An MTR train approaches University Station in Hong Kong.Wang Xin / Xinhua
As part of the celebrations to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland, the financial hub is hoping to gain momentum from the Chinese mainland to orchestrate Belt and Road Initiative undertakings.[Special coverage]
"After years of theory and the construction of a mechanism, this year, we have seen the grand plan essentially get off the ground," said Cheng Shi, head of research at ICBC International Holdings.
The development was underscored by the high-level Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, held in Beijing last month and attended by 29 head of states and delegates from more than 130 nations, which saw 270 agreements concluded.
The Belt and Road Initiative, first mooted in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, involves 60 countries and regions. It aims to build an interconnected network of expressways, along with rail and logistics lines to link land and sea ports, special economic zones, industrial corridors and transportation hubs, from the Chinese mainland to Europe, Africa and other parts of Asia.
At the two-day summit, MTR Corp, which operates Hong Kong's public transport network, unveiled a plan to partner with the State-owned China Railway Corp to bid for a contract to build a high-speed railway that will link Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia.
The move is the first Belt and Road-related investment project for MTR, which has a long track record of global business expansion, including winning the franchise to run South West Trains in the United Kingdom for seven years. It also underscores Hong Kong's potential as a leading exporter of public services management and operational expertise along the route.
Yet, the flagship MTR brand is not the whole story of Hong Kong's involvement in the initiative. As a world-renowned financial hub, the city's role in the initiative is defined by its leading edge in the financial sector - one of the pillars of its economy, Cheng said.