Hong Kong trade officials recently organized a Belt and Road seminar in Milan, Italy. Our hard-working Miss Choi rhapsodized about China’s ‘visionary’ initiative, the ‘super-connector’, far-reaching opportunities, pillar industries, logistics and innovation. She also allayed Italy’s apparent concerns about Hong Kong’s links to tax evasion (Italians, as we all know, being the planet’s most scrupulous and eager taxpayers).
While this was happening, other Hong Kong bureaucrats were holding a Belt and Road seminar in Montreal. According to the civil servant hosting that show:
“With a gross economic volume of US$22,000 billion and a total population of 4.4 billion along the Belt and Road, the Initiative offers businesses unparalleled opportunities to tap into new markets …
“With our distinctive advantage of being a ‘super-connector’ operating under the ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement, Hong Kong can play a central role in delivering the enormous opportunities presented by the Belt and Road Initiative.”
(Fun fact: of the 80 countries that are ‘part of’ the Belt and Road thing, hardly any have agreed to get involved, signed up to anything, or even been informed that they have been roped into the incomprehensible ‘Initiative’. They were included without even being asked – a bit like the way the Mormons baptize your dead ancestors without telling you.)
Hong Kong’s efforts to push Belt and Road know no bounds. If It’s Thursday, This Must Be Romania.
Meanwhile, up in Seoul, Commerce Secretary Greg So and his entourage were signing a memorandum on Hong Kong-Korean cooperation in creative industries. Much raving about collaboration and mutual benefits and opportunities ensued – indeed, it was so exciting they totally forgot to mention Belt and Road.
No chance of that back here, where Chief Secretary Carrie Lam was attending the 21st Working Meeting of the Hong Kong/Guangdong Co-operation Joint Conference. (Is it really 21 already? How time flies when you’re having fun.) This one actually gets reported in the press, possibly because it took place at Tamar, convenient for reporters, or maybe because Carrie and Provincial Vice-Governor He signed an impressive 92 ‘cooperation items’. They covered…
…the Belt and Road Initiative, liberalisation of trade in services, innovation and technology, financial services, youth, education, professional services, environmental protection, etc.
By ‘etc’, we can assume that the government’s writer of press releases was running out of patience.
Needless to say, space does not permit us to list the 92 items in detail. They include the pestilential ‘cruise’ industry, which never seems to go away, plus the Five Year Plan and some stuff about the Qianhai Zone-Hub, and of course the ‘Ten Thousand, Thousand, Hundred and Ten’ Development Target, with which we are all so familiar. But to give an example of the specifics, one item involves ‘encouragement’ for Guangdong companies to remember Hong Kong and possibly toss some contracts our way when building Belt and Road projects, like the high-speed rail network Uzbekistan didn’t realize it wanted. It all sounds a bit whiny and pathetic, but perhaps that’s the idea – to make Provincial Vice-Governor He feel big and important compared with little old Hong Kong begging for spare scraps. (Clue: Carrie insists we are taking this baloney ‘very seriously’.)
This was just one day (give or take time zones) in the busy life of our dedicated and tireless administration. We will possibly get around to the air pollution, overcrowded hospitals, traffic gridlock, student suicides and other icky stuff In Due Course – but not before declaring the four-day weekend open.