Over the weekend, my birthplace Hong Kong celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its return from British to Chinese sovereignty.
The past two decades have seen the territory flourish as a centre for financial, technological and legal innovation, serving to improve East/West trade.
The year 1997 was one of uncertainty regarding Hong Kong. What many people failed to understand back then was that Hong Kong and China both need each other. I do not think this will ever change.
Tony Blair, who became the Prime Minister two months before the handover, saw Hong Kong’s future as a bridge between our countries.
I viewed it in that way too, and this year marks another landmark for me personally: my company, The Global Group, has also run for two decades. Whereas some other companies were cautious and planned to move their corporate headquarters from Hong Kong to Australia, Bermuda and elsewhere, I saw this as my big break.
Now, 20 years on, we are proud to be based in Hong Kong. The Global Group’s motto is “Bridging the New Frontiers” and Hong Kong is still the indispensable link between the East and West. The location means we have excellent links to mainland business hubs, like those in the Pearl River Delta and further afield like Shanghai, as well as lesser-known cities that are also full of great business prospects.
Hong Kong also has great links to financial centres in London, New York and emerging markets along the “Belt and Road” – the new Silk Road.
“One country, two systems” has allowed Hong Kong to develop on a global scale, combining its unique advantages with the strength and potential of the mainland economy.
There have been ups and downs and these will continue – but overall there has been great mutual benefit, such as in listing mainland firms and, like London, helping the Chinese currency to internationalise. I would go so far as to say that I think the wisdom this dual system embodies could help to resolve many seemingly intractable conflicts and disputes around the world.
Looking to the future, I believe Hong Kong will continue to prosper. We are entering a very interesting stage, as China is increasingly leading in what is being hailed as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, with its development of robots, genetic engineering and new materials.
Over the next 20 years, I predict that Hong Kong and its people will continue to show resilience and dynamism. Changes will take place and we will be able to adapt and flourish in any environment.
After all, Hong Kong’s hard working and adaptable nature is what has led to our ranking as the world’s freest economy in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom for 23 consecutive years.
Technology is booming here, and businesses are working to establish Hong Kong as a centre for fintech development and investment. Where better placed than an area with over 70 out of the top 100 world banks?
As a businessman of Chinese origin, I took tremendous pride in Hong Kong’s return back in 1997 and I still feel this way. Now, more than ever, the UK must look to the East as a place of opportunity.