“Strong youth make a strong nation” are the words of wisdom that China has held dear for 71 years throughout the nation’s rite of passage. Now Hong Kong youth have an important say and a role in the country’s vision.
When a country is painting its future on an existing canvas, the youth are in the driver’s seat. Well aware of this, China has done its utmost to support young talent financially, logistically and policy-wise, to ensure that their expertise, prowess and flair have a stage on which to exhibit. One of the key stages is the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, where a collaborative synergy can be sparked among budding talent, including entrepreneurs and professionals.
Creating 15,000 internship positions on the mainland, 30,000 opportunities for an in-depth tour of the Chinese mainland, innovation and entrepreneurship programs, access to national scholarships, and a series of measures to improve the convenience of life on the mainland are just a few of the eight measures facilitating the development of Hong Kong youth in the mainland announced by the central government in September.
The favorable and comprehensive measures show that the central government is attentive to Hong Kong youth’s needs and attuned to the challenges that could thwart those dreams.
The Greater Bay Area epitomizes the sustained endeavors of the central government in nurturing young talent, which is a farsighted strategy.
As of the end of 2020, 698 projects involving Hong Kong and Macao talent have been incubated in the Greater Bay Area’s innovation and entrepreneurship bases, creating more than 8,800 jobs and drawing in more than 1,000 young people from the two special administrative regions.
Innovative technology and entrepreneurship will continue to be front and center of the central government’s favorable measures for Hong Kong and Macao youth. It aims to support at least 120 entrepreneurial projects initiated by those youth within five years through funding to projects featuring cutting-edge technologies with promising applications and university students’ proposals that can be potentially translated into reality.
Young people are the most energetic, resourceful, tireless-working and aspiring cohort, so they are never short of brilliant ideas and zealously spirited. What they often fret about is the dearth of platforms or opportunities, where they can channel their bold, knowledge-based ideas, imagination and energy into practical research and development.
In Hong Kong, a densely populated city, each year only 38 percent of students can get places in bachelor’s programs at local universities. Imagine how stiff the competition is in the labor market, particularly for high-paying jobs.
While Hong Kong’s entrepreneurial climate has blossomed in recent years with more university graduates taking the plunge into startups, the city still falls behind other Asian cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, and Seoul in terms of a startup ecosystem, according to recent reports by Startup Genome and StartupBlink.
Local startups focusing on scientific research and technological services also have a hard time recruiting qualified young talent either because they lack the required professional skills or the cost of local talent is prohibitive, according to a survey of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
These problems will soon be a thing of the past. The Greater Bay Area is teeming with well-established technology enterprises and unicorn companies, complete with a supporting infrastructure and funding programs, that can provide for the youth.
For example, Shenzhen recently announced measures to expedite the development of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong cooperation zone for technology and innovation, in reaction to the new “Plan for Comprehensive Deepening Reform and Opening-Up of the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry” promulgated by the central government. Over the years, 3,652 Hong Kong professionals have found a place in Qianhai and 245 Hong Kong startup teams have been fostered by local business incubators.
For some Hong Kong young talent, their hesitancy to work on the mainland comes down to concern over potential cultural shocks. Faced with a different culture, one’s morale, drive, satisfaction and self-esteem can quickly wane. Without cultural familiarity and integration — the necessary ingredients for a sense of belonging — a young talent can hardly give full play to his/her potential and seek self-development in the long run in the Greater Bay Area or other mainland cities.
Therefore, cross-border cultural exchange activities are crucial to prime the youth for future ventures on the mainland and to smooth their learning curve in a new environment.
Cultural exchanges on both sides have increased dramatically since Hong Kong’s return to the nation in 1997.
The Greater Bay Area — a breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurship — doubles as a hub for cross-border cultural exchanges, which was elaborated in the Culture and Tourism Development Plan for the Greater Bay Area Plan initiated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Joint Programmes between cultural, natural conservation, and scientific research institutions in the mainland and the HKSAR government include Thematic Youth Internship Programs to the Mainland, at the Palace Museum, the Wolong National Nature Reserve, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The cultural exposure and deep understanding of the country’s world-leading scientific accomplishments gained through the programs will, consciously or subconsciously, evoke a national pride in those Hong Kong participants, which is part and parcel of a full integration into the national development blueprint.
The author is a Hong Kong-based journalist.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.