Hong Kong (Xie Guanglei/China News Service)
BritCham's SAR head Andrew Seaton bullish on foreign investors, mainland firms
The "One Country, Two Systems" principle plays a crucial role in Hong Kong's continuous success and development, providing a guarantee for the city's legal system, free flow of information and free market, said Andrew Seaton, executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong.
The principle has given the city a unique feature to differentiate itself from cities on the Chinese mainland, allowing it to be commercially successful as well as enjoying high international connectivity, the Brit-Cham chief said during an exclusive interview with China Daily.
Seaton's life has been tightly woven into China. His interest in Chinese history in high school became his specialty in university, and eventually led him to Britain's diplomatic service, with his career spent mostly handling United Kingdom's relations with, and policy toward, the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.
Seaton successively served as the head of the China Department in the Foreign Office of the UK and as the British Consul-General in Hong Kong and Macao, before landing a job at the BritCham, managing the chamber which has over 1,000 members ranging from major multinational companies to small and medium-sized enterprises.
During his years in China, Seaton had witnessed great changes that unfolded in Beijing.
His first visit to Beijing was in the 1970s, when he was on an exchange program at Peking University. "The capital was almost entirely low-rise. There was no neon, no advertising anywhere. And the streets were full of people on bicycles," he said.
Now in 2017, Beijing has developed into a cosmopolitan city with huge skyscrapers. Streets are full of cars, Seaton observed.
Official data show that over the past five years, the Chinese mainland's GDP rose from 54 trillion yuan (.5 trillion) to 80 trillion yuan, contributing more than 30 percent to global economic growth.
The British chamber chief is also impressed by the nation's growing attraction to foreign investors. He attributed the attractiveness to the Chinese mainland's change of development mode, shifting from previous focus on numeric growth targets to quality growth that highlights sustainability.
"In recent years, people have got used to China's specific numeric growth targets, like 7 percent, 6.5 percent growth. However, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has put quality growth on the center stage, in a way to reduce inequality and promote a balanced development which would benefit more people," Seaton said.
In the report delivered at the Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that the Party "must put quality first and give priority to performance", and "will foster new growth areas and drivers of growth in medium-high end consumption, innovation-driven development, the green and low-carbon economy, the sharing economy, modern supply chains, and human capital services".
Commenting on that vision, Seaton said, "The shift is important to China's economy, and equally important to foreign companies that want to do business in China, as it reflects the change of the nation's development priority."
The veteran diplomat said he expects great developments in the Chinese mainland's service sector, since a growing middle class, who are becoming wealthier and more mature, create considerable spending power and have higher expectations of things they consume.
Demand will increase from both individual and corporate customers, Seaton said.
Being part of Hong Kong's business community since 2015, Seaton observed that the special administrative region under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle enjoys unique assets that attract foreign investors as well as helps mainland companies to go global.