Impressions of Hong Kong

Our last major venue in China was Hong Kong. I had heard a lot about this city as a great place to buy electronics. The shopping district in Kowloon did not disappoint. The first thing I noticed was that a different dialect of Chinese (Cantonese) is spoken in Hong Kong versus the balance of China (Mandarin). That got me wondering about the history of this city. Embarrassingly, I knew very little.

Historical Milestones

1841 – China cedes Hong Kong Island to Britain in perpetuity.

1860 – China cedes the tip of Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island to Britain.

1898 – China leases the New Territories to Britain for 99 years.

1937 – Japan invades China.

1941 – British surrender and Japan occupies Hong Kong.

1941 – The Flying Tigers fight to defend China.

1945 – China and Britain liberate Hong Kong.

1946 – The British Governor returns.

1984 – Sino-British Joint Declaration establishes one country, two systems governance model.

1997 – Lease expires and China takes over.

Impressions

I was surprised at how much of a positive emotional impact the Flying Tigers defense of China has had on local citizens. China is a country that remembers and it struck me that WWII continues to provide a shared experience that can be leveraged as a basis for strengthened collaboration if desired. This was a piece of our nation’s history I was woefully under informed about and would suggest any economic development professional interested in capital attraction from China become familiar with.

Hong Kong Disneyland is an amazing Ambassador for the U.S. I found a new appreciation for the role of business in representing America’s culture. For many Chinese a visit to Disneyland greatly influences their perception of our nation. Similarly, companies like McDonalds, Burger King, and Pizza Hut with high brand visibility in virtually every major city in China also act as Brand America Ambassadors. I think it would be very interesting for a national organization like Select USA or BrandUSA to conduct research and determine the perception being created collectively by these iconic corporations.

Commerce in Hong Kong is impressive. Victoria Harbor is one of the world’s busiest. Roughly 400,000 ships visit the harbor annually. The 9 container terminals were doing a very brisk business. It has been reported that 400 container liners serve Hong Kong weekly. According to the Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong has a GDP of roughly $466 (HK$ billion) and a per capita GDP of $268,213 (HK$). It has a labor force of nearly 4 million people and a population of about 7 million people. Based on a PricewaterhouseCoopers 2008 estimate indicates Hong Kong is ranked 16th globally based on GDP. And, Hong Kong is the world’s 3rd largest recipient of foreign direct investment. There is no question Hong Kong is a center of commerce, and a gateway to Asia.

Hong Kong people are stylish and very brand aware. This city felt the most western of all we visited in China. In many respects, the people experience in Hong Kong reminded me of my experience in Vancouver’s China Town and Toronto’s suburb of Scarborough. MP3 players, Chuck Taylor styled sneakers, blue jeans, and haute couture fashion was everywhere. Like every major metropolitan city in the world, the restaurants were outstanding.

The transportation infrastructure in Hong Kong is exceptionally impressive. There are plans to enhance it with the creation of a high-speed rail line that will connect Hong Kong with Guangzhou; and, to dramatically expand the size of the airport.

While I didn’t visit Macau, no assessment of Hong Kong can be complete without at least mentioning it. This is a district with a history back to the Qin Dynasty (221 – 206 BC). Now it is a major tourist destination with a gambling industry larger than Las Vegas. For perspective, Macu is reported to have had 25 million visitors in 2010. According to one report I found, roughly 50% of those visitors were from mainland China. I can only imagine how many visitors Macau will get when the high-speed rail line is complete. Like Las Vegas, Macau is a city that never sleeps

Images of Hong Kong

Here are a few pictures I took while in Hong Kong that I thought you might find interesting.

 

   

Discussion

This is the last post on my China experience. My goal is to stimulate a discussion about China given the importance of this nation as both a collaborator with and competitor of Brand America. If you have knowledge of China, I am hoping you will share your perspective by writing a comment on at least one of the blog posts. The dialogue will serve as a great source for understanding the culture of the country and serve as a basis for better understanding the role China might play in our local economic development capital attraction or export plans. I am convinced China represents a source of growing importance for FDI inflow and the more we, as economic development professionals, understand this fascinating country, the better prepared we will be to take full advantage of the opportunity. Please take a moment and leave a comment.

Here are links to the other blog posts I authored about my China adventure –

Impressions of China

Impressions of Beijing

Impressions of Shanghai

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4 Comments so far

  1. Jay McFarland

    June 18, 2012

    Good post and an accurate overview / assessment. For anyone planning a swing through Asia, Hong Kong shouldn’t be missed. A fascinating bridge between Asian and western cultures. Great dim sum too.

  2. Sean Duggan

    June 18, 2012

    I’ve worked in Hong Kong for long periods for about four years over the past decade. This includes work associated with the successful inward investment programme in Hong Kong.

    In my experience, I’d say that your impressions are broadly correct.

    My own view is that:
    Hong Kong offers an important strategic/hub location for investors, especially in terms of its access and proximity to Asia market and specifically to China, which is facilitated by world class transport and logisitcs infrastructure
    Many organisations see Hong Kong as an excellent bridge into and out of China.
    The Hong Kong market itself has excellent market opportunities and provides good access to a nexus of customers, suppliers and a flexible and internationally oreinted talent pool.
    Companies appreciate the sound and robust legal system.
    Hong Kongers have an international outlook.
    The city itself has all of the characteritics of a world city, while being compact and walkable.
    The lifestyle on offer is vibrant and you will never want for a good restaurant and, for the most part, taxi drivers who know how to get to any place you want to go.
    The main downside is that air pollution and street smells can sometimes take your breath away.
    Its a place I look forward to returning to again and again.

  3. Traveler

    July 16, 2012

    Hey, this is a nice post and photos. It’s so hard to explain a historical country in simple way, but you did that..adios!

  4. S Carter

    July 21, 2012

    Hi,

    I saw your post on the Whitman Linkedin page. I’ve been studying increases in wages in China Tianjin district. In almost 6 years the wage has increased somewhere around 99%. My analysis showed US versus, Brazil, Mexico and India in an attempt to compare sourcing opportunities. Do you have any thoughts on what to expect in the next 10 years on that topic?

    One company that has done very well in expanding into China is Timberland. If your looking for a company that has translated their brand successfully, They are a great example.

    S Carter

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