A first master’s programme taught in Chinese focuses on the Belt and Road and Greater Bay Area economic initiatives
The Belt and Road initiative and planned economic developments in the Greater Bay Area are in the spotlight in Hong Kong and have attracted the interest of investors around the world. Businesses and governments can see the potential, with many already indicating they are keen to take part in upcoming projects.
However, there are also new opportunities for universities and other educational institutes, which are proactively stepping up related research efforts and introducing programmes to offer training and insights for professionals and academics looking to specialise in this area.
As one of Asia’s leading liberal arts universities, Lingnan recently launched a new Master of Science in International and Development Economics (MIDE). It is the first such master’s programme in Hong Kong taught mainly in Putonghua and focuses on the Belt and Road initiative and economic development in the Greater Bay Area of South China.
The course is available in two modes - one-year, full-time or two-year, part-time - and is designed to give students interdisciplinary training in economics and finance, while also allowing them to explore particular subject interests and gain new insights into the latest social, political and environmental developments.
China as role model
“Lingnan has organised a number of talks and seminars on the Belt and Road initiative over the last few years and noted the general level of interest,” says Professor Wei Xiangdong, MIDE Programme Director. “Many people are looking for fundamental knowledge of the economic drivers and the international policies now at work to help them analyse what’s happening and the underlying trends. Therefore, we decided to launch this programme to give students a better understanding of the policy framework and help them find new opportunities in the years to come.”
Noting China’s rapid rise from developing country status to now being the world’s second largest economy, Professor Wei emphasises other countries, particularly in the Belt and Road region, may well see the mainland as a successful role model.
“It has been said that in order to gain a fortune, one first has to build a road,” says Professor Wei, who is also a director of the China Economic Research Programme and of the Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Centre. “When the infrastructure is well established, we can attract more investment, and thus more economic advancement. Infrastructure is the first step and, therefore, will play a key role in the overall initiative.”
More than economic advancement
He suggests that many of today’s developing countries have difficulty achieving favourable economic growth because their markets are not open enough or too many regulations and government controls impede progress.
“China had the same issues once before. But establishing special economic zones and free trade zones helped to open up the economy at a steady rate. Within those zones, trade was relatively free and regulations were loosened, making it possible to attract foreign companies and overseas investments.”
Professor Wei foresees many “special zones” in countries within the Belt and Road region in the years ahead and predicts that they will contribute significantly to both economic and social development. History shows that economic growth creates opportunities for people to improve their lives, and a greater sense of stability provides the basis for a more harmonious society.
The role of Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s geographical position and its status as an international financial centre mean it can expect to play a major role in both the Belt and Road and the Greater Bay Area initiatives. The city has long been a “middleman” facilitating trade and other exchanges between China and the rest of the world. Professor Wei suggests that role can further evolve, supporting the ongoing flows of investment, products, data and specialist expertise.
He cautions, though, that Hong Kong must be open-minded and adventurous to capitalise fully on these opportunities.
“In the past, our focus was China, but now we are in a position to explore the Middle East, South Asia and even countries in Africa. It takes in-depth knowledge and understanding to engage with less familiar areas and help to build a bridge to China.”
Experienced faculty and experts
The team teaching the MIDE programme includes experienced scholars from Lingnan’s Department of Economics, as well as renowned international experts and leaders of China-related enterprises. In addition, the China Economic Research Programme and the Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Centre have signed on as programme partners, ensuring students will gain a thorough understanding of policy developments and objectives.
The MIDE programme is mainly intended for executives of leading companies and state-owned enterprises, civil servants, and professionals working in relevant sectors. What they learn about policy and economics will help them perform their jobs more effectively and thus enhance their career aspirations.
Those who work in foreign investment and policy studies will find the course improves their analytical skills and provides a good platform for meeting and networking with professionals from different backgrounds.
Lingnan has also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Faculty of Business at the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (GSCASS) to jointly offer a double master’s degree.
All graduates of MIDE may apply for GSCASS’s postgraduate course and half of the credits can be exempted if they are successfully enrolled. Students are expected to obtain the second master’s degree from GSCASS after completing half of their credits according to the regulations. Details will be announced once students are admitted on to the MIDE programme.