(HKSAR 20) Expatriate businessmen confident for Hong Kong's future

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-28 21:36:38|Editor: MJ
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HONG KONG, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Many expatriate businessmen, who chose to stay in Hong Kong in 1997 when it returned to China, said that they made the right decision at that time.

Over the past 20 years, Hong kong has not only remained stable, but also undergone rapid development, bringing them lots of business opportunities, they said.

"I opened the office for my current firm on Jan. 1, 1997, and many people at the time thought I was out of my mind ... But I was very convinced that Hong Kong was going to continue to succeed," said Jon Zinke, a partner of a Hong Kong-based international law firm.

Zinke, who moved from the United States to Hong Kong in 1985, is among the many expatriate residents here who came with a plan to stay for a short period, but ultimately fell in love with the place and never left.

In a pamphlet compiled by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (AmCham HK) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return from British rule, Zinke said over the 20 years, Hong Kong has successfully dealt with some "extreme circumstances."

He cited the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the international financial crisis in 2008 as well as the SARS epidemic. "Hong Kong is very resilient, and I foresee a very positive future ... " he said.

In retrospect of Hong Kong's development during the past 20 years, many expatriate businessmen acknowledged that it is a smart decision to choose to stick with Hong Kong.

At a discussion earlier this month at the Washington-based think tank - the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China, AmCham HK Chairman Walter Dias said that just before Hong kong's return in 1997, there were certainly a lot of concerns about how that would work, "because we had never seen any framework like 'one country, two systems' before. Some companies actually decided to leave."

"In hindsight, a lot of people would regret that decision today, because Hong Kong has been so successful. The companies that stuck with Hong Kong during that time have also reaped a lot of benefits and had lots of success," he noted.

According to Dias, members of AmCham HK, the largest international chamber in Hong Kong, remain confident of the Hong Kong's future and see a lot of opportunities for doing business.

"We continue to see really strong FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) numbers. Hong Kong still attracts No. 2 amount of FDI in the world and No. 1 in Asia," he said, "That's something that tells us people see a very positive future for Hong Kong."

Dias said Hong Kong's "unique role as the window of China, a conduit between the East and West, and a super-connector between China and the rest of the world, has further proven the 'one country, two systems' is a successful policy for Hong Kong to continue to shine as a very special Chinese and world city."

Praising the "one country, two systems" as "an amazingly subtle and wonderful idea," John Slosar, chairman of the Swire Pacific Limited, said in a recent interview with Xinhua that the policy created a framework under which both Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland "can continue to develop and get the best out of what they've already gotten going forward."

Under the framework, Hong Kong has been able to maintain its economic competitiveness on the one hand, and become increasingly connected with the Chinese mainland on the other, Slosar said, adding that the rapid growth of the Chinese mainland in recent years "is certainly very good for Hong Kong."

Hans Michael Jebsen, chairman of Hong Kong-based trading conglomerate Jebsen & Co, said Hong Kong has been a good location for firms to headquarter in, and thanks to the "one country, two systems" policy, this function has been "much more emphasized."

When talking about their impression on Hong Kong, many expatriate businessman mentioned its adaptiveness and "can do" attitude.

James Thompson, chairman of the Crown Worldwide Group, said, "The people and government here have proven to be very adaptable to any change in circumstances."

Dias pointed out that Hong Kong has transformed over the years from an industrial center to a world-class service center, providing "a lot of additional opportunities" for business.

"I think professional service is another growing area because of the inter-connectivity of Hong Kong with the Chinese mainland," he said. "The unique features of Hong Kong ... (are) very helpful for Chinese (mainland) companies that want to dip their toe in the international commerce and really go global."

The AmCham chairman also saw the inter-connectivity brought by the Belt and Road Initiative and China's plan to develop the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area as new opportunities for Hong Kong's future development.

Citing the greater bay area as an example, he said, "The AmCham HK will be very interested in how that connectivity is going to impact Hong Kong in the future ... We see a lot of infrastructure projects that are currently going on, (including) Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge, bringing the Pearl River Delta cities together. I think the effect is 'one plus one equals five' in this case, because it's really creating a powerhouse that's going to be very competitive on the global scale in the future."

He said for companies in cities such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou, which have witnessed "amazing development" in recent years, Hong Kong can play a very important role in helping them go global and bringing expertise for sales and marketing.

Referring to the Belt and Road Initiative, Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Holdings ltd., told Xinhua that Hong Kong will "definitely participate and play an important role" in the initiative.

"Hong Kong has a reputation for finance and rule of law," he said, "Most projects of the initiative at the moment are infrastructure projects. Hong Kong has some of the services, and some of its companies can really fit in. In some of the countries, Hong Kong also has the influence of soft power."