When I traveled to Zhuhai and Zhongshan last month, I saw the local governments and entrepreneurs enthusiastically promoting and developing high-end manufacturing. I felt a sense of urgency for Hong Kong to keep up and I believe there is much to expect in 2019.
Zhuhai, the city which was among the nation's first special economic zones set up in the 1980s, has been extending more and more support and services to enterprises in 2018, particularly those in the advanced manufacturing sector, as the Sino-US trade row continues.
A senior official of Zhuhai government told me that the city offers interest subsidy of up to 40 million yuan ($5.83 million) annually to enterprises, which means when a company applies for a bank loan to fund a major project, it can get a subsidy from the government to cover the interest costs of that loan.
When I visited the production site in Zhuhai of China's independently developed AG600 amphibious aircraft, engineers were proudly telling us that the AG600, capable of carrying 12 tons of water during firefighting missions, was the largest model of its kind in the world. The aircraft is designed to have a flying time of 12 hours and an operational range of up to 4,500 kilometers.
The engineers were saying that once the aircraft is delivered to customers, mostly domestic customers, we will no longer be depending on foreign companies to build and deliver such aircraft; it will be a large step forward for our own aviation industry.
HK must keep up with rapid advances being made in Zhuhai and Zhongshan
When I was in Zhongshan, local government officials told me that equipment manufacturing is the pillar industry of the city, with more than 3,200 such companies located here; among these 837 are above designated size. From 2015 to 2017, Zhongshan's government funded 1,500 equipment manufacturing projects with 370 million yuan. During the same period, it also received 1.5 billion yuan from Guangdong province to fund high-end manufacturing companies in the city.
The car I was in drove by streets in Zhongshan and I saw several buildings with the names of high-tech industrial park on their front gates. Passionate entrepreneurs were telling the story of their companies, about the technology they are developing and how Zhongshan's government "lured" them to set up companies or production bases in the city and how the local government helped them.
By having conversations with local government officials and entrepreneurs, I can clearly see their ambition; they hope to achieve great things, not just making money, but also helping the country by developing the most edge-cutting technologies and producing the most advanced equipment products. Then Chinese people and Chinese enterprises will no longer be at the mercy of foreign technology.
I greatly believe in them. They are backed by determined local authorities and enthusiastic entrepreneurs. They will definitely achieve their goals. Meanwhile, I just feel a sense of urgency for Hong Kong. We should not miss out on these opportunities and we must keep up with these developments.
Hong Kong has some of the world's best universities, which are cultivating youngsters to be future scientists; these youngsters should definitely think about devoting more time and resources to innovation, technology and high-end manufacturing industries. And by doing so, they will achieve their personal goals and contribute to the development of the country.
I traveled to Zhuhai via the Hong Kong- Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and later I also took the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link to Shenzhen. I felt that Hong Kong has never been so closely connected to the mainland.
With the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the rapid growth of high-end manufacturing companies in the region, there will be great opportunities for Hong Kong investors, for Hong Kong entrepreneurs to start a new company and for Hong Kong young people to work to study and to start a new life in the region.
At the beginning of 2019, as a Hong Kong person, I feel there is so much for me and the rest of us to expect about the future.