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Published: 23:32, November 25, 2021 | Updated: 09:40, November 26, 2021
Border reopening crucial to economic recovery, resuming normal life
By Zhou Bajun
Published:23:32, November 25, 2021 Updated:09:40, November 26, 2021 By Zhou Bajun

It may come as a boon to the global industrial and supply chain when US Trade Representative Katherine Tai denied that the US was trying to decouple from China. Her rhetoric about Washington’s wish to recouple with China, however, is merely a political overtone of coercing China to join the US-led effort to restructure the global industrial and supply chain in favor of the US.

Meanwhile, the world’s desperate need to tackle climate-change challenges entails countries adjusting their modes of energy production and consumption, which will inevitably bring uncertainty to global economic growth. Specifically, the extraction, supply and consumption of traditional energy sources like coal and oil will have to be significantly reduced, while regrettably, new, green energy sources fail to catch up with traditional energy sources in terms of stability and predictability in production, supply and consumption. The gap in the demand and supply of energy will be reflected in the constant volatility in the global economy, as well as the ups and downs in investments and consumer activities.

Conceivably, the global economy is still at the mercy of the triple whammy of Washington’s harmful geopolitical maneuvers, the looming energy shortage as evidenced by the rise of oil prices, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The small and highly open economy of Hong Kong makes it all the more vulnerable to global economic shock waves. According to the Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong’s GDP grew by 5.4 percent in the third quarter of this year, a figure below market expectations. The pandemic and bottlenecks in the supply chain in many economies continue to post a downside risk to the global economy, the Hong Kong economy included.

There’s no denying that the mainland is the core growth factor for Hong Kong’s service sector; as long as the flow of people between the two sides returns to near the level before the viral outbreak, mainland visitors will provide impetus for Hong Kong’s economic recovery even if the rest of the world is still mired in sluggish growth

As for Hong Kong, it can only rely on the country to cope with the challenges brought by intensified geopolitical conflicts and changes in global energy production and consumption. It can, however, promptly establish an effective system to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and resume normal personnel exchanges with the Chinese mainland. There’s no denying that the mainland is the core growth factor for Hong Kong’s service sector; as long as the flow of people between the two sides returns to near the level before the viral outbreak, mainland visitors will provide impetus for Hong Kong’s economic recovery even if the rest of the world is still mired in sluggish growth. Being one of Hong Kong’s major traditional engines for economic growth, the recovery of inbound tourism will go a long way in jump-starting economic activities by way of resurrecting the service sector first.

This explains the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government’s recent moves to create the conditions for resuming personnel exchanges between the two sides, as well as the central government’s firm support for such an attempt, as evidenced by the four-day Hong Kong trip of a high-level delegation of mainland health officials and experts. In its latest move, the Food and Health Bureau announced on Tuesday that use of the government’s COVID-19 contact-tracing mobile app, LeaveHomeSafe, will be mandatory in 18 types of designated premises from Dec 9, including all restaurants, gyms and cinemas.

The HKSAR government has previously tightened quarantine exemption arrangements for people entering Hong Kong from overseas and made the use of the LeaveHomeSafe app compulsory for people entering government agencies, public hospitals and markets. These are sound measures, and probably are sufficient conditions for partial or restricted personnel exchanges between the two sides. To resume full-scale, or unrestricted, personnel exchanges, Hong Kong still needs to promptly establish and popularize a health code that matches or aligns with the one on the mainland.

The HKSAR government can set up a health code based on the current LeaveHomeSafe app with the addition of a source traceability function. In other words, the proposed Hong Kong-version health code should allow the mainland health authorities to trace the source of any new COVID-19 case reported in Hong Kong and its infection chain immediately. Meanwhile, the vaccination rate against the coronavirus in Hong Kong should be further raised to at least 90 percent from the current 70 percent, while the booster program (with a third jab) should be quickly expanded to more people, as health experts have advised, to create more-favorable conditions for the ultimate full reopening of the border with the mainland first and then with the rest of the world, which is crucial to Hong Kong returning to normal and achieving a full economic recovery.

The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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