How about Hong Kong’s zero-COVID policy – what impact is that having on business?
The policy is painful and debilitating. Hong Kong is a city that is based around connectivity with China and with the rest of the world. When you cut that connectivity, it makes it difficult for people to feel comfortable, even more so when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. It’s extremely difficult to know when this policy will end.
One of the issues that AmCham and many other organizations have is what are the government’s KPIs beyond zero infections. Without these, how can we strategize and plan? [Lacking these] poses a strategic risk for companies and makes for a personal battle for people who haven’t seen their families or clients for a long period of time. That’s exhausting.
Between the national security law and its COVID-19 policy, have we seen a fundamental change in Hong Kong’s attitude towards international business?
Yes. The Hong Kong government is now focused on mainland China, especially economic integration with the mainland.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for international businesses – there are plenty of opportunities. But a huge adjustment is needed to adapt to this new normal, and maybe those who have been in Hong Kong for many years and remember Hong Kong from a different vantage point aren’t comfortable with this.
Quite possibly newcomers, or people who are devoted to mainland China, may see the benefits and opportunities that lie ahead more clearly. Also, if people can see beyond the US China trade friction and political friction, then it’s hard to imagine a world where the US and China aren’t trading. There are too many advantages for these two giant economies not to trade.
That makes it sound like one way or another Hong Kong will remain a gateway to China?
Like many people, I believe that Hong Kong has an incredible position when it comes to business.
Even in this difficult period, there are still some businesses finding opportunities. We’ve seen some relaxation in the financial services ownership rules in China which have opened up opportunities with fields associated with that in asset management and wealth management, and also in logistics.
When it comes to the Greater Bay Area, there are opportunities in retail, real estate, education and healthcare.
China is a huge market, and Hong Kong is part of China. Its core underlying strengths still exist, but it may take a while for companies to be able to take full advantage of them. If it can get through this very difficult period, many people still expect that business can shine again. But it’s going to be a difficult few years.