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Hong Kong, High-rises and High Prices

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By René Schwab, Insight China Delegate

After two very instructive and fascinating weeks in China we reached Hong Kong by high speed train from our previous destination Shenzhen . Until 1997 Hong Kong was a British colony and since then a special administrative zone of the People’s Republic of China with a free market economy and a high degree of internal autonomy. Up to 7.5 million people live on an area of 1,106 km² in Hong Kong, which corresponds approximately to the size of the canton of Uri. As a result of the very limited space in Hong Kong, prices for real estate are very high and therefore the costs of living are very high as well.

During a visit with the Consul General of Switzerland, Mr. Reto Renggli, we learned that Hong Kong is the most important financial place in Asia before Singapore. Being part of the People’s Republic of China, the second largest economy in the world and its excellent international network make Hong Kong very attractive as a hub for investment and trade. For this reason, numerous Swiss companies are also represented there. These include UBS, which we were able to visit and get exciting insights into its activities and the economic situation from the perspective of a bank.

Chief Investment Officer Mr. Philip Wyatt kindly presented the latest developments and statistics. In contrast to the service sector, industry and production have been almost completely relocated to mainland China. In Hong Kong, almost everything focuses on business, it is very easy to set up a business, there are few regulations and taxes are very low. Politics is of secondary importance, although the influence of Beijing has increased in recent years. Hong Kong is flourishing because of its attachment to China, but it also means that the destiny and success of Hong Kong is closely linked to that of China.

Hong Kong also differs from Mainland China for travelers. The first thing you notice is that both the markings and the language skills of the population are mostly Chinese and English, a different currency is used and in general more foreigners can be seen. It was therefore also easier for us to interact with the local people. Also, in general many things were a bit easier than in Mainland China. This was shown, for example, by the fact that Internet access is not restricted and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere.

Otherwise, I had the impression that Hong Kong does not differ that much from a Chinese metropolis. This is certainly also due to the fact that about 95% of the people living there are of Chinese origin and more and more Chinese people from the mainland come to Hong Kong. All in all, the city is a must visit and its economic importance and possibilities have even exceeded my previous expectations.

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