Greater Bay Area plan offers unprecedented opportunities to HK youth

By Chen Qingqing in Hong Kong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/10 16:13:12

Young Hongkongers struggling in economic downturn should not turn a blind eye to closer integration, bright future

A street view in Hong Kong's downtown distict Photo: Chen Qingqing/GT

Dressed in suit, Angus Ng Hok Ming rushed into West Kowloon Railway Station at noon on Friday and headed toward South China's Guangzhou. The 37-year-old entrepreneur has now become a regular traveler between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the Chinese mainland as he eyes growing opportunities under the plan for the development of a new Greater Bay Area. 

Ng, who grew up in Hong Kong and studied in the US, returned to the city to start his own business in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the new regional city cluster expected to generate unprecedented opportunities for businesses and young entrepreneurs.  

The new bay area, which is home to 71.16 million people, had a total GDP of $1.6 trillion in 2018, which was the third highest after the Tokyo Bay and New York metropolitan areas, according to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).

Today, Hong Kong people are becoming anxious about their future as the city was hit by record-low economic growth, which weighs on the stability and livelihoods of the young generation. Some have been struggling amid limited job opportunities and resources and they see little hope in the future of the city.  

"Why don't they choose another way out instead of locking themselves in this little space?" Li Pui, chairman of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Youth Society, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Recent protests in Hong Kong have led local officials, business representatives and scholars to re-examine what is wrong with HK's young generation, as high school students and social workers accounted for a large part of the protestors who flooded the streets. 

Ng said he believes the greater bay area plan, which integrates HKSAR, Macao SAR and Guangdong Province, will enhance young Hong Kong people's understanding of the development and growing opportunities in a broader context. Authorities in the region are offering favorable policies to facilitate investment and to encourage entrepreneurship. 

"We have much to learn from the mainland in fostering tech innovation, for example, as companies like Tencent, DJI and Huawei were founded in Shenzhen (South China's Guangdong Province), not in Hong Kong," he told the Global Times on Friday. 

"In the mainland, we have e-commerce, mobile digital wallets and so many other emerging businesses, and we're losing that kind of innovative spirit in Hong Kong," he said. 

New opportunities 

Hong Kong, as a major trading and financial hub, has also been affected by the escalating trade tensions between China and the US over the past year, and business has become widely pessimistic across all major sectors, according to HKTDC. 

"Decline in exports and sluggish external demand weighed on consumption and investment, which cast a shadow on overall confidence in Hong Kong's economy," Billy Wong, deputy director of the research department at HKTDC, told the Global Times on Friday.

This pessimism has become more apparent with the widening wealth gap, lack of jobs, worsening land and housing crisis, and rising competition. These problems are becoming major social issues that the young generation in Hong Kong is increasingly spooked. 

However, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area plan offers new opportunities to young Hong Kong people, who should not turn a blind eye to the vast integration project providing more opportunities for talent and  business representatives, analysts said. 

"Hong Kong industries are mainly service-based and complement sectors in nine cities across the mainland; It can play the role of a global financial and trading platform," Wong said, noting that as the bay area aims to become more international, Hong Kong's experience could help the region achieve that goal.

Many young entrepreneurs like Ng have not taken a radical stance in demonstrating their anger and disappointment at HK's economic slowdown and the city's decline in its overall competitiveness. 

On the contrary, they have been reminded that it is now time to broaden their horizons and cooperate with the Chinese mainland, as cooperation could lead to a brighter future. 

Li, who called himself a grassroots entrepreneur, now operates marketing and culture exchange programs in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. "I understand why some young Hong Kong people today are frustrated and scared, because many of them have never visited mainland cities and they don't understand why they can surpass Hong Kong in some sectors like high-tech," he said. 

"It's time to open their eyes and grasp these huge opportunities, as the Bay area development is to open up more opportunities for them."

Attracting young talent 

Authorities in Guangdong have stepped up efforts to attract more talent to the Bay area by offering favorable policies such as granting special funds, encouraging tech incubators and streamlining administrative approval of foreign firms. 

Shenzhen, which has been deemed a new Silicon Valley, also worked out new policies for Hong Kong entrepreneurs recently, for example, subsidizing internship and entrepreneurship in Shenzhen's Qianhai, a district bordering Hong Kong, according to a public statement released by the Hong Kong government on Sunday. 

"Hong Kong graduates who fulfill certain requirements can receive one-time financial aid ranging from 10,000 yuan ($1,452.30) to 50,000 yuan," the statement said, adding that young Hong Kong people who come to work in Qianhai could also be granted subsidies to rent apartments. 

Lee Wai Lok, a Hong Kong young adult from Wong Tai Sin, has purchased an apartment in Jiangmen, a southern city in Guangdong, and said he could afford to buy a home in a mainland city but he could not do the same in Hong Kong where home prices are too expensive for young people.

"Hong Kong's limited growth was partially due to the land problem, which also restricts the young generation from moving upward in society," he said, noting that the Bay area plan provides more space for future development, which is a major function that has been neglected by many young people in Hong Kong. 

Improve understanding

Li, chairman of the Youth Society, is planning to introduce more primary school and middle school students to visit other cities in the Bay area, as there is a general lack of understanding of the greater Bay development plan, to get a taste of the mainland's successful experiences in technology development.

"I saw opportunity on the other side, and now I have more friends in the mainland than in Hong Kong. I have to help other people understand why they have to cooperate with companies in the mainland," he said. 

The chairman believes that gradually, more Hong Kong people will be able to see what the mainland market really looks like and that they will understand that the greater Bay area plan is creating plentiful opportunities for young people in Hong Kong and Macao. 

From 2019 to 2020, the Home Affairs Bureau of HKSAR will provide funding of around HK$120 million ($15.36 million) to support 149 youth internship projects in the mainland. This is expected to benefit about 3,800 young people, according to information on the local government's website. 

Hong Kong can play its role of a global financial hub and it can provide experience in fundraising, global services and management, Wong noted.

"'One country, two systems' has shored up Hong Kong's major edges, but we still need to figure out how to integrate more smoothly under the Bay area plan. For example, to make the flow of material, people and information more efficiently," he said.  


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