Monday, 18 Jan 2021

Mutualism between HK and Shenzhen will continue: China Daily (Asia) contributor

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY (ASIA)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – China’s reform and opening-up can be referred to as one of the world’s miraculous events over the past 50 years.

During the process, Shenzhen has become the epitome of wonders, transforming itself from a small fishing village into one of the five advanced cities in Asia.

Such a metamorphosis could not have been achieved without the involvement of Hong Kong, which has been playing an active and essential role in achieving this feat.

As it marks the 40th anniversary this year of the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, China once again stands at a critical juncture in history.

At a new height, its national development is confronted by a bottleneck, while the treacherous global geopolitical landscape also requires China to deepen reform and opening-up.

As a pioneering zone for national reform, how Shenzhen moves forward is indicative of the direction China will take in the future.

A rising Shenzhen does not pose a threat to Hong Kong. Experience over the past 40 years shows that opportunities for Shenzhen are shared by Hong Kong more often than not.

Since the establishment of the special economic zone, Hong Kong and Shenzhen have been in an inseparable partnership.

From the early business model, in which Hong Kong acted as the “store in the front” and Shenzhen as the “factory at the back”, to the present collaboration in developing emerging industries and financial services, the two cities have been in a win-win partnership.

Hong Kong every now and then has been able to share with Shenzhen the “perks” offered by the central government for the special economic zone.

Take the 30th anniversary of its establishment in 2010 as an example. Back then, the State Council approved the “General Development Plan of Shenzhen-Hong Kong Cooperation on Modern Service Industries in Qianhai Area”, which leveraged the comparative advantages of Guangdong and Hong Kong to optimise and upgrade industrial structures through the development of modern service sectors.

The development plan directly benefited Hong Kong over the past 10 years, with Qianhai registering a total of 11,700 Hong Kong-funded enterprises with total registered capital of 1.3 trillion yuan ($262.4 billion).

These Hong Kong firms have invested US$20.3 billion. Meanwhile, Hong Kong professionals have actively participated in the development of Qianhai, particularly through the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Youth Dream Workshop, which has attracted numerous youths to explore innovation and create startups there.

So far, Qianhai has incubated more than 220 startups from Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and overseas.

Similarly this year, the central government is introducing favourable policies for Shenzhen, which will also benefit Hong Kong.

The General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the General Office of the State Council issued on Sunday a five-year plan on implementing pilot reforms in Shenzhen to build the city into a demonstrating zone for socialism with Chinese characteristics.

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The plan has set 27 missions on eight fronts, all designed for advancing reform and opening-up in Shenzhen to a higher level.

The plan will empower Shenzhen to achieve more ambitious goals in the next five years. It specifically calls for a higher level of collaboration between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and requires the alignment of regulations to enhance cooperation in and development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

The plan clearly has taken into account the advantages of both Hong Kong and Shenzhen in some areas of collaboration.

For instance, in the areas of healthcare and education, it supports clinical application of new drugs in Shenzhen, explores ways to improve compatibility of medical services across the boundary, establishes a standard system for medical staff training and hospital accreditation that is in line with international standards, enhances the autonomy in running schools, supports Shenzhen to import high-quality educational resources from overseas in accordance with relevant national policies and regulations, and undertakes high-level Sino-foreign cooperation in running schools.

These are areas where Hong Kong can put to full use its advantages, and benefit from the business opportunities created by these new policies.

Some people in Hong Kong are always concerned that the central government’s strong support for Shenzhen will diminish the opportunities for Hong Kong, reducing its significance in national development, or even costing the Special Administrative Region its unique role. Such a sense of urgency is not necessarily a bad thing, but excessive worry is unwarranted.

Hong Kong’s unique status and role is a product of favourable central government policies and its own strengths.

It cannot afford to lose the great opportunity to integrate further with Shenzhen and other parts of the mainland, lest it risk an unavoidable decline.

The author is a current affairs commentator. China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.

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