Optimism from wealth of wisdom

Editorial | Mary Ma 8 Jan 2020

If Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chief executive Charles Li Xiaojia made a gaffe in London a little while ago that the one country, two systems had some fundamental flaws, it is apparent that he's not going to commit it again.

He has learned to be a little more subtle this time around.

In Li's latest masterly blog writing, he is absolutely upbeat about the SAR's financial future which, according to him, is ironically being made possible partly due to the widening gaps between China and the United States.

Gone is the political overtone capable of raising the eyebrows of die-hard patriots, to be replaced by views that are to the point and in plain language.

Who can disagree with Li's observation that China's further rise and the continued dominance of the United States could set the two powers on a collision course?

Who can dispute his view that the power of technology could reshape the world's economy and international society, while spurring a fierce battle between these major powers for technological dominance?

Li viewed all these disruptive elements as potential opportunities for the SAR, sticking to the old wisdom that there are always chances to be spotted in a crisis.

That may be an interesting observation in these critical times.

I do not think anyone would disagree with his optimism if he also referred to the growing queue of Chinese companies planning to follow Alibaba's example to choose Hong Kong as their second home for listing in anticipation of escalated conflicts between Beijing and Washington during the second phase of the trade war. Following Alibaba's homecoming, Nasdaq-listed Chinese search engine Baidu and travel service platform Trip.com, to name just two, are eyeing the SAR for secondary listing.

Probably due to commercial protocol, Li did not mention those big mainland brands waiting to apply for Hong Kong listings.

Li's sky-high optimism dwells on Hong Kong's unique position between China and the rest of the world, with both depending on Hong Kong for seamless interaction with each other.

To achieve this, both worlds must maintain trust in the city and it's "only through the continued successful implementation of this framework [of one country, two systems] that Hong Kong's future success can be ensured."

Otherwise, the damage would be irreparable.

Isn't Li's latest observation largely in line with his previous perspective even though it is expressed in a less controversial manner?

Li is a seasoned veteran in the business world who seems fully conscious of the true problems facing the SAR. He may even have a handful of ideas on how these problems may best be tackled.

However, being from the financial sector, he is adamant that he is not going to venture beyond the limits.

I'm concerned that, even if the financial market continues to boom with the homecoming of big Chinese companies for secondary listings, it does not mean that everything will be alright for Hong Kong as its economy is also driven by other pillars - namely, trading and logistics, tourism and professional services.

Financial services are important, but they account for only some of the bread and butter.

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