China has contributed more than 30 percent of the world’s economic growth in recent years; its course of development and points of focus are highly relevant to the global economy, especially Hong Kong. Therefore, the Government Work Report delivered by Premier Li Keqiang on behalf of the State Council took center stage at the opening meeting of the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress on Sunday morning.
One of the major highlights in the work report is the setting of China’s GDP growth at 5 percent for this year, which is neither a high nor a low figure. It is “not high” because the country’s economic growth generally hovered around 6 percent before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. It is “not low” because the world’s economic outlook this year is by no means optimistic. In January, the World Bank projected that the global economy will grow by 1.7 percent in 2023, the third-lowest growth rate in the past 30 years. World Bank analysts predicted that the combined effects of high inflation, rising interest rates, reduced investments, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, etc, will continue to pose a major threat to global economic growth. If we put China’s long-term goal into perspective, which is to become a moderately developed country by 2035, it will require an annual growth rate of 4.73 percent from 2021 to 2035.
Hong Kong must take stock of the country’s national strategy and development backdrop in planning for its own goals and near-term actions. As Hong Kong resumed quarantine-free travel with the Chinese mainland in January, a Bloomberg survey of 12 economists put the median estimate for the city’s economic growth at 3.3 percent this year, higher than the 2.7 percent forecast by 25 economists last November. Here, economists have accurately observed the correlation between Hong Kong’s economy and the mainland’s. The rule of thumb is that the economic resurgence in the mainland will provide a big boost to Hong Kong’s economic growth.
The work report prioritizes restoring and expanding domestic consumption, suggesting that the central government will promote and enhance consumption in terms of both quality and quantity.
Hong Kong can enjoy a fair share of the nation’s economic success, driven by the post-pandemic resurrection, if the special administrative region formulates its economic and industrial strategies under a broader vision which has national strategies at the center. Take enhancing the city’s “shopping paradise” reputation, for example. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board, approximately 65.15 million tourists visited the city in 2018, of which 51.04 million, or 78 percent, were mainland visitors. Since late 2019, the number of inbound visitors has dropped so drastically that Hong Kong’s retail, tourism, catering, hotels and other related sectors have been left hanging in the balance, or in a bitter fight for survival. Now that Hong Kong has resumed quarantine-free travel with the mainland, it needs to think about how to resurrect the mainland market to reboot the city’s tourism. Mainland tourists will bring in cash, which is welcome, but the city will have to ensure the number is kept under control, together with measures to clamp down on parallel traders along the boundary, so as not to disrupt the daily life of local residents. Instead of worrying about the potential problem of streets or tourist spots being overcrowded due to an influx of visitors, we should review our deficiency in facilities, devise long-term plans, methodically divert tourists, improve the consumer experience, and create an upgraded “shopping paradise” for all visitors.
The premier’s work report also emphasized that greater efforts will be made to attract and leverage foreign investments to boost economic development. To better harness foreign capital, the central government will continue to introduce more favorable policies to create a more business-friendly environment for overseas investors.
This is another area wherein Hong Kong should put the national strategy into its perspective in mapping out the city’s own development strategies. As an international financial center, the city is a convenient channel for foreign capital to enter the mainland market. When HKSAR Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu concluded his trip to the Middle East last month, he revealed that many businesses in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates want, but have failed, to find a way to enter the Chinese mainland market, and that is where Hong Kong can come into play. With many foreign enterprises looking to tap the mainland market and many mainland enterprises trying to venture or expand operations abroad, there is a huge potential for Hong Kong’s financial services to serve the relevant needs for services and to prosper.
The country’s national strategy and development backdrop will serve as Hong Kong’s blueprint in pursuing its own goals and near-term actions. What Hong Kong can do to dovetail into national strategies is surely not just limited to the above-mentioned areas. The government of the special administrative region should probe into the premier’s work report and take full advantage of the national strategies, which provide vast opportunities for Hong Kong. Whether the city can seize those opportunities will hinge on the HKSAR government’s vision for and commitment to the SAR’s long-term development.
The author is a Hong Kong member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.