Hong Kong set to play key role in Southeast Asia growth

Updated 2017-06-29 10:34:27 Xinhua

Ever since China resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong 20 years ago, the mainland has stood fully behind the city and underpinned its prosperity.[Special coverage]

With the backing of the motherland and facing the world, Hong Kong has become a platform for Southeast Asian nations to expand their markets and seek new development opportunities.

International observers have said that Hong Kong's advantage will be further enlarged following the implementation and advancement of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, and that Southeast Asia is expected to join hands in this global endeavor.

BACKING OF MOTHERLAND

The backing of the Chinese mainland is undoubtedly an irreplaceable advantage and a lasting attraction of Hong Kong compared to other economies in the world.

Given their geographic proximity, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia have a long history of contact, and the scale of bilateral cooperation has only expanded since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule.

Take the last 10-year period for instance. The value of bilateral commodity trade between Hong Kong and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has increased by 72 percent. There are 547 ASEAN enterprises in Hong Kong as of June 2016, among which 54 are headquartered in the city, according to the Census and Statistics Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Bambang Suryono, an Indonesian scholar and president of the Jakarta-based think tank Nanyang ASEAN Foundation, said Indonesia and other ASEAN nations have very close ties with Hong Kong, which has become a bridge and hub connecting the Chinese mainland and Southeast Asia.

With the increasingly closer economic and trade ties between China and Southeast Asia, Hong Kong's status has become ever more unique, he said.

Data has shown that nearly 90 percent of annual transit trade Southeast Asia conducted through Hong Kong eventually ended up on the Chinese mainland, and the value is rising.

FACING THE WORLD

Having gradually evolved into a financial and trade center in the Asia Pacific region as early as the 1970s, Hong Kong has further consolidated its economic status in the region after returning to China, becoming not only the top choice among Southeast Asian nations for establishing external economic ties, but also their favorite investment destination.

Li Xingyu, executive director of the socio-economic research center at the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia, said that finance is the sector in which Hong Kong shows the strongest international competitiveness, and that not only does the city have a solid foundation as an international financial hub, it has also weathered several challenges, most notably the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2008 global economic recession.

Li said the strength of Hong Kong's finance industry is the very reason why big Malaysian banks such as Maybank and Commerce International Merchant Bank have headquarters there.

Noting the presence of investors from Hong Kong in the developing nations of Asia, Chen Zhangcheng, chair of Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said they have created many job opportunities and generated plenty of tax revenue in the 10 ASEAN nations.

The Philippines is willing to tap into its geographic advantage and strive for more investment from Hong Kong, he added.

B&R CHARTS FUTURE

Facing the opportunities brought about by the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, Honk Kong, an important knot along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, is set to see its further gains with Southeast Asia, a region also covered by the Belt and Road Initiative.

Chen said Hong Kong is capable of providing substantial assistance in financing to the Philippines, which he said has a poor economic foundation.

Yet, the advantages Manila has in terms of both the English-speaking environment and the comparatively low labor costs cannot be ignored, Chen said, adding the country can export high quality labor force to Hong Kong and other economies along the Belt and Road.

Cooperation between Hong Kong and Thailand within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative has come to early fruition, which is reflected in the signing in May of a bilateral memorandum of understanding on cooperation in Thailand's Eastern Economic Corridor.

Somkid Jatusripitak, deputy prime minister of Thailand, said that Hong Kong is a hub in the Asia Pacific region and an international metropolis while Thailand connects Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam, so the prospect for the two sides to step up cooperation is promising.

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