The long-awaited Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development plan was unveiled on Monday.
Nine cities in Guangdong have been included in the blueprint, together with Hong Kong and Macau, leaving 12 cities in the southern province outside the grand regional economic integration scheme.
As two of the nation’s top cities, the inclusion of Guangzhou and Shenzhen in the plan is a given.
Zhongshan, Foshan, Dongguan and Zhuhai all have quite a sizable economy and unique competitive edge in certain industries. Inclusion of the four cities is totally justified.
However, the inclusion of the three other Guangdong cities – Jiangmen, Huizhou and Zhaoqing – may appear questionable as they lack either economic scale or special strength. Still, they have certain attributes that set them apart from others.
Jiangmen is known as China’s largest hometown of overseas Chinese. It has up to 2.8 million overseas Chinese spread across 107 nations and regions. By picking Jiangmen, the authorities may hope to lure overseas Chinese to contribute to the success of the Greater Bay Area scheme.
Huizhou is highly connected to Shenzhen. The two cities are linked via intra-city subways. More and more workers in Shenzhen choose to live in Huizhou and commute to Shenzhen by railway or subway, which takes only about 27 and 40 minutes respectively.
In a sense, Huizhou provides room for the economic expansion of Shenzhen, providing the space to help the latter in arresting runaway property prices, which, if unchecked, could harm the development of Shenzhen’s high-tech industry.
Huizhou also boasts a long history and great living environment, offering potential for tourism growth.
Zhaoqing has the smallest economy of the nine cities. Its GDP reached 165.8 billion yuan (US$24.66 billion) in the first three quarters of last year, even falling behind that of Zhanjiang and Shantou, both of which are not included in the scheme.
The city’s nominal GDP rose by 6.3 percent, below the national average growth rate.
Nonetheless, the city is big. It has an area of 14,900 square kilometers, equivalent to the combined area of Guangzhou, Foshan, Dongguan and Shenzhen, making it an ideal site for the relocation of factories from nearby Foshan and Zhongshan when costs there become too high.
It’s a bit surprising that Chaozhou, Jieyang, Shantou and Shanwei are left out. But considering the four cities are known to be less welcoming to outsiders and foreign investors, it’s not entirely unreasonable.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 20
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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