Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Hong Kong Sunday

The Sunday edition of South China Morning Post didn’t contain too much this morning. The big local issue seems to be some fall-out of the disturbances during the WTO meeting here last month.

Hong Kong remains one of the most spectacular cities of the world. Even as Shanghai climbs up every ladder there is, Hong Kong remains in a category of its own.

I was certainly among those rather worried for its future as sovereignty was handed over from the United Kingdom to China. But in retrospect there is little doubt that Margaret Thatcher was right in handing it back.

In a China where repression rather seems to be on the increase, Hong Kong remains an island of the rule of the law, respect for human rights and freedom of expression, although certainly not a democracy in the proper sense of the world.

I can only judge the English-speaking press, but yesterday’s South China Morning Post certainly had a story highly critical of Microsoft for helping to censor the Internet in China, and in The Standard there was a vitriolic attack against what’s been happening to the journalists at Beijing News.

And the economy is doing very well again. Office rents in Hong Kong are up 150 % during the last two years, making it the third most expensive city in the world in this respect – after Washington and the London West End.

Today's Hong Kong is highly intregrated into the Chinese economy. And the surrounding area of Southern China - primarily the Pearl River Delta (PRD) - has been perhaps the most spectacular of the success stories of the country since it started to open up in 1978.

Then, Guangdong province was poor, and certainly not in the top in China. But growth has been spectacular. If growth in China during this period has been over 9 % as an average, growth in the PRD has been over 19 % as an average. Today the province tops China as concerns GDP per capita.

And Hong Kong has been transformed. Manufacturing has moved, and the city is now the logistics, service and financial hub for the Southern China and South China Sea region. It is undoubtedly one of the premier hubs of the increasingly globalized economy.

Its vast container port is the largest in the world. It is truly an impressive sight. The new Chek Lap Kok airport is the largest freight airport in the world as well as number five in terms of passenger traffic. 40 % of China's export passes through the area.

From Mainland China comes the news that the last of the infamous Gang of Four has passed away.

Yao Wenyuan was the Shanghai extremists whose review of a play in late 1965 was used by Mao Tsetung to launch that decade-long descent into terror and tragedy that was the so called Cultural Revolution. Its horrors continue to haunt the China of today.

But my task here is more concerned with the globalized economy.

Tomorrow starts the large car show in Detroit in the US, and the day thereafter starts the large toy show here in Hong Kong. Factories are starting to hum with the new products that will reach the consumers during the year to come.

And I will head to the Guangdong province tomorrow to look at some of these factories. - the online edition of South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's premier English-language newspaper