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Integration of the Two Cities: Chances for Each Other By Mao Zhenhua

Author: Source: Date:2016-10-14
History of Shenzhen-Hong Kong partnership

Regarding the history and background of Shenzhen-Hong Kong partnership (SHP), President Zhang and Mr. Li Shaoguang have reviewed what happened (click here) over the past three decades, and I will not go through all the details due to the tight schedule. The relationship between Hong Kong (HK) and the Mainland was previously HK vs. the central government, and that between HK and Shenzhen (SZ) was more non-governmental. However, the agreements reached by the two cities’ governments since 2003 had greatly promoted the partnership. We collected relevant data and sorted up the big events of the two regions, which indicates that some dramatic changes did occur over the past two years in SZ and HK. 

Re-recognize each other 

The two cities are now in need of re-recognizing each other, as they are closely connected in location, with only a river separating them apart. HK was a well-developed region in history, and the first contributor to China's Reform and Opening-up. HK is regarded to have made great contributions to the Reform, especially to SZ. SZ was originally a small fishing village. Its development is based on the radiation effect from HK economy. Therefore HK in the past radiated to SZ, while SZ plays the role of bridge tower to connect HK with the Mainland.

Two big things happened over the past 30 years in the world with economic growth. One is the rise of China—not the rise of Shenzhen, but the rise of the entire country, which demonstrates China’s ties with the whole world. The second is internet, a platform that forms our world today. The rise of China is an objective fact, and the world is now in need of re-recognizing China and Shenzhen.

When looking back, we find that people have different opinions: on one hand, still many people think that HK’s well-established financial market and legislation framework are the obvious strengths; on the other hand, HK is, in someone’s view, growing less fast. A kind of misunderstanding is that some Mainland people believe that the rapid economic growth is the sole key that can make everything better and advantageous. HK and the Mainland are re-recognizing each other. The region changed a lot since the Asian financial crisis in 1997, and the social classes are diverging. I, as a scholar, think it is time to re-evaluate HK. 

In my opinion, HK’s strengths continue—that is what we need to know. We still need to learn a lot from it. HK is fully in line with other developed regions in the world in terms of legislation, while the Mainland is still a bit behind. It is the reason why many Mainland corporate entities go to HK for investment and operation. These corporate entities have to enter HK before entering the global market. HK could provide the Mainland with a mechanism, with which the latter can make use of during its transition and then catch up with developed regions.

What we need to re-recognize is that how to well use the HK strengths in SZ. What role could HK play in SZ’s future? What cold we bring to each other in the future. That is what we need to carefully study.

Shenzhen is going to be a financial hub and a city of hi-tech innovation. How to include Hong Kong’s strengths into the process? How to capitalize on HK's influence in the world? We need to re-dig these as HK has already built its own strengths and potential.

So in my opinion, re-recognizing Hong Kong and its strengths, and further integrating the regional strengths is a key topic for the city's development.

On the other hand, we have noticed that HK is less changed that SZ. As a scholar I believe that HK shall re-understand SZ because it is a totally new region now. Currently the media covers a lot about SZ's development, saying the region has transited quietly over the past 30 years, and is in a leading position. It is regarded as the “silicon valley of China”. This change is a surprise to many people. It is now a city of innovation. 

Apart from HK’s strengths, SZ capitalized on the opportunities domestic and overseas during its transition, and moved to a much market-oriented mechanism. The success of transition has offered SZ better economic growth, infrastructure, and improved livelihood and environment, making it one of the most competitive cities in the Mainland.

SZ ranked last among the four tier-1 cities—Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, but it is in a leading position in many aspects nowadays, and will keep the ranking in the future. It is a key driving force of China’s economic growth. What will SZ bring to HK’s development? Is HK able to leverage SZ’s achievements? I think HK shall grab its close ties with SZ. 

From handshake to embracement

Third, SZ is only a river away from HK. There is still a distance between us when we shake hands. So I prefer the word embracement. I hope that the two cities will engage in an all-round cooperation in the future.

First, the embracement in population mobility: It would be an amazing thing. Mobility promotes mutual understanding and trust. The first step of HSP is to thoroughly open the bottleneck in mobility. HK changed SZ resident's visa from “one visa issuance for multiple travel” to “one issuance for only one week”. This change is, in my opinion, less reasonable. The HK government has made a number of bewildering decisions, including infant formula purchase restriction. HK is a free trade zone, and the solution can be importing more infant formula. Why did it make such a decision? I think that HK is still overestimate itself while underestimating others in terms of mobility. HK people still has strong psychological barriers when treating issues like its relationship with the Mainland. Some HK lower class looks down upon that of the Mainland. It is quite a misunderstanding. The Mainland people and SZ people are different from what they were. At least no one wants to go to HK as stowaway. Mobility looks like a technical issue, but in fact it is an issue of understanding.

Second, the interconnection of infrastructure: HK has its own circumstances. We are not sure if it can be interconnected to the Mainland via high-speed rail. Yet there are still chances, e.g. the infrastructure of HK and SZ can be connected. If much more convenient and connected infrastructure of the two regions is built, the operation cost can be significantly reduced. 

Third, financial cooperation is a key to promote the “Belt and Road Initiative”, which is released given China has been a key capital export country rather than a capital import one as it was—many developed countries in the world experienced the process from goods export to capital export. China is now starting exporting capital, and the Initiative is the development direction chosen by the government, and a chance for private capital to go global. HK will be an essential link of China in capital export, and an organic linkage in RMB’s internationalization. It has played a vital part in the past trial stage and we do expect the region to play its role in HSP in the coming construction of financial system and alignment with international capital. 

Last, technology partnership: the future development will be led by technological innovation. HK has outstanding universities that rank top in the world. Some of them are better than the best universities in the Mainland. Yet HK does not have the very best technology industry. SZ is a place where no top-class university is located. But with its own strengths, it has been building itself a city of innovation. The HK Innovation and Technology Commission is intended to push forward its technology industry. I think that it will be great if either HK or SZ is developed to a technology hub.

From handshake to embracement, the key is to form new HK and SZ. SZ is ambitious and growing fast which benefits its entrepreneurial spirit. HK, on the other hand, enjoys unique strengths due to its long development history, yet has less change in recent years. Is it possible that HK shows us a more open image to lead its growth? We said it is the most advanced region in infrastructure investment in the world. Today HK’s infrastructure is at a new stage of development; while SZ’s old one is much saturated. The new growth point and cooperation potential can be further explored. 

The close HSP will create more powerful strengths, and will bring us new HK and SZ in the future. Thanks!