Zhang Mengying, journalist

With China putting more emphasis on the development of the Greater Bay Area (GBA), there was a timely  discussion at the ACCA Hong Kong virtual annual conference 2021 in September on the challenges and opportunities that brings.

‘The development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area is a key development strategy of the country.  It is a further step in taking forward the practice of “One Country, Two Systems”,’ said Tommy Yuen, commissioner for the development of the GBA, during a conference discussion on the GBA’s role as a driving force of Hong Kong’s rebound.

‘Hong Kong has its strength in many ways in management and services, which is soft power’

Following the March 2021 release of the 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic of China and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year to 2035, China is putting a lot of effort into ensuring the high-quality development of the GBA.

Yuen pointed out that the nine cities and two special administrative regions that make up the GBA have complementary advantages, which can be leveraged for the development of an international first-class bay area for living, working and travelling. The Outline Development Plan for the GBA has clearly specified the positioning of Hong Kong, which includes consolidating and enhancing our traditional strengths as well as promoting the development of high-end professional services and innovation and technologies (I&T).

He added: ‘Moreover, the 14th Five-Year Plan has provided continuous support for Hong Kong in four traditional centres and raised for the first time the support in four emerging sectors.’

Doing business

Peter Wong, executive director and deputy managing director at the Hong Kong and China Gas Company, and Kent Wong, managing director at Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group, shared with the conference their experiences of managing businesses within the GBA over the past three decades.

Peter Wong said his company had started doing business in the GBA in 1994 and now provides services in 300 cities throughout China and runs more than 200 projects in city gas, water and food waste. ‘Hong Kong has its strength in many ways in management and services, which is soft power,’ he said.

Kent Wong believes that one of the key factors in his company’s success was its adoption of the ‘front shop, back factory’ business model just as mainland China was opening up. As the country opened up further, the company set up stores in coastal locations and then spread to central and western cities.

Role of accountants

A question for many at the forum was what role accountants can play within the GBA. Peter Wong urged accountants to ‘take the first step’ and not limit themselves by insisting on living in Hong Kong. ‘There are plenty of chances out there, especially when you have professional skills,’ he pointed out.

‘As an accountant, you can choose to either develop accounting skills or go on a new path to be a business partner and help develop the business of a company,’ Kent Wong said, giving the example that the company’s e-commerce department is steered by an accountant.

He added that a key strength of accountants is their sense of logic, which enables them to foresee the needs of a business through data. ‘In an era of big data, an accountant can leverage this skill, making use of the data collected, and see if the data align with the business strategy.’

Yuen pointed out: ‘The government has also launched the Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme to provide opportunities for Hong Kong young people to work and develop in the mainland cities of the GBA. Enterprises have already provided around 3,500 job vacancies in these cities under the scheme. Given our close ties and enhanced connectivity, we can see plenty of development opportunities in the GBA.’

SME opportunities

The development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) was another consideration for participants. Peter Wong stressed their importance. ‘SMEs have incentives to bring new ideas while conglomerates might have systems as barriers that hinder creativity. Conglomerates grow from SMEs. SMEs can assist in the division of labour.’

‘SMEs have played an important role in China’s development over the last decade'


‘Nowadays, society emphasises a sharing economy, which provides room for SMEs to demonstrate and facilitate their creativity,’ said Kent Wong. ‘SMEs have played an important role in China’s development over the last decade. Large companies like us use services from SMEs from different sectors including supply chain, design, production, marketing and online applications. These are opportunities for SMEs to thrive.’

Yuen also said that the government intended to bring together more networking resources for SMEs. For example, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau has collaborated with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council to launch the GoGBA digital platform, a WeChat mini-program, to provide Hong Kong enterprises with information on related government policies and a platform for networking and matching services.

Hong Kong upgrade

Peter Wong believes that education is one of the solutions that can upgrade Hong Kong. ‘Our students and scholars should know about the situation in mainland China, also around the globe. The second solution is to develop technology, making Hong Kong an icon so that everyone wants to work here.’

Kent Wong pointed out that Hong Kong has advantages in research and development. For instance, his company has developed an AI-based diamond grading system in Hong Kong and applied this robotic system in Shunde, a district in Foshan, a city in the GBA. ‘Through the cooperation of different GBA cities, we have managed to reduce the cost of trial and error,’ he said.

According to Yuen, a key objective of the GBA development is to turn the region into an international I&T hub. ‘The SAR government is closely cooperating with the Shenzhen Municipal Government to jointly develop the Shenzhen-Hong Kong I&T Co-operation Zone,' ,’ he said. 'In particular, the government  has already begun to develop the InnoHK research clusters, which focus on healthcare as well as AI and robotics technologies.'

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