The Hong Kong government is currently reaching out to Persian Gulf dictatorships in an effort to boost its own international standing. On Thursday, February 9, the Hong Kong government, as well as the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, have sent a delegation to the United Arab Emirates promising to promote stronger trade ties and offer Emirati businessmen access to the mainland China market. The delegation includes not just key government officials, but also the executives of major Hong Kong, financial institutions and representatives from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. At the meeting Hong Kong government officials promised a friendly regulatory environment and low taxes for UAE businesses.
Chief Executive John Lee has also taken part in the Hong Kong government’s outreach to Gulf dictatorships, making a visit to Saudi Arabia on February 7th. With the backing of Chinese president Xi Jinping, John Lee is attempting to secure new investments from Saudi Arabia, including the prized listing of the Saudi state owned oil company, Aramco, on Hong Kong’s stock exchange. A deal to secure Aramco’s secondary listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange would potentially be valued at tens of billions of dollars and attract further investment from countries in the Middle East to Hong Kong.
CCP and Hong Kong government attempts to court the Saudi and Emirati dictatorships mark the further alignment of global authoritarian governments along economic lines. The increased focus on attracting capital from Middle Eastern dictatorships also indicates one potential solution the Hong Kong government may be eyeing to address declining international investment in Hong Kong. It is possible that as Hong Kong’s status as a destination for Western businesses declines, companies from authoritarian countries, looking for a friendly regulatory environment will step in to at least partially fill the economic gap.
CCP chairman Xi Jinping’s personal involvement in the Hong Kong governments efforts to court allies in the Middle East also indicates that Hong Kong is increasingly becoming a nexus of economic influence and authoritarian coordination for the CCP. This news follows last months discovery that Hong Kong was acting as a hub for international sanctions, evasion, particularly with regard to attempts by international bad actors to aid Russia.