Club meeting — Hong Kong Third Economic Transformation

In this meeting, our newest member Professor Heiwai Tang gave a thought provoking vocational talk. Rtnnes. Lina, Coco and Catherine joined as part of our spouse program. Before we went into the speaker program, we took care of some club business. First, led by Past Presidents Kay and WT, we sang Happy Birthday to Rotarian Fei whose birthday was on May 31. Next, we gave Professor Heiwai a proper “pinning”, as he was previously inducted on April 14 via Zoom.

Professor Heiwai, a MIT-educated economist, returned to Hong Kong at a time when there were a lack of world-class young economists in Hong Kong. Professor Heiwai’s topic, “Hong Kong Third Economic Transformation”, traced Hong Kong’s development through history. In the 1960s and 1970s, British colonial rule favored “non-intervention” policies in the absence of market failure. However, the government had a vision for the colony and pushed compulsory education, big infrastructure projects and founded HKUST to position Hong Kong for the future. This future would transform Hong Kong’s work force into something like Singapore or Switzerland. Science and technology would figure heavily in the future of Hong Kong.

However, in the years leading up to the handover in 1997, Hong Kong found success matching global demand to manufacturing on the Mainland China. Serving this massive demand took over Hong Kong’s workforce. Finance and trading became Hong Kong’s priority. By this time, Mainland China was ready for the market economy and a large transformation was taking place. Again, Hong Kong would act as intermediaries in this Chinese transformation. Financial services, exports-imports, and tourism became Hong Kong’s economic pillars.

Through 25 years since the handover, Hong Kong reacted to surrounding market forces and became a financial, trading and logistics center. It did not adopt a coherent vision or plan to transform its workforce and economy. Now, as Hong Kong faces difficult US-China relations, a prolonged pandemic, and generally lags behind Singapore and Shenzhen in terms of science and technology, Professor Heiwai wonders if the Hong Kong Government should adopt a comprehensive economic vision and plan for Hong Kong. Inevitably, Professor Heiwai sees biotechnology and other science and technology development on the forefront of Hong Kong’s vision.

If you are interested in this topic, you may wish to read, “Made By Hong Kong,” a book cited by Professor Heiwai. You can learn more about Professor Heiwai and his publications at:

Professor Heiwai, with Charter President Patrick.