Date
17 September 2019
There were a lot of jockeying, arm-twisting and squabbles among the cities included in the Greater Bay Area plan before the official blueprint was released on Monday. Photo: Xinhua
There were a lot of jockeying, arm-twisting and squabbles among the cities included in the Greater Bay Area plan before the official blueprint was released on Monday. Photo: Xinhua

Untold stories behind the bay area project

Following the unveiling of the eagerly anticipated Outline Development Plan (ODP) for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area on Monday, previously unknown news about the ambitious project has started to emerge.

For starters, according to a political figure who has good connections in Beijing, Hong Kong managed to secure its place as one of the four “core cities” along with Macau, Guangzhou and Shenzhen under the bay area project only after intense arm-twisting and lobbying by the HKSAR government.

Word is also getting around in local political circles that the idea of the Greater Bay Area was first proposed by Guangdong province, and was initially intended for Guangdong cities only.

However, it is said that Cao Erbao, former director of the research department of the Beijing Liaison Office and now a special research fellow with the State Council, later suggested that the Greater Bay Area would be substantially boosted if Hong Kong and Macau were incorporated into the blueprint so as to fully utilize their unique advantages under One Country, Two Systems principle.

Rumors also have it that Hong Kong has drawn envy from mainland cities in the Greater Bay Area because although it is a latecomer in the project, it is now ranked No. 1 among the four designated core cities.

Much of the jealousy comes from the fact that Hong Kong is given preferential treatment by the central government and that our city has become a member of the special task force for the development of the Greater Bay Area, through which the SAR government can directly express its views over the project to Beijing leaders.

As to the timing for the announcement of the project is concerned, it is said that the Greater Bay Area ODP would probably have been released back in the first half of 2018 had it not been for the intense arguments among the cities within the bay area over their own strategic positioning under the blueprint, which in turn had led to the postponement of its official announcement.

There is also talk that during the formulation of the bay area project, some have suggested that the issues of “two systems” and “three separate customs entities” within the area be addressed so as to enhance human and logistics flow among the “9+2 cities”.

However, the suggestion was met with grave concern by the Hong Kong government, which voiced fears that the city could be overwhelmed if the 70 million residents of the participating cities are allowed to travel freely across the bay area in the future.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 21

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RT/CG

Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.