Face it - Shenzhen is ahead of us

Editorial | Mary Ma 19 Oct 2020

President Xi Jinping's de facto omission of Hong Kong and commissioning of Shenzhen as an important "engine" in the Greater Bay Area in what's branded as a major speech hailing Shenzhen's success has raised many an eyebrow here in Hong Kong - with the possible exception of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's.

Although our gross domestic product was way ahead of Shenzhen's not that many years ago, it is now behind Shenzhen's by a quantum of many billions of US dollars.

For instance, Shenzhen was reported to have a GDP of US$397 billion (HK$3.09 trillion) last year whereas the SAR's was about US$373 billion.

To be sure, mainland GDP figures are often inflated to an extent, but that does not undermine the reality that Shenzhen, the mainland's first special economic zone, has come a long way since it embarked on its SEZ odyssey 40 years ago.

Lam insisted she didn't mind the GDP numbers, and her former boss, Leung Chun-ying, also made a comment to that effect, with nothing negative said about Hong Kong in the aftermath of the largely ceremonial event in Shenzhen last week.

However, they have to stop beating around the bush.

SAR leaders should mind and have to be concerned, for whoever occupies the top hot seat is ultimately responsible for the state of affairs in Hong Kong. Like the CEO of a company, the SAR's chief executive is ultimately responsible for results at the end of the financial year.

Leung asserted that Hong Kong media may have missed the point when covering Xi's speech. He was probably correct.

As far as official or pro-establishment publications are concerned, their focus was on Xi's lavish praise for Shenzhen, given that his father was the one who first proposed an economic miracle in the works for the city, in order to draw comparisons with Hong Kong?

The opposition media also showed a lack of interest in how Hong Kong should play catch-up with its mainland peers.

But it was sensible to declare that the Greater Bay Area can have more than one engine of growth. As Xi hailed Shenzhen's important role, he, by no means, reserved that role for Shenzhen and Shenzhen only. If Hong Kong can, it surely may compete too. By the same token, so too may Guangzhou.

It is dangerous to feel complacent about the fact that Shenzhen is doing better than us. If even our leader doesn't mind, who then would? We have to mind and thus have the competitive motivation and gumption to regain our top place.

Weekly blog posts by Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po and Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung continued to beat the bush, repeating politically correct statements that are short on substance.

Hong Kong is, needless to say, still extremely polarized. Now that the policy address has been deferred to next month, Lam should have time to update it with a view to including policies that help restore social unity. Hardball politics will only backfire.

History has shown us that vicious cycles are often self-inflicted. Unless the rifts are healed, our city is bound to be marginalized. No one can save us but we ourselves.


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