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China must take holistic approach to future of Hong Kong

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By Edward Tse, CEO of Gao Feng 

Hong Kong’s government has a reputation for being inward-looking when it comes to formulating policies.

Prior to the 1997 handover, such an approach was acceptable and made sense, as Hong Kong was separated from mainland China.

However, interactions between the city and mainland have significantly increased since the handover.

The government must now take a more holistic approach to understanding the overall developments on the mainland and their implications for the future of Hong Kong.

A case in point is Hong Kong’s land use planning. 

Enabled by internet connectivity, cross-border collaboration will become more and more convenient and effective.

These enhanced linkages will facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration among global citizens, which will in turn boost innovation. Education will become more inclusive, as massive open online courses become a major source of continuous learning for the wider public.

Disruptive technologies such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data and cloud computing will automate and connect various systems in cities, transforming urban regions. Cities in general will become “smarter” and clusters of megacities or even mega corridors will emerge.

The Pearl River Delta is likely to become China’s key R&D and technology region, developing world-class capabilities in automation, robotics, the internet of things and intelligent manufacturing.

So, what do these shifts mean for Hong Kong?

First, the significant increase in interactions between Hong Kong and rest of the Pearl River Delta will see some roles between the two localities either overlap or reinforce each other, while a clearer division in other roles will emerge.

Second, as connectivity improves, workplaces will become very different. Third, while the traditional forms may have had their day, manufacturing in its newer forms – cyber-physical systems such as a smart grid, collaborative robots, 3D printing and mass customisation – could surface in Hong Kong.

Thus, consideration should be given to the design of intelligent industrial parks. Fourth, several new sectors will probably grow in significance in Hong Kong, such as financial technology, “connected health” and biotech.

Finally, as the SAR becomes a smart city that provides a more liveable environment, consideration should be given to reusing areas not suitable for living, such as turning old landfills into green facilities; allocating suitable areas for the recycling of waste; and designing more areas for leisure activities such as cycling and jogging.

Also, as technology transforms the automotive industry, our transport infrastructure and policies will need to be re-evaluated.

As China and the world evolve, Hong Kong will need to do so too, and that includes its land use planning framework.

Edward Tse is founder and CEO, Gao Feng Advisory Company, a global strategy and management consulting firm with roots in China.


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