The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new context for widespread protectionism in international trade, reinforcing the tendency to move away from a laissez-faire business model to a slightly more state-managed economy.
For months, the US-China diplomatic stalemate has left Hong Kong’s top officials confused, powerless and indecisive.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s (林鄭月娥) reaction to the bilateral rivalries was not her finest hour.
Geopolitical complexities make it impossible for the territory to look ahead in a deeply polarized landscape. In addition, health is taking precedence over wealth.
In a post-COVID era, many national leaders are skeptical of laissez-faire as the necessary path toward prosperity.
Although trade barriers are nothing new to Hong Kong, it cannot remain neutral and is becoming an incidental casualty amid worsening US-China relations.
In this volatile environment, Hong Kong officials and business leaders are hoping to use the trade diplomacy mechanism to get the best deals.
Today, Hong Kong and Chinese exports to the US are reportedly subject to quotas and tariffs. These constraints have prompted local industries to adjust to future uncertainty.
With the loss of profit from the manufacturing sector, Hong Kong entrepreneurs are shifting their investment into social media technologies in the Pearl River Delta.
The optimal timing of making such a strategic business adjustment is of great significance.
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the founding of Shenzhen as a special economic zone last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) urged Hong Kong to raise fresh capital for Shenzhen’s transition into a major global financial and high-tech powerhouse.
Effective planning across regional government bureaucracies is always a key to success. Even though infrastructure upgrades and environmental sustainability are at the top of official agendas, Beijing has yet to launch a new regional body that embraces different interest groups, professional bodies and the civic sector in the decisionmaking process.
Evidently, China’s export-driven, labor-intensive system of industrialization has run its course. To avoid losing its edge, Hong Kong’s political and business leaders are eager to join hands with Shenzhen, utilizing the latter’s rich supply of cheap, talented and skilled labor to transform outdated businesses into knowledge-driven industries.
Only by doing so could the territory catch up with Taiwan’s thriving technological and financial sectors, and remain vibrant and competitive during these trying times.
Joseph Tse-hei Lee is a professor of history at Pace University in New York City.
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