25 February 2020
Under China’s Greater Bay Area blueprint, Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are identified as key cities that will act as “core engines" to drive regional development. Photo: Xinhua
Under China’s Greater Bay Area blueprint, Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are identified as key cities that will act as “core engines" to drive regional development. Photo: Xinhua

HK touted as a ‘core engine’ as China unveils Bay Area plan

The central government on Monday unveiled the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, laying out a vision to create a world-class city cluster and make it the top-ranked class compared to others of its kind in the world.

Welcoming the plan, which sets out the directions guiding the development of the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed gratitude to the central government for placing importance on the views of the Hong Kong government in the course of formulating the plan

The initiative, which was first introduced by Premier Li Keqiang in March in 2017, covers an area that includes Hong Kong and Macau and nine cities in Guangdong province, namely Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing.

Under the plan, Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are identified as core cities and will act as “core engines” to drive regional development, leveraging their comparative advantages and enhancing the radiating effect in leading the development of nearby regions, a Hong Kong government spokesman said in a statement.

While pointing out early that Hong Kong faces the challenge of continuously growing its economy, the plan, which has 11 chapters, clearly supports Hong Kong in consolidating and enhancing its status as international financial, transportation and trade center as well as an international aviation hub, strengthen its status as a global offshore renminbi business hub and its role as an international asset management center and a risk management center, the statement said.

Hong Kong is expected to play an important role in providing funding for tech firms, allowing them to raise money by going public here, and channeling venture capital to startups, RTHK reports.

The measures listed out for Hong Kong include supporting development of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park and construction of the third runway at the Hong Kong International Airport as well as strengthening judicial mutual assistance among Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong to combat cross-border crimes.

The plan also aims to make it easier for Hong Kong and Macau people to live and work in Guangdong as the possibility of allowing them to enjoy the same livelihood benefits as their mainland counterparts will be explored.

The feasibility of canceling long-distance and roaming charges for Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau people using mobile phones while in the Greater Bay Area will also be studied, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The plan “covers the period from now to 2022 in the immediate term and extends to 2035 in the long term.” 

According to the plan, “the framework for an international first-class bay area and world-class city cluster” “should essentially be formed” by 2022, while “an international first-class bay area for living, working and travelling should be fully developed” by 2035.

In response to the plan, a government spokesman said the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is a national strategy personally devised, planned and driven by President Xi Jinping, and that the opportunities brought by it to Hong Kong involve two aspects, namely “it can help identify new areas of growth for Hong Kong” and “expand the space for living and development of Hong Kong residents”.

The Hong Kong government will proactively work with the relevant central ministries, and the governments of Guangdong and Macau to “jointly take forward the development of the Greater Bay Area in accordance with the guiding directions offset out in the Outline Development Plan,” the spokesman said.

The Hong Kong government will also keep maintaining close contact with the Legislative Council members, industries, business associations, professional bodies and relevant stakeholders to listen to their views, endeavoring to play the role of “facilitator” with the aim “to help industries with the required policy innovation and breakthrough in the process of expanding opportunities”, the spokesman added.

Gao Yingxin, chief executive of Bank of China (Hong Kong), said the plan draws the outline of the Greater Bay Area’s strategic positioning very clearly, while the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s biggest pro-Beijing political party, believes the four core cities will see complementarity of their respective advantages under strong coordination mechanisms devised by the plan.

The Democratic Party, however, wondered if the plan will really benefit Hong Kong, saying a lot will depend on whether the government will look at the plan from the perspective of competition, and not just cooperation.

The Civic Party said it is worrisome that Hongkongers have never been consulted on the plan. Hong Kong must make sure that its unique position is not undermined in future, the party said.

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