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Powerful Integration
Plan sets course for advancing the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area
By Ma Miaomiao  ·  2019-07-29  ·   Source: NO.31 AUGUST 1, 2019

Passengers walk by a sign with ferry information at the Shenzhen Airport Ferry Terminal in south China's Guangdong Province on April 26 (XINHUA)

South China's Guangdong Province has outlined a three-step process for promoting the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. The timetable is part of its scheme released on July 5 on how to implement the outline development plan for the Greater Bay Area, released by the Chinese Government back in February.

The Greater Bay Area consists of the cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing in Guangdong as well as Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions, covering a total area of 56,000 square km with a combined population of 70 million people. As one of the most open and economically vibrant regions in China, it plays a strategic role in the overall development of the country.

In 2018, the GDP of the 11 cities totaled $1.64 trillion, surpassing the Republic of Korea's economy of $1.62 trillion. Based on an estimated annual nominal growth rate of 7 percent, the Standard Chartered Bank predicted that the area might overtake the GDP of the UK and France by 2035.

By establishing a coordinated, connected and highly efficient mechanism, the first step aims at laying a solid basis for the construction of the Greater Bay Area by 2020, according to the scheme. The second step is to build a world-leading bay area and world-class city clusters with enormous vitality, prominent innovation capacity, optimized industrial structure, smooth flow of production necessities and a beautiful environment by 2022. The third step is to completely build a world-leading livable as well as business- and tourism-friendly bay area by 2035.

In addition, the province also issued a three-year action plan for reaching the target of the second step.

Regional cooperation 

The scheme stresses stepping up the creation of an innovative and upgraded version of Shenzhen-Hong Kong cooperation, with the focus on modern service industry and sci-tech innovation. Major tasks include optimizing and upgrading the functions of the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone, promoting the construction of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Science and Technology Innovation Special Cooperation Zone, and jointly building an important engine for innovation and development in the area.

Regarding cooperation between Guangzhou and neighboring Foshan, it suggests they speed up integration. In addition, they should jointly create a number of hubs with global influence, world-class industrial clusters and high-end open cooperation platforms, along with a modern industrial base and an international metropolitan area serving the whole country while facing the rest of the world.

In terms of deepening Zhuhai-Macao cooperation, the scheme says it is necessary to jointly promote the development of industries such as financial services, leisure tourism, high-end equipment manufacturing and biomedicine, along with the development and construction of Hengqin New Area to create a new growth engine in the area.

Guo Wanda, Executive Vice President of the Shenzhen-based China Development Institute, told 21st Century Business Herald that the three city pairs fully identify the advantages and positioning of the four central cities in the Greater Bay Area—Hong Kong, Macao, Guangzhou and Shenzhen—for spearheading regional development.

These cities, with their complementary advantages, will play a leading role in promoting the development of nearby regions, according to Liu Jianheng, a senior economist with Standard Chartered Bank.

In particular, the cooperation of the three driving engines, Shenzhen-Hong Kong, Zhuhai-Macao and Guangzhou-Foshan, will help accelerate the coordinated development of the eastern and western coasts of the Pearl River Delta, Liu added.

"Regional cooperation and integration is the actual need of the construction of the Greater Bay Area and the key to its success," Lin Jiang, a professor at Lingnan College, Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, told Southern Metropolis Daily. He added that although regional integration made headway in the Pearl River Delta region in the past, it didn't meet expectations due to the lack of an effective evaluation system. Therefore, Guangdong proposes a mechanism for coordinated regional development, which will guarantee implementation.

Hu Gang, a professor at the School of Public Administration, Jinan University in Guangzhou, said the key to boosting the development of the Greater Bay Area lies in breaking down barriers and coordinating development among cities. Guangdong is taking the lead in promoting the integrated development of provincial cities and establishing relevant mechanisms, which will play an exemplary role in the larger region.

The Qianhai Enterprise Dream Park in the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone on February 22 (XINHUA)

Path finders

The outline development plan published in February sets the goal of developing the Greater Bay Area into a role model of high-quality development. It urges accelerating the development of Qianhai in Shenzhen, Nansha in Guangzhou and Hengqin in Zhuhai to fully leverage their experimental and demonstration functions in deepening reform, expanding opening up and fostering cooperation.

Answering the call, Guangdong will make great efforts to improve Qianhai as a modern service cooperation area, including

easing restrictions on Hong Kong and Macao investors from setting up banking, securities and insurance institutions, and conducting green finance cooperation between Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Nansha will be built into a demonstration area as Guangdong steps up all-around cooperation with Hong Kong and Macao to expedite the development of international shipping, finance and innovation sectors in the Greater Bay Area.

A high-standard international leisure and tourism island will be built in Hengqin New Area.

Scientific innovation

In its action plan, which includes 100 key measures in nine major fields, Guangdong vows to accelerate building a comprehensive national science center for advancing the construction of the Greater Bay Area. It will support the development of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Science and Technology Innovation Special Cooperation Zone and the establishment of an open scientific research system that will be shared by the two places. The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Macao Sci-Tech Innovation Corridor will be advanced.

Furthermore, institutional barriers to innovation will be broken and measures will be introduced to facilitate the orderly opening up of major infrastructure and large-scale scientific research instruments to Hong Kong and Macao.

The plan also proposes that by 2020, the number of new research and development (R&D) institutions in the Greater Bay Area should reach 200, with R&D expenditure accounting for 2.8 percent of the GDP.

Since the deeper driving force to develop the Greater Bay Area should come from scientific innovation, Guangdong has decided to speed up building five advanced manufacturing industry clusters, namely, electronic information, automobiles, intelligent household appliances, robots and green petrochemicals. It will also focus on strategic emerging industries such as high-end equipment manufacturing, biomedicine, the digital economy, new materials and the marine economy, carrying out a number of major projects in these fields to form a number of new pillar industries with trillion-yuan output value.

According to Guo, many of these industries, which are also frontier industries with good prospects, have already been established or developed as key industries in Guangdong. The integration of scientific and industrial resources by the construction of the Greater Bay Area will create opportunities for the rapid development of these industries, which, in turn, will be beneficial to the area as a whole.

Guangdong will also work to build a high-standard pilot free trade zone (FTZ) and a free trade corridor for the Greater Bay Area and will give greater autonomy to the FTZ for reform and opening up by endowing it with administrative privileges.

Guo said the FTZ will still have a lot of room for future growth. Its expansion will promote the integration of the Greater Bay Area and reduce the efficiency loss caused by institutional differences.

Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo

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