Hong Kong: Creative Powerhouse

by Susan Barnes

Oct 1, 2018
October 2018

OVERLOOKING STUNNING VICTORIA Harbour, Hong Kong is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city in which soaring skyscrapers, world-class infrastructure and international businesses co-exist in harmony with rich cultural traditions, serene green spaces and its 7.39 million residents, who enjoy the best of East and West.

Hong Kong continues to rediscover and define itself. Though the region’s history dates back more than a thousand years, its more recent history is certainly relative to the city as we know it today, and likely how it will continue to grow and move forward. In 1842, China’s Qing Dynasty was defeated in the First Opium War and ceded Hong Kong Island to Great Britain. Hong Kong remained a British colony for more than 150 years, serving as a center of international trade and growing as a major manufacturing hub beginning in the early 20th century.

On July 1, 1997, Hong Kong “returned to the Motherland” and became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China under the principle of One Country, Two Systems. Under this principle, Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of autonomy, including an independent judiciary and rule of law, freedom of speech, a capitalist economy and free trade.

Lin Heung Tea House

Lin Heung Tea House © STRIPPEDPIXEL | DREAMSTIME.COM

That autonomous capitalist system and free trade remains vital to Hong Kong’s growing economy, evident in the accolades the city enjoys, including being named the world’s freest economy for the past 24 years by the U.S.-based Heritage Foundation; ranked second globally in the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2018 published by the Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development; ranked the fifth-easiest place in the world to do business, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2018 report; and ranked sixth globally of 153 places, and the first among Asian economies, in Forbes’ Best Countries for Business 2018 survey.

In addition, 70 of the world’s top banks operate in Hong Kong. The Stock Exchange of Hong Kong ranked first globally for five of the past nine years (since 2009) in terms of initial public offering funds raised, with around $16.5 billion raised through IPOs in 2017, ranked fourth in the world and second in Asia. Hong Kong is also a regional corporate and startup hub, home to more than 8,200 overseas and mainland companies, including more than 3,700 regional headquarters and offices.

The Hong Kong Clock Tower is a remnant of the original Kowloon Station on the Kowloon-Canton Railway.

The Hong Kong Clock Tower is a remnant of the original Kowloon Station on the Kowloon-Canton Railway. © SEAN PAVONE | DREAMSTIME.COM

While Hong Kong’s key industries are identified as financial services (banking, insurance, stock brokerage), trading and logistics, tourism and professional and producer services, the city is looking ahead to make sure it remains a viable center of business. In pursuit of that goal, the city is making a name for itself as an innovative technology startup hub, as well as looking at biotech as one area to develop.

The arts and culture are an important part of Hong Kong, too. Speaking to that, it has allocated more budget to creative industries as well, as seen with the development of the West Kowloon Culture District. Nearly 100 acres of reclaimed land along Victoria Harbour have been designated for an arts and culture infrastructure, including museums; an opera center and other performance arts venues; ArtPark, a flowing green space in the heart of the district; and a promenade.

As a city, Hong Kong takes pride in its past yet does not rest on its laurels. Rather, it looks toward its future and invites you to envision your future here, too.

CHECKING IN WITH BRIAN YEN

Executive Director, MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node

What about Hong Kong attracted MIT to launch its MIT Entrepreneurship and Maker Skills Integrator program in the city?
The Node was created to build long-term value by enriching the educational experiences of MIT and Hong Kong students in key areas of innovation practice including entrepreneurship, making and rapid scale-up of prototypes. For our student programs, MEMSI and MEFTI (MIT Entrepreneurship and FinTech Integrator, new this summer), we chose Hong Kong for several reasons. Hong Kong’s proximity to Shenzhen is a natural choice for a hardware-related program, and its world-leading financial center also makes it a natural choice for the FinTech-related program. The city’s East-meets-West culture makes it a softer landing for MIT students coming in for our intense bootcamp, and Hong Kong has a high density of world-class universities for the Node to work with.

What type of tech is coming out of the startup bootcamp? What are the results so far?
The MEMSI startup bootcamp focused on small electronic hardware devices. But the bootcamp’s focus is educational, so we don’t expect the outcome of the bootcamp to directly turn into product or companies. Many of our students do go on to start their own companies or join other early-stage startups. Occasionally, when timing is right, students may continue their ideas from MEMSI into real startups; for instance, we have a startup working on a smart contraception pill case that originated from a team from our January 2017 cohort.

What do you think is the future of tech and startups in Hong Kong?
The Hong Kong government allocates enormous resources in nurturing tech startups; it is starting to show some green sprouts. With a concentration of a world-class university providing the necessary tech workforce, Hong Kong is on a positive trajectory to become a tech powerhouse.

Things to Do in Hong Kong

When it comes to taking time off to enjoy the city, there is no shortage of options in Hong Kong. Start with a visit to Victoria Harbour, where you can walk along the promenade for spectacular views of the city skyline. For a different perspective, go high into the air on the Hong Kong Observation Wheel; take a ride on the Peak Tram, running since 1888, to the highest point on Hong Kong Island; or visit sky100 Hong Kong Observation Deck, the city’s highest observation deck 100 floors up, with 360-degree views.

Hong Kong Observation Wheel

Hong Kong Observation Wheel © ESTHERPOON | DREAMSTIME.COM

Back on the ground, discover Hong Kong’s diverse neighborhoods, each essentially a city within a city and each with its own culture and personality … not to mention history. East meets West in Wan Chai, while the temples and towers of quintessential Hong Kong are found in Wong Tai Sin. Night markets thrive in Yau Tsim Mong, and arts, food and culture collide in Old Town Central, two of the oldest parts of the city.

Find quiet amid the pulsing energy in one of the city’s parks, including its oldest right in the middle of it all — Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens. Join a free, guided bird-watching walk every Wednesday morning in Hong Kong Park, or enjoy a sense of calm while watching a tai chi session in Victoria Park or at the two-level lotus pond in the Chinese Garden within Kowloon Park.

And then, of course, there are the myriad ornate temples in which Buddhist and Taoist faithful practice ancient rituals of worship. Many of these temples also lie at the center of the city’s colorful festivals held throughout the year.

With all there is to see and do in Hong Kong, chances are you will want to add a few days to your trip to sample all you can.

Hong Kong Info to Go

Direct flights from the United States to Hong Kong are available on American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Hong Kong Airlines, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines. Upon arrival at Hong Kong International Airport, travel into the city easily via metered taxis and personal cars. Or take the highspeed Mass Transit Railway Airport Express train and reach Hong Kong Island in just 24 minutes and return to the airport in the same amount of time. Once in the city, MTR’s 11 rail lines cover all major districts and beyond.

Hong Kong: Just the Facts

Time zone: GMT +8
Phone code: Country code: 852
Currency: Hong Kong dollar
Key industries: Financial services (banking, insurance, stock brokerage), trading and logistics, tourism and professional and producer services are the traditional Four Key Industries in Hong Kong.

COMING AND GOING
U.S. citizens must possess a U.S. passport valid for at least one month beyond the date of intended stay; a tourist visa is not required for stays of less than 90 days. Visas are required if you plan to work or study in Hong Kong and must be obtained before departing the United States.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE
Chinese and English

Where to Stay in Hong Kong

MANDARIN ORIENTAL, HONG KONG The luxury hotel brand’s flagship opened its doors in 1963, and its exquisite service and accommodations quickly became legendary. The hotel also houses three Michelin-starred restaurants. The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road, Central District $$$$$

THE POTTINGER HONG KONG The 68-room boutique hotel sits on one of the oldest stone slab streets in the historic heart of the city, where East meets West and modernity meets heritage. 74 Queen’s Road, Central District $$$$

THE UPPER HOUSE Designer Andre Fu redefines the concept of modern luxury by creating “a haven of calm and quiet taste.” Make yourself at home in one of the hotel’s 117 spacious studios and suites. 88 Pacific Place, Queensway, Central District $$$$$

Restaurants in Hong Kong

HO LEE FOOK Adventurous diners flock to this spot, “good fortune for your mouth,” inspired by old-school Hong Kong and late-night Chinatown hangouts in 1960s New York. Arrive hungry and with an open mind. Ground floor, 1-5 Elgin St., SoHo $$–$$$

LIN HEUNG TEA HOUSE Sip a cup of tea and nibble traditional dim sum recipes served from bamboo baskets on trolley carts in one of Hong Kong’s oldest tea houses, established in 1926. 162 Wellington St., Sheung Wan $$–$$$

YAN TOH HEEN Executive Chef Lau Yiu Fai’s refined Chinese cooking techniques create seasonal Cantonese specialties that garner two Michelin stars in what is considered one of the world’s finest Chinese restaurants. InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Kowloon $$$$–$$$$$

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