By Duan Ting
The Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative will strengthen Hong Kong’s role as a super-connector that can facilitate mutual investments between companies from the Chinese mainland and their counterparts from economies along the B&R routes, cashing in on the city’s decades-long experience in liaising with regional peers, a prominent business leader told the China Daily Roundtable Leadership Luncheon on “Hong Kong Super-Connecting the Belt and Road” on Wednesday.
“For example, many of our members are Hong Kong companies with 40 to 50 years’ experience in investing in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and are thus very familiar with these markets. If SOEs (State-owned enterprises) are interested in ASEAN, they can cooperate with Hong Kong enterprises in doing business there. As Premier Li Keqiang has said, mainland and Hong Kong enterprises should tap the opportunities in international markets,” said Jonathan Choi Koon-shum, chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.
Before the kick-off of the B&R project, Hong Kong was already an investor with an established business reputation in the B&R markets, especially the ASEAN countries, and many of the Hong Kong enterprises are very experienced in investing in the property, finance and manufacturing sectors in those economies.
To set up a strong combination of Hong Kong and mainland companies in going globally, Choi urged mainland enterprises to create joint ventures with their Hong Kong peers, and adopt Hong Kong’s business management experience, which is more suitable for the B&R economies. In addition, mainland companies can have stakes in their Hong Kong counterparts which have well-established themselves in overseas markets.
Hong Kong has been pushing to take up the role of a “super-connector” for the B&R project since it was mooted by President Xi Jinping three years ago. Choi said the SAR, as a “super-connector” to promote bilateral investments, can also act as a financing center, such as a hub for fundraising or IPOs (initial public offerings). The city can further offer professional services like legal and accounting services in line with international standards, making it easier for mainland companies to go out.
However, he warned that investing in the B&R countries does bring risks. “The biggest challenge is political instability. Prior to the B&R Initiative, Hong Kong’s relationship with Southeast Asian countries, for instance, was purely based on trade, but there are now geopolitical issues — the relationship between China and other countries, as well as the uncertainties in these countries, all of which pose challenges to investment.”
Choi allayed fears over the mainland’s tighter capital control on capital outflow, adding that capital control will not have any impact on B&R investments as Hong Kong can be a fundraising center. So, it’s unnecessary to transfer money from the onshore to the offshore market.
“Indeed, implementing capital control measures is to prevent illegal money-transfers, but not real investments,” he said.