated much of the sentiment, and despite talking down Hong Kong’s future, he expressed his deep affection for the city, words that seemed somewhat insincere.

Despite the gloomy global economic outlook for 2024, Asia is expected to maintain its position as the engine powering the world’s economy, according to views expressed by the World Economic Forum annual meeting in January.

Observers attribute the region’s resilience to the consistent growth and transformation of intraregional trade and investment and its pioneering role in e-commerce.

They agreed that the expansion of intraregional trade networks, the rise of a burgeoning middle class and investments in technological advancements make the “Asian century” seem primed for a resurgence. It is certain that Hong Kong will play an essential role in this resurgence and directly benefit from it.

Much remains to be done, and the government’s primary focus must be on economic development while maintaining Hong Kong’s international status and leveraging the unique advantages of the “one country, two systems “framework.

It will be crucial for all stakeholders to work closely together to rebuild and strengthen Hong Kong’s relationships with international partners and improve the city’s global image — efforts that will benefit entire China.

The author is an international partner and member of the Global Advisory Board, Millenium Associates AG.

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