Chinese Government Releases Greater Bay Area Plan

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge links three of the cities that are the focus of the Greater Bay Area initiative. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge links three of the cities that are the focus of the Greater Bay Area initiative. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Chinese government released a long-awaited outline for the Greater Bay Area project on February 18. The project seeks to connect 11 major cities around the Pearl River Delta, including the core cities of Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Macau, making the region an even greater economic hub.

The plan includes developing policies to foster innovation, improving infrastructural and financial system connectivity, and running cooperative educational programs. The government is also looking at granting Hong Kong and Macau residents working on the mainland the same rights as mainland residents to access a number of services, such as “education, medical care, elderly care, housing and transport.”

The document laid out a timetable for the project, aiming to build the framework for the Greater Bay Area by 2022 and achieve great connectivity between financial markets in 2035.

Guangzhou will take a leading role as a provincial capital, while Shenzhen will continue to be central to Chinese technology companies. As a former Portuguese colony and major resort city, Macau will focus on tourism and trade with Portuguese-speaking countries. In addition, the plan outlined Hong Kong’s role as “an international finance, transportation and trade centre, as well as an international aviation hub.”

The response to the project has been largely positive among government and business leaders. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, thanked the Chinese government “for placing importance on the views of Hong Kong.” Dennis Ng Wang-pun, president of the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong, commented that the plan provided many opportunities for Hong Kong’s businesses, saying, “This will help [the cities’] division of labour and help them to complement each other with their strengths.”

However, given the unusual legal relationship between Hong Kong and China, it is unclear how the governments will reconcile the different political, legal, and economic systems involved. Peng Peng, vice president of Guangdong’s South non-governmental Think Tank, questioned the plan: “Which customs and legal system would take the leading role and influence the future development of the bay area? It’s not clear in the outline.”

Public reaction has also been mixed. According to a survey of 809 people aged 15 to 39 conducted by the Hong Kong Guangdong Youth Association and the Proactive Think Tank, less than a quarter of respondents would be willing to work in Guangdong Province. No official survey has been conducted in Guangzhou.