22 January 2019
China wants Guangzhou to play a bigger role in promoting links between Guangdong province and Hong Kong and Macau. Photo: Bloomberg
China wants Guangzhou to play a bigger role in promoting links between Guangdong province and Hong Kong and Macau. Photo: Bloomberg

Guangzhou to gain bigger role in Pearl River Delta region

China’s State Council gave its official reply recently to Guangzhou city’s “Master Plan” for this decade.

The cabinet gave an instruction that Guangzhou must “explore new economic cooperation models between Guangdong and Hong Kong, Macau”, and make the “China (Guangdong) Free Trade Pilot Zone a demonstration zone for deepening cooperation” between the three regions.

The city is also required to “push ahead transportation integration in the Pearl River Delta region and Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau”, the State Council said.

The notice has sent a clear signal that the central government wants to boost the role of Guangzhou and allow it to take a lead in economic cooperation between Guangdong province and Hong Kong and Macau.

The tasks can only be achieved at the provincial level in Guangdong. Guangzhou as a city does not have the capability and power to fulfill the mission by itself.

The State Council announced the establishment of the Guangdong Free Trade Zone in December 2014. 

One should bear in mind that the free-trade zone involves issues related to Shenzhen and Zhuhai, which are outside the control of Guangzhou. Cooperation between Guangdong and Hong Kong and Macau needs to be coordinated by provincial authorities.

But the central government intends to put all the tasks to Guangzhou city, expecting it to play a bigger role in the region.

Such arrangement is set to boost the status of Guangzhou.

To realize the goals, the city could be vested with more power to help it expand its radar to Shenzhen and Zhuhai. It so, the plan could exert a huge shock to the existing eco-system in Pearl River Delta region.

Some analysts believe Guangzhou could emerge as the biggest competitor for Hong Kong in the future, rather than Singapore or Shanghai.

The central government has also asked Guangzhou to focus on development of Nansha District. In terms of transportation, the city is encouraged to further push transportation integration in Pearl River Delta region.

In addition, the State Council has made specific requirements with regard to making Guangzhou more livable and preserving historical cultural relics and remains. It’s a sign that the Guangdong provincial capital has been given a lot of importance by Beijing.

By 2020, the number of permanent residents in Guangzhou would be capped within 18 million, and construction land area in the city area will be limited within 1,772 square kilometers. The city will have six sub-centers by then.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb. 22.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version中文版]

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Researcher at the China Business Center of Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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