The journey from the airport skirts the mountains of Lantau.
Soon, you are on one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. Apartment blocks flash by and before long, you are in Central, the beating heart of this global financial centre.
Hong Kong is a city on the sea. Other famous cities cluster around a river, but Hong Kong has the Victoria Harbour. We have a view from our office that takes in Hong Kong’s famous skyline. Container vessels crisscrossing the waves remind me of the trade taking place. Hong Kong is an important node in the flow of capital from West to East, and is where many emerging market transactions in Asia take place.
My work in Cleary Gottlieb’s Hong Kong offices reflects this: it has involved such jurisdictions as Burma, Vietnam, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. The global trends reported by the financial press come to life in the deals we work on. We document investments by Chinese companies in the mineral resources of Africa and advise foreign funds buying into newly-liberalised sectors in developing economies.
In Hong Kong, I reviewed documents in Chinese and hosted conference calls in Mandarin. The multilingual dimension is sometimes excruciating, but enthusiasm will always carry you through. One faux pas was the time I referred to Russia as su lian (the Soviet Union) – frantic Googling revealed my parents, who taught me the term, had not updated their political geography since the 1970s.
Despite its reputation as a teeming metropolis, you are never out of sight of nature. Magnificent Banyans perch in the most unlikely places and you are spoilt for hiking trails. Back in the hubbub of civilisation, shopping and food choices abound, from old-school family restaurants to airy French bistros. Duck into the poster-lined stairwell of an innocuous block and you might find the odd bookstore selling texts banned in China. Then there’s the sea. It’s a rite of passage for new arrivals to explore the archipelago by junk (many law firms have their own): it’s when you feel the salt spray on your face that you really see the place, as one guide puts it, “as it must have appeared to generations of fishermen and pirates”.
Wanjie Lin is a trainee at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton