HK summit attracts Wall Street titans, financial elites, ‘showing confidence in HK as hub under One Country, Two Systems’
Published: Nov 03, 2022 12:33 AM
Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu welcomes hundreds of global financial elites, including Wall Street titans at an investment summit in Hong Kong on November 2, 2022. Photo: VCG

Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu welcomes hundreds of global financial elites, including Wall Street titans at an investment summit in Hong Kong on November 2, 2022. Photo: VCG

Despite the impact of an approaching tropical storm, hundreds of financial leaders including Wall Street titans gathered on Wednesday at the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong for its biggest international event in years with a clear message delivered to the world - the city's role as a global financial hub remains steadier and the city is embracing a bright future with full confidence. 

When the world is grappling with surging inflation and rising geopolitical tensions, such confidence is gained and further strengthened by the country's overall blueprint for development issued at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) with clear guidelines for the city, correct practice of the One Country, Two Systems and Hong Kong's unique position of connecting the Chinese mainland with the world. 

Still, some Western media and observers, with a consistent sour grapes mentality, hyped the absence of a very few top bankers, while some US lawmakers urged top American bankers to cancel their attendance, citing so-called rights abuses. Such a large-scale gathering of global financial leaders such as Goldman Sachs' chairman and CEO David Solomon, Morgan Stanley's chairman and CEO James Gorman and Blackstone's CFO Michael Chae served as a strong rebuttal to the hype and bad-mouthing of the city's status, as the long-term benefits these multinational institutions and Wall Street chiefs can gain from Hong Kong as a global financial hub and from the huge Chinese market through the city remain unchanged, observers and industry representatives said. American business elites are not likely to give up on these long-term growth interests to yield to political pressure. 

Addressing the opening session of the Global Financial Leaders' Investment Summit, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said as he welcomed the assembled financial leaders, he likes to call it the "Hong Kong Onstage Again Summit," as the city is back on the stage of doing business with the world, as the summit welcomed financial leaders from about 20 countries and economies. 

"The worst is behind us," he said, as social disturbance in the city is clearly in the past. "It has given way to stability, to growing business and community confidence in Hong Kong's future. Law and order has returned," Lee said. 

As Chinese President Xi Jinping mentioned on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the city's return to the motherland and in the report to the 20th National Congress of the CPC, One Country, Two Systems must be upheld for the long term, which gives unique advantages to the city that is ranked as the world's freest economy. Also, the city remains the only place in the world where global advantages and China's advantages come together in a single city, and this unique convergence makes it irreplaceable connection between the mainland and the world, Lee said. 

Some business representatives and industry observers believe that the large-scale participation in the event shows that on one hand, Hong Kong has been accelerating its opening up to the world by easing anti-epidemic measures, returning to its essential status as a global financial hub, and on the other hand, global finance elites hope to learn and experience positive changes following the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong and the electoral reform. 

Most importantly, they believe that in long run, there are tremendous investment opportunities in the mainland, and hope the city will continue serving as a bridge. 

Full confidence  

"Don't bet against China," Fang Xinghai, vice chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said in a video address to more than 200 top financial leaders at the summit, reiterating that China's opening can only become "bigger and bigger" going forward, according to media reports. 

"I deal with international investors quite a lot in my daily work and I'm afraid some of them have read too much [of] the international media reports about events in China," Fang said, who also got a big laugh from the audience, media reported. 

"Let me put it this way, they really don't understand China very well and they have a short-term focus. I would advise the international investors to find out what's really going on in China and what's the real intention of our government by themselves," Fang was quoted as saying in the reports.

Wall Street chiefs including Goldman Sachs' Solomon and Morgan Stanley's Gorman focused on talking about inflation, market volatility and whether central banks can engineer a soft landing around the world during a panel discussion at the summit. 

In an interview with Bloomberg Television outside of the summit, HSBC Holdings Plc CEO Noel Quinn said he was upbeat on China. "We are continuing to invest in our wealth business in China and also in Singapore and India," Quinn said. "China will emerge from COVID. It will rebound."

The international financial sector highly values investment in Hong Kong not only because of the huge benefits brought by the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), the mainland's dual circulation strategy and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area  development, but more importantly because the city is the only international market that can invest in opportunities in the mainland, Liang Haiming, dean of the Belt and Road Institute at Hainan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"International financial investment in mainland companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange is equivalent to investing in the mainland, in order to share the huge dividends brought by the steady development of the Chinese economy," he said. 

The attendance of global financial leaders at the summit reflects the long-term confidence in Hong Kong as a global financial hub, showing they continue to hold an optimistic view of China's future prospects, Liang said. 

Full support 

A number of senior officials from Chinese financial institutions including Yi Gang, governor of the People's Bank of China, Fang Xinghai, and Xiao Yuanqi, vice-chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, attended the summit, where they addressed the position of the country and of the city amid growing global economic headwinds. A clear message was unleashed - the city has the full support of the country to maintain its advantages and the overall Chinese economy is resilient with reform and opening-up continuing. 

The international business community has been eager to learn about China's economic policies and development blueprints following the 20th CPC National Congress - a significant event which charted a direction of the country's overall development in the future. Observers said the Biden administration has failed to pressure Wall Street to turn against China because American business elites will not give up the huge dividends they gain from the Chinese market, and many believe the Chinese market will continue to open. 

The potential and opportunities of Hong Kong as an international financial hub are boundless, Hong Kong Financial Secretary Paul Chan said at the summit. These are enabled by "Our fund-raising platforms, our role in the renminbi's internationalization, the unique connect schemes with the mainland, asset and wealth management, center for risk and corporate treasury management and much more. The list could be long," he said. 

"Western politicians and media bad-mouthing against Hong Kong has limited impact on international financial institutions, as Western countries are struggling in the economic downturn, so those institutions are eager to find more opportunities," Lau Siu-kai, deputy head of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies and a senior government policy adviser, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"Hong Kong is a very important international financial center and will be an increasingly important renminbi offshore center in the future, which is very important for international financial institutions," he said.