A nagging theme has emerged across all active business sectors in Hong Kong, just past the point of the 20th anniversary of the city’s handover to Chinese rule.

Where does HK go from here?

It’s a stark recognition that Hong Kong needs some fresh thinking and creative drive to maintain its competitive position as a leading business center. There’s also a hope that a new administration under Chief Executive Carrie Lam will move quickly to set a strategic course, and infuse some inspired planning into this important finance, trading and logistics hub.

Moving up the value chain in technology and innovation is one key area of focus. It’s an area where Hong Kong has admittedly fallen behind other major business centers. That includes fintech, which should be a strength in a city known for its financial prowess. Attention is also centering on building a pipeline of tech talent, both among young Hong Kong people training for jobs of the future, and in recruiting top global talent.

Technology can also be used to make Hong Kong a better place to live and work. If this city could galvanize its resources, it would eventually set an example smart 21st century living. Many visitors to Hong Kong tell me they are awestruck by Hong Kong’s success at vertical living, but that Hong Kong falls short on the mark when it comes to using technology to transform the environment and to break down silos in government and the community.

But above all, Hong Kong is struggling with a mindset shift. While it needs to modernize and innovate, it’s also trying to figure out how to capitalize on the growing economic power of southern China and fit into what’s now being called the “Greater Bay Area” of nine cities plus Hong Kong and Macau without compromising its own unique values and assets.

AmCham has played an active in role in advocating for action on all these fronts, but our chamber also recognizes that underpinning all this discussion is an understanding that Hong Kong needs hold on to what makes it unique, precious and valuable: its internationally recognized judiciary and rule of law.

Over the summer, the jailing of democracy activists following a Court of Final Appeal ruling caused an outcry over whether Hong Kong’s cherished rule of law is slipping. As uncomfortable as it might be, this is an important discussion because the strength of Hong Kong’s legal system is fundamental and will safeguard all facets of its growth. Hong Kong is also blessed with a free press and the ability to openly debate such weighty matters. And it’s precisely this openness and transparency that give it a flying change of success in achieving fresh growth but maintaining its core strengths.

Tara Joseph
The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong