Hong Kong: Wild Animals Near the Financial District
I was recently invited to speak about Hong Kong’s competitiveness to an elite group of Hong Kong opinion leaders: company directors, entrepreneurs, former senior government leaders, journalists, etc.
Some weeks later, after I had accepted the breakfast speaking invitation, I found myself wondering why I had accepted. I asked myself what I could share with this very well-informed group which would be new and interesting.
That morning, just before leaving home for the breakfast meeting, I was still searching for a starting point for my comments. If you get the starting point right, the rest tends to flow more smoothly.
I’d prepared no written notes. In the car on the way to the venue, I kept thinking about an unusual experience I’d had the previous evening. On the surface it had nothing to do with Hong Kong’s competitiveness, and yet at a deeper level, it seemed related.
My wife and I had taken our usual late evening walk on Bowen Road, a path near our home in Hong Kong’s mid-levels, only minutes from Central District by car. To our great surprise and delight, we’d gotten a very close look at a wild animal on the hillside near the path. It was a ferret badger — a small mammal which is fairly common in Hong Kong but not often seen.
Along this same path, we’ve also seen porcupines and a variety of colorful lizards and snakes.
With that experience in mind, I began my comments that morning by saying I’d decided to talk to them about badgers and porcupines instead of Hong Kong’s competitiveness. This drew a laugh, which is a good way to loosen up a group who are still on their first cup of coffee or tea.
I recounted the tale of our wildlife sightings, only minutes away from Hong Kong’s financial district, and observed that there is indeed some relevance to the question of Hong Kong’s competitiveness.
The pace of work and life in Hong Kong is arguably faster than any city in the world, including New York. Such a rapid pace often has a dulling impact on our vision, particularly with reference to things close at hand.
Think, for example, about the view from the window of a high-speed train. Objects on the horizon are clearer in our vision, whereas objects nearer the track are more blurred.
The point is that it is easy to overlook certain things which are right under our noses, and to take things for granted which are so familiar that we stop noticing them.
I went on to talk about Hong Kong’s many strengths as a place to work and live, which remain vital and robust in the city’s 15th anniversary of becoming a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.
As a frequent commuter to Beijing, the impact of constant traffic jams, slow internet speed, and other factors render my productivity on a given work day there as far below an average work day in Hong Kong. The days when Beijing was a less expensive environment than Hong Kong are also long gone.
It’s not difficult to schedule 5 meetings in one day in different locations in Hong Kong. That would be virtually impossible in Beijing, unless they are all in the same building.
As an example of government efficiency, it takes 4 days to incorporate a company in Hong Kong versus 4 months in Beijing.
These are a few of the many examples I cited of why Hong Kong retains a significant competitive edge over other Chinese cities and over most cities worldwide.
With all the bad news headlines in Hong Kong in recent months, many people tend to overlook our strengths and advantages. Not to mention our porcupines and ferret badgers.
Moral: run when you need to run, but from time to time, slow down, talk a walk, and look carefully at what’s around you. You might be surprised at what you discover, or rediscover.
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