Hong Kong has prolonged been during a forefront of globalisation, unprotected and exposed to a disruptive forces; a bellwether city struggling to stay forward of an ever-changing curve.
Yet a significance is too mostly relegated to a small footnote in a grand intrigue of informal analysis. Take a Asia Development Bank (ADB) 2050 report, for example. This news envisages a presentation of 7 mercantile stars to lead Asia’s rise: China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand. But it does not discuss Hong Kong.
One can know because it has been excluded. By a spin of a half-century, a “one country, dual systems” agreement that guaranteed Hong Kong’s entrepreneur mercantile and domestic complement for 50 years after a handover from Britain in 1997 will have expired. Hong Kong’s economy will be regarded merely as a partial of a wider Chinese economy and any discuss of it competence therefore seem redundant.
But there are dual problems with a ADB’s vision.
Firstly, in unwell to discuss Hong Kong, it encourages a faith that a city is no longer an critical mercantile actor in a possess right, usually when it is operative in tandem with mainland China.
Secondly, it overstates a significance of China and understates a significance of Southeast Asia. It regards China as a pivotal mercantile player; Southeast Asia as merely an appendage.
In fact, a fortunes of China and Southeast Asia are interlinked. What’s more, for these enmeshed partners to duty scrupulously they need Hong Kong – and not merely as a center man, as has traditionally been a box – yet as a vital focus that enables them to precedence any other’s strengths by regulating a city’s authorised and financial systems.
The ADB mentions that, in 2010, a 7 economies had a sum sum domestic product (GDP) of US$14.2 trillion (HK$110 trillion), accounting for 87 per cent of Asian GDP. They also had a sum race of 3.1 billion, 78 per cent of a Asian total.
It also forecasts that a 7 economies will grow to comment for 90 per cent of Asian GDP – and 45 per cent of tellurian outlay – even as their share of a Asian race falls to 73 per cent.
Amid these numbers, a ADB’s account stays intensely positive.
What it fails to discuss is a greying outcome foresee to strike a Chinese economy by 2030. A full 20 years before a duration a ADB is articulate about, China is approaching to feel a full mercantile brunt of a ageing workforce.
The best ways for China to residence this problem would be possibly to immigrate some production to Southeast Asia or to import younger Southeast Asian work into China (or even a brew of both).
In possibly case, Hong Kong can be a absolute match in assisting to bond China with Southeast Asia’s over-abundance work and land, not slightest by lending a financial and authorised imagination – unequaled in a region.
Hong Kong’s significance is also neglected in HSBC’s Trade Winds report. This news records that in 2015, tellurian trade reached US$17.9 trillion, and forecasts it to soar to US$27.8 trillion and US$68.5 trillion in 2025 and 2050 respectively.
Yet it, too, fails to embody Hong Kong in a analysis, observant zero about a purpose it can play nor a lessons it can parlay to mainland China formed on a prior knowledge in trade with Southeast Asia.
Asia’s share of tellurian exports is foresee to arise from around a third in 2015 to 46 per cent in 2050; while Western Europe’s share is approaching to decrease from 34 per cent to 24 per cent, and North America’s to tumble from 12 per cent to 10 per cent.
As a trade pier and vital logistical hub, Hong Kong apparently has a purpose to play in this expansion, generally in joining Southeast Asia to China (though it will not be means to do probity to this purpose if by 2050 it has turn a small debasing appendage to mainland China).
A third report, this one by McKinsey Global Institute, forecasts that by as early as 2030, Southeast Asia will have a fourth-largest GDP in a world, after a United States, China and Japan.
Again, small is mentioned of Hong Kong in this context. It is usually pragmatic that Hong Kong will benefit from a informal expansion emanate – zero is pronounced of how Hong Kong can offer as a overpass between China and Southeast Asia.
To slight Hong Kong’s informal purpose in behaving as only such a overpass is both self defeating and a rejection of history. Remarkable congruity has existed between Hong Kong and Southeast Asia given during slightest a 1950s. In that decade, for example, afterwards Malaya partnered with a late Hong Kong filmmaker Sir Run Run Shaw in several productions. And when Malaysia wanted to normalise a family with China in a 1970s, it incited to Hong Kong businessmen with tighten ties to a British and Chinese governments to help.
Over a years there have been vast such examples of how a city has connected Southeast Asia with China, yet it is loyal that Hong Kong has been gradually vouchsafing go of this role, calculating it is easier to make a vast bucks by cosying adult to a mainland.
So maybe Hong Kong, too, contingency redeem a chronological consciousness, or it will find itself incompetent to play a purpose in assisting a Chinese mainland rivet a region.
Hong Kong is a microcosm of Asia. When it is placed outward a context of Asian growth – possibly by informal analysts or a possess absentmindedness – a lessons that can be learnt from a city’s growth are missed.
By 2050, 75 per cent of Asians are foresee to live in civic cities. The chances are that a vast shred of them will be held in possibly a middle-income or misery trap. Cramped vital spaces will be a norm. In other words, conditions identical to those of benefaction day Hong Kong, whose swarming streets and civic stretch are monuments to because city formulation can't be neglected.
But there are other lessons to learn from a city’s radiant towers and urbanised population; not slightest among them, a sign of a city’s story as a region’s barometer of globalisation.
Phar Kim Beng is a former academician of a Japan Foundation and boss of Echo Strategic Insight