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A government plan to deepen integration between Hong Kong and the mainland is designed to create a region as competitive as other bay areas such as “Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo”, according to Guangdong’s governor.
Ma Xingrui gave his assessment of the Greater Bay Area plan while meeting the provincial delegation at the National People’s Congress session in Beijing on Monday.
The plan was first proposed in a joint study by authorities in the region in 2011, but some Hong Kong lawmakers complaining they were not consulted. The idea got a renewed push when Premier Li Keqiang said in his annual government work report on Sunday that the mainland would draw up a plan for the “development of a city cluster in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area”.
Ma said the goal was to “compete with bay areas in Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo Bay”.
The area in Tokyo covers 9,076 sq km and is home to 31 million people, while the San Francisco Bay Area covers 18,000 sq km and has a population of 7.6 million.
Ma said the blueprint called for broad cooperation on a range of social and economic policies, covering environmental and transport issues. He said the Guangdong government had asked the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, a think tank, to study the initiative.
During yesterday’s meeting, He Ningka, director of the Guangdong Development and Reform Commission, said a national-level coordination mechanism was needed to ensure collaboration among the three regions.
He called for additional policies to support the Guangdong free-trade zone, including introducing schemes for cross-border use of the yuan and liberalised foreign exchange controls.
Zheng Tianxiang, a professor with the Pearl River Delta Research Institute at Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University, said the Greater Bay Area could consolidate the three regional economies into a truly “global city” with expanded economic influence.
“The three big cities in the region were previously more competitive with one another, but under the initiative, they could be complementary and make fuller use of their own advantages, for example, Hong Kong’s service industry, Shenzhen’s innovation and Guangzhou’s historic role in the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative,” Zheng said.
A chief obstacle to realising the plan however is the different systems of governance on either side of the border. Zheng admitted this could be an obstacle, especially when it came to administrative restrictions.
“That’s why we need to coordinate with creativity, to see how to make a breakthrough, and such issues could be discussed, because we are in one country,” Zheng said.