Leaving Hong Kong and Going Nomadic


The future is already here now, but it’s just not evenly distributed yet.

“It is said that people tend to make major decisions every seven years – in fact many of the wisdom traditions refer to it as well. The most common one we hear of is the seven year itch in marriage, but it is much more than that. I tend to have large themes to all of my seven year phases.

The one in Hong Kong would probably be best referred to as “transition.” I had my Dark Night of the Soul here and I also discovered inner peace. I have no idea whether I will be back to live full time here again. Hong Kong itself has gone through a major transition. When I first came to Hong Kong it was a truly international city, but now it feels increasingly like an International Chinese city. The level of English has been dropping and the economy focuses on selling to the Chinese consumer.

But with more visitors coming from China to the city of Hong Kong each year than the TOTAL number of visitors to the country of Japan, the world’s third largest economy, no wonder the switch is in focus. In recent years I have seen a lot of expatriates move back to London, New York and the West Coast of the US. I wonder whether Hong Kong will become just the Monaco of China – it’s a lovely Island with lots to offer, and the rich will always want to come here for vacations and to keep their money, but I am really not able to see much dynamism or innovation from the Hong Kong locals.

The economy is doing so well on the back of real estate, financial services and then selling products to Chinese tourists. I spoke to someone senior at a Hong Kong bank just this afternoon and he said the same thing – that the mainland Chinese youth are much hungrier and smarter than the youth of Hong Kong. I have seen a number of Hong Kong Chinese friends in recent months take up lucrative jobs on the Chinese mainland working for dynamic companies. One is now running the investments of a conglomerate that just bought the UK’s House of Fraser, and they have more things on their shopping list.

Hong Kong has been written off many times. I saw magazine front pages predict the end of Hong Kong around the time of the Handover from the UK back to China, and around the time of SARs, when real estate plummeted. Perhaps the new mainland Chinese will drive future innovation. And perhaps Hong Kong will also play an important part of China’s internationalization of its financial system. The new bank, the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), might put its regional HQ here. And when I walk around Hong Kong I see so many Eurasian kids with mixed Chinese and Western parents. They have the benefit of being bilingual and educated in good international schools. What role will they play in the future, I often wonder?

For now, I am just going to be grateful that I had front row seats to one of the most amazing economic shows in the last 100 years as the Middle Kingdom, or Sleeping Dragon, rejoined the global economy. And I got to live in Hong Kong, or “Fragrant Harbour,” a bustling and energetic city that never fails to stimulate ones senses and imagination. My next stop is Jeju Island Korea, where I will be meeting with some of the Island’s government and key local figures. Then I am off to London and the English Countryside for the summer. It will be my longest summer there since the mid 1990s, and will be both a great family event but also interesting to observe events there. Although the UK’s importance in the world has diminished since WWII, London has had a massive resurgence in recent years. Many of my American friends regard London as the only true global city in the world, even if the UK is definitely not a USA.”

Extract from this week’s Dow Theory Letters


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