New tale of two cities emerges

In her fifth and last Policy Address for this term, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor unveiled the grand Northern Metropolis Development Strategy to set the path for Hong Kong’s future growth. In all honestly, it’s a relief to see the Hong Kong government, with this Policy Address, finally leading the way to the future.

The blueprint portrayed by the chief executive aims to create synergy with the neighboring city of Shenzhen and build a second economic center for Hong Kong.

For more than a decade, Hong Kong has been labeled as a stagnant city: The industrial structure has remained unchanged, growth has been declining, and many young people feel hopeless in climbing up the social ladder. People left the city with despair of its future plans and developments. As a result of these factors, the city was plagued with anxiety and rage, causing social unrest in recent years.

Unfortunately, when the essence of the deadlock was misinterpreted, the city was out of joint. Even some policies were rolled out in a scattered and mismatched manner. People simply need to rekindle hope with the government’s solutions. For instance, the innovation industry development plan, which is set to establish a new growth point for the city, is faced with a severe shortage of talent, which will take years to attract and nurture. Or the Lantau Tomorrow Vision, costing so much to create land near Hong Kong’s central business district for public housing, it is theoretically not economically optimal to solve the urgent housing crisis.

The Policy Address is setting everything straight with the right logic. It is obvious that Central-driven “finance and trade” Hong Kong has reached its ceiling. Hong Kong needs a new growth point and a new city center. But creating one from scratch is too hard in this ever-changing world; we must reach out to others for the answer.

With Shenzhen’s city center near its border, Hong Kong is at the vicinity of the best solution — incorporating with its sister city next door so that the “legend of the two cities” will come true. The radiate effect of one of the world’s best innovation hubs is likely to burst into an explosive synergy. New opportunities, which are scarcely created within Hong Kong, will spew from Shenzhen’s city centers, including Qianhai, Futian and Luohu. According to Hong Kong government data, the total number of jobs in the metropolis will increase to about 650,000 from the present 116,000, including 150,000 innovation and technology-related ones.

The 540,000 new positions, equivalent to 14 percent of Hong Kong’s labor force of 3.9 million, will create significant improvements for the career prospects of young people and livelihoods of ordinary families, let alone the indirectly created opportunities. Thus, many deep-rooted problems can be eased.

Moreover, a strong industrial foundation is a perfect bedrock for massive township development. The New Territories, which has abundant land resources, is an ideal place for Hong Kong’s housing redemption.

Agricultural land, brownfields, and low-value areas of wetlands and country parks are more viable and cost-efficient for development compared with land reclamation, as long as they are strategically planned and resumed. That will change the whole development momentum of Hong Kong.

On the other side of the border, Shenzhen, which has been looking for new spaces in neighboring mainland cities to expand its innovation, science and technology industries, will also benefit from the land and human resources in the New Territories.

From a national-level perspective, imagine what would happen if New York City were to border Silicon Valley. We can surely expect the same when China’s New York and Silicon Valley merge. This is what the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area blueprint is all about for the country.

Meanwhile, with the powerhouse of the economy shifting north, the Lantau east coast reclamation, which is about 4 kilometers from Western Hong Kong Island, will be refocused for the expansion of the central business district, boosting the city’s status as an international financial center. Such a project will largely unleash the potential value of the man-made land.

Now everything is resuming in the right place.

Though the Northern Metropolis plan will take years to unfold, moving in the right direction is the foundation of success. After all those wasted years, Hong Kong is finally on its way to building a better future.

With great hope, it is time for Hong Kong people to seize the opportunities and work together to create a new golden age.

The author is a member of the Guangdong Province Zhongshan City Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and an executive vice-chairman of the Hong Kong CPPCC Youth Association.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.