Welcome to the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit.
Or, as I like to call it, the “Hong Kong Onstage Again Summit”! The back to business stage. The doing business with the world stage. Where we belong stage. With you – financial, investment and business leaders from about 20 countries and economies.
Whatever we call it, your presence today puts a heady exclamation point to this welcome gathering. As I am sure it did last night, too.
I hope you enjoyed the dinner at the West Kowloon Cultural District’s M+ Museum. And the performance from Hong Kong’s own Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. The medley of songs performed by the orchestra brilliantly reflects the spirit of Hong Kong. You’ll be hearing more about that spirit throughout the summit.
Navigating beyond uncertainty
“Navigating Beyond Uncertainty” is our theme today. It’s a refrain that could well speak for the world at large right now.
We are – all of us are – living through uncertain times. The world is working its weary way out from an unprecedented pandemic, now nearly three years in the making, and the unmaking of our economies and communities. Political turmoil is rife and geopolitical tensions rising. Inflation is soaring, the global economy weakening.
And yet, despite the troubled world we live in, you apparently don’t quite feel it from Hong Kong.
Our streets are safe, if more crowded than you may be used to. More to the point, social disturbance is clearly in the past. It has given way to stability, to growing business and community confidence in Hong Kong’s future. Law and order has returned. The worst is behind us.
Strengths of ‘one country, two systems’
That’s thanks to the long-established certainties and unique advantages. I am talking about the “one country, two systems” principle that has shaped, and rewarded, Hong Kong for 25 years now.
“One country, two systems” is the unwavering cornerstone of Hong Kong. As President Xi Jinping said, marking the 25th anniversary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s establishment, in July, “one country, two systems” is here to stay, “and we must adhere to it in the long run.”
For good reason. For all kinds of good reasons.
Just two months ago, Canada’s Fraser Institute again ranked Hong Kong the world’s freest economy. Our embrace of capitalism, buttressed by the common law system, remains as strong as ever.
We have adopted a low and simple tax regime, safeguarded the free flow of capital and maintained our longstanding status as a free port.
Under “one country, two systems,” the rule of law is sacrosanct in Hong Kong. The judiciary exercises its power independently. Fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, are enshrined in and protected by the Basic Law. The Basic Law also stipulates that the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights, as applied to Hong Kong, shall remain in force. That’s not going to change.
“One country, two systems” ensures matchless connectivity, and opportunity, with our country and with the world at large. Hong Kong’s seamless connection with the Mainland affords Hong Kong advantages available to no other economy.
Hong Kong remains the only place in the world where the global advantage and the China advantage come together in a single city. This unique convergence makes Hong Kong the irreplaceable connection between the Mainland and the rest of the world.
As the centre of economic gravity in the world shifts eastward, the Mainland, along with fast-growing economies throughout the region, will be a major engine of global growth and an abundant source of economic opportunities. Hong Kong is perfectly positioned to reap the enormous benefits of this irreversible trend.
Premier international financial centre
Hong Kong has the talent, infrastructure and know-how to help Mainland enterprises and capital go abroad, while attracting international enterprises and capital into the region.
That brings me to another certainty: Hong Kong’s status as one of the world’s leading financial centres – and China’s major international financial centre.
In 2020, our financial services contributed US$76 billion. That’s 23.4% of our GDP. Hong Kong has been the world’s number-one IPO venue for seven of the last 13 years. Hong Kong is also one of the world’s leading biotech fundraising hubs.
Total market turnover on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last year reached a record US$5.2 trillion. Our banking system held assets equivalent to about 9.4 times our GDP in 2021.
Last year, our insurance sector ranked first in Asia and second in the world, with assets under management of more than US$4.5 trillion. Two-thirds of that funding was sourced from non-Hong Kong investors.
Hong Kong is also a leading bond hub in Asia. And, for the past six years in a row, we have been the world’s largest centre for arranging Asian international bonds. We were the first Asian government to issue 30-year and 20-year green bonds, denominated in US dollars and euros respectively.
These are not just numbers. They demonstrate Hong Kong’s immense strengths when it comes to financial services. We were, we are and we will remain one of the world’s leading financial centres. And you can take that to the bank!
Scaling new heights
Hong Kong is certain to scale new heights. “Charting a brighter tomorrow for Hong Kong” is the theme of my Policy Address, which was delivered just two weeks ago. In it, I introduced a series of major initiatives to raise our competitiveness, create impetus for growth and expedite Hong Kong’s progress to prosperity.
I should highlight that the Hong Kong SAR Government, under my leadership, will take a result-oriented approach. We will focus on the outcome of policies rather than labouring away on concepts and procedures.
For businesses and investors, that means we will act as leader, enabler, facilitator, and even partner, in development. We will be proactive in attracting strategic enterprises and top talents to Hong Kong. How will we accomplish that? Let me highlight three of our new initiatives.
First, we will establish a new Hong Kong Investment Corporation to optimise the use of Hong Kong’s fiscal reserves and steer economic development. A Co-Investment Fund of HK$30 billion – equivalent to US$3.8 billion – will be set up to attract companies to Hong Kong and invest in their business.
Second, we will put in place an array of new initiatives to help enterprises, investments and innovative professionals build a base, a home, in Hong Kong. Our new and dedicated Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises will offer special facilitation measures and tailor-made services to strategic enterprises from all over the world.
Third, we will provide one-stop service for incoming talents through our new Talents Service Unit. A new Top Talent Pass Scheme will also be introduced to entice talented professionals from around the world to pursue their careers in Hong Kong. That includes working graduates from the global top 100 universities and those earning over US$320,000 a year.
Consolidating traditional strengths and supporting growing industries
Hong Kong has much to offer the world. We are blessed with traditional strengths. Located at the heart of Asia, we are within five hours’ flying time of half the world’s population. We have the world’s busiest air cargo hub. We are rated among the easiest places in the world to do business.
We are one of the world’s most preferred seats for arbitration. We are the only Asian city with five universities in the world’s Top 100.
Hong Kong features prominently in China’s national strategies, including the National 14th Five-Year Plan, the Greater Bay Area development and the Belt & Road Initiative.
The 14th Five Year Plan supports Hong Kong’s development in eight major areas. These include, for example, reinforcing our position as an international financial, trade, shipping and aviation centre.
One area I am pleased to highlight is the development of Hong Kong into an international innovation and technology (I&T) hub. Before year’s end, we will publish our I&T Development Blueprint for the future. It will cover major I&T policies, including infrastructure, re-industrialisation, our talent pool and the development of a smart city.
Then there is the Northern Metropolis. Our newest growth engine is situated in Hong Kong’s northern region. It will take up an area about one-third the size of Hong Kong and house about one-third of our current population.
The Northern Metropolis will become a new international I&T city, an urban-rural development featuring quality housing, green and sustainable surroundings, prominent arts and cultural clusters and a healthy balance between work and lifestyle. Its far-reaching potential will radiate beyond its geographical boundary with Shenzhen. It will create boundless opportunities with Guangdong, while contributing to the overall development of the Greater Bay Area.
We will also enable the continuing growth of our cultural industries. Central to that is Hong Kong’s rise as an internationally recognised East-meets-West arts and culture hub, a sophisticated global city offering world-class arts, entertainment and lifestyle, 24/seven.
Yes, we are opening, once again, for the pure business of pleasure, the pleasure of hosting and entertaining a world of visitors and travellers: arts and culture devotees, food, wine and pub aficionados, theme-park enthusiasts, sports and leisure lovers, holiday hikers and more.
You had a taste of our East-meets-West arts and culture last night. I invite you back to linger at the Hong Kong Palace Museum. Opened in July, it features more than 900 dazzling pieces of artefacts and treasure from the world-famous Palace Museum in Beijing.
And you will want to stick around for the weekend, and the return, after three long years, of the Hong Kong Sevens. Yes, rugby, too, is back, promising a long and memorable weekend of hard hits and roaring revelry, on the pitch and in the stands. Join us. Feel the spirit of Hong Kong on this marvellous Sevens weekend.
Hong Kong always bounces back
Ladies and gentlemen, as have many other major cities worldwide, Hong Kong has been through ups and downs over the years. But our resilience remains remarkably unmatched. Consider (this). Since 1997, we have overcome such major challenges as the SARS outbreak in 2003, the global financial crisis in 2008 and, most recently, disturbances and violence in 2019. Yet, our financial system has never buckled, never wavered. Like Hong Kong itself, it remains strong, sure and enviably secure.
Hong Kong always bounces back, better than ever. We have full confidence in its tenacity. And its future. We are already seeing an encouraging rebound, as we continue to lift our COVID restrictions.
I would like to thank the Hong Kong Monetary Authority for organising this seminal, three-day Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit, or the Hong Kong-onstage-again Summit. I know you will make the most out of the panel sessions and discussions.
After all, they are led by some of the world’s brightest minds in finance. And I wish you all the best of Hong Kong business, and investment, in the coming year.
Opportunity and timing
Before I close, I would like to tap into your success stories.
Ladies and gentlemen, you are among the world’s most successful businesspeople and investors. You know full well the equation to the most promising investments: opportunity and timing.
Good investors focus on tomorrow as much, or more, than today. They look for prospects touching bottom, for opportunities soon to soar.
Looking at Hong Kong, I can tell you the worst is behind us. Opportunity and timing are right here, right now, in Hong Kong. This is the moment you have been waiting for. Go for it. Get in front, not behind.
Chief Executive John Lee gave these remarks at the Global Financial Leaders’ Investment Summit on November 2.