By enhancing the connectivity between China and its neighboring countries and establishing closer ties with Europe, Africa and even Oceania, the “One Belt, One Road” strategy proposed by the central authorities will enable China to better implement its “Going Out” blueprint and provide the countries involved with new growth engines to boost their economies. As an international financial center, Hong Kong serves as the gateway for the world to tap the mainland market. It will certainly play a key role under the overall “Belt and Road” framework.

The “One Belt, One Road” strategy is divided into two components — the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Both routes played a prominent role in China’s ancient communication with Eurasian countries. Hong Kong, with its superior geographical location and proximity to the inland provinces along the land-based Silk Road, can transfer its talents, funds and skills to West Asia and eventually to Europe through the economic belt. Also, located along the coast of the South China Sea, Hong Kong is adjacent to the pivot of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. This will enable the city to fully utilize its geographical advantages by connecting the mainland with Southeast Asia, Oceania and Africa.

So how exactly will Hong Kong participate in the implementation of the “Belt and Road” strategy?

Internet finance is an ideal sector for Hong Kong to get involved in. A wholesome legal environment, first-class management experience and mature business models have all contributed to the prosperity of Hong Kong’s financial system, making it a pillar industry.

Guidelines recently released by the central government to promote the development of Internet finance specify the supervisory responsibilities of relevant authorities and require that investors be made aware of the risks by explicit disclosures. The guidelines also stipulate that the protection of lawful operations and crackdowns on illegal behavior must be strengthened. Long regarded as a major international financial center, Hong Kong maintains a sound mechanism of financial regulation and a superior credit system. Financers in Hong Kong are strongly recommended to ride on the rapid development of the Internet finance sector. By seizing this opportunity, they can give full play to their strengths in the implementation of “Belt and Road”, and help further develop the mainland financial industry. Through effective integration with the mainland’s Internet finance sector, Hong Kong can consolidate its position as the prime RMB offshore centre and accelerate the process of internationalization of the RMB.

Apart from Internet finance, cross-border e-commerce can be another channel for Hong Kong to participate in the “Belt and Road” strategy. The “Internet Plus” strategy announced recently by the central authorities to support the development of e-commerce has further boosted the mainland’s already fast-growing e-commerce market. Backed by the two special administrative regions, coastal cities of Guangdong province like Dongguan have taken the initiative to gradually upgrade their industrial base and facilitate economic transformation. Measures taken include giving full support to the cross-border e-commerce sector. The industrialists and businessmen of Hong Kong can take advantage of the Pearl River Delta infrastructure which serves the needs of cross-border e-commerce, and move their storage warehouses to cities such as Dongguan. By doing this, logistical costs can be largely reduced, and cross-border e-commerce can be further promoted.

Last but not least, all social sectors of Hong Kong should persuade the younger generation to form a comprehensive perspective on the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. This will help them better understand the updated development of the mainland and take advantage of the job opportunities this presents. The young people of Hong Kong are fascinated by the cultural customs and natural landscapes of foreign countries. The countries within the “Belt and Road” strategy are perfect places to attract their attention, as they possess countless natural wonders, rich cultures and long histories. The HKSAR Government should help to get the youth involved in the “Belt and Road” strategy in two ways. First, it should reach agreements with countries to provide young people with working holiday visas so that they can engage themselves in the implementation of “Belt and Road” strategy. Second, it should organize internship exchange programs in cooperation with mainland cities, to help young people obtain a fuller picture of the “Belt and Road” strategy. These two measures will guarantee a promising platform for personal growth and further development.

It is hoped that, faced with historic opportunities, all sectors of Hong Kong can pay their best efforts to contributing to the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and to the overall national development.

The author is chairman of Hong Kong Commerce & Industry Associations. This is an English translation of his article published in the Hong Kong Commercial Daily.

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