Why Beijing may unveil the Bay Area plan without much fanfare

February 13, 2019 18:03
A file picture of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge from Oct. 24, the day when it went into operation. Mainland authorities are likely to unveil the Greater Bay Area blueprint in a low-key manner in the coming days. Photo: CNSA

The Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will be unveiled in the coming few days, and a symposium will be held in Hong Kong on Feb. 21 to explain the plan, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced on Tuesday.

It is said that hundreds of mainland representatives and officials, including those from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Guangdong provincial government, municipal authorities of the various major cities in the Greater Bay Area, as well as Macau, will attend the symposium.

However, it is understood that the outline plan will only touch on the general development direction and principles of the Greater Bay Area project rather than go into details and exact arrangements.

It is said that Beijing is not willing to talk much about the “Made in China 2025” strategic plan as it wants to avoid further provoking US President Donald Trump amid the ongoing Sino-US trade war.

The outline development plan is expected to dwell on cooperation on aspects such as innovation and technology, economic initiatives and environmental protection, as well as multilateral cooperation on human and logistics flows in the Bay Area.

As to why the central government has chosen to announce the plan outline at this particular point in time, a pro-establishment figure says Beijing may be doing so in order to enable state leaders to express their views on the Greater Bay project at the upcoming meetings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and the National People’s Congress in March.

So why did the central authorities choose to hold the symposium in Hong Kong rather than in Beijing or other key mainland cities?

Some in the government believe Hong Kong's status as an international metropolis and a gateway for China to the rest of the world may be the reason.

Meanwhile, it is understood that mainland officials who are going to attend the symposium next Thursday will be of NDRC level only, and that no state leaders will be present.

Some in the pro-establishment camp believe the possible reason why state leaders won’t be showing up is because they may be busy preparing for the NPC and CPPCC sessions.

Another reason is the Sino-US trade talks. As the talks are underway in full swing, Beijing might be opting to avoid elevating the symposium to an excessively high level at this point, aiming to ward off any potential fresh counter-measure from Washington, the sources say.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 13

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.