HK gears up to draw in talent, spark innovation

Updated: 2018-05-17 06:02

By Xiao Ping(HK Edition)

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Xiao Ping notes how city is aligning itself to pursue president's 'three firsts' which are critical to economic restructuring

'The world outside is so fantastic." This line from a catchy Chinese pop song describes very well the impression this author felt while visiting Hubei province with a group of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee members from Hong Kong earlier this month. The trip took only a few days but was nothing short of eye-opening.

The main purpose of this trip was to learn how Hubei attracts talents and boosts development amid economic restructuring. This is being pursued in real earnest by provincial governments as well as central government authorities at national and local levels. In Hubei, the Hong Kong CPPCC delegation was presented with a number of examples to satisfy the curiosity of different guests. For me the most important knowledge I gained from this trip was what economic restructuring is all about, and the role Hong Kong can play in the nation's economic restructuring and all-round development.

HK gears up to draw in talent, spark innovation

Yangtze River Economic Belt development is now a part of the national development strategy. Just two weeks before our delegation arrived in Hubei, President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and chairman of the Central Military Commission, concluded an inspection tour of the province. During his stay Xi emphasized more than anything else the "three firsts" - "development is the first priority; talents are our first resource and innovation the No 1 driving force". This is the most accurate definition of economic restructuring and development I have ever seen.

Development is our first priority. This "first" has been making the rounds on the mainland for quite some time now. Since the reform and opening-up drive was launched 40 years ago, the nation has been absolutely focused on overall development despite various distractions and obstructions. The other two "firsts" are what sets the current phase of development apart from the past the most. In this stage of development talents and innovation are emphasized more than everything else - talents ensure development while innovation leads development. This is the only way to accomplish economic restructuring and upgrading.

With the "three firsts" in mind all provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions have set their eyes on recruiting as many quality talents as they can from everywhere to boost the development of innovation and technology. When Guangdong province adopted the strategy of "clean cage for new birds" a few years ago it triggered a nationwide debate. Today it is a go-to policy option for other regional governments with no excuse needed.

Xi called on Hong Kong in his report at the 19th National Congress of the CPC to integrate its own development into the overall development strategy of the country. The most effective way to do so should be participating in the ongoing economic restructuring on the mainland. Hong Kong society must understand the mainland has entered a new phase of development. This is characterized by talents and innovation first. In the early days of reform and opening-up, regional governments invariably asked central government authorities for preferential policies; whereas the policy of choice today is improving the environment for investment and high- and new-technology transfer, with the sole purpose of attracting talents and technology with the best working and living conditions they can offer. The days when small investment for low-end manufacturing was better than none are long gone.

In fact, Hong Kong has also joined the competition for talents in the latest round of economic restructuring and upgrading. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has been emphasizing repeatedly that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will become an innovation and technology center. In the 2018-19 Budget the SAR government has put aside HK$50 billion for related spending, including a scheme to attract talents from around the world to Hong Kong. Even more exciting is that Xi has instructed the central government departments concerned to support the HKSAR in developing its inno-tech industry and expanding cooperation with the mainland in sci-tech development. The Ministry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Finance have introduced 12 measures to allow State funding for key research projects involving Hong Kong-based scientists and research institutions to "cross the boundary" into Hong Kong and waive tariffs on imported equipment for such projects. The scale of such policy support is unprecedented to say the least.

Intensive media coverage in the past few days of related developments let many people know for the first time that Hong Kong has many world-class scientists, who have won international renown for remarkable achievements over the years. Some of them have made great contributions to the nation's inno-tech development through key research projects they were involved in, which in turn showcased Hong Kong's sci-tech prowess.

This kind of cooperation between the HKSAR and the mainland serves as a perfect example of "serving the country with Hong Kong's strengths where they are needed". There is no better time for Hong Kong to flex its inno-tech muscles than now!

The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.

(HK Edition 05/17/2018 page8)