Boost Greater Bay Area integration with more sporting and cultural events for our youth
Ken Chu says with infrastructure projects connecting cities in the Greater Bay Area in place, the focus should shift to fostering human ties, and youth activities are a good place to begin
At China’s parliamentary meeting this year, Premier Li Keqiang said that Beijing would implement a development plan for the Greater Bay Area to foster even closer ties between Hong Kong, Macau and the other nine cities near the Pearl River estuary. A significant milestone will be reached with the opening of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail link and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge this year.
These two infrastructure projects will improve the physical connection between cities, but only when an intimate human connection among residents is achieved can the potential be fully realised. Therefore, we must seek different ways to create greater interaction and understanding among those living in the region, starting with our youth.
Young people across the Pearl River Delta are brought up under very different systems. To bridge the inherent differences, we might try to foster academic, sports and cultural exchange among youth.
In this year’s annual work report, Li referred to the completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge. The timing couldn’t be better for the respective governments to organise a tri-city marathon or cycling event to mark the opening of the bridge, enabling Greater Bay Area residents to mingle through a friendly sporting activity. Sports and social activities have long been a unifying tool; they are a universal language easily understood by young people. There should be greater cooperation between the relevant bureaus in Guangdong, Macau and Hong Kong in organising youth games in popular sports such as soccer, basketball and table tennis.
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We can also focus on activities that integrate cultural elements such as Lingnan wushu, dragon and lion dancing, dragon boat racing, and so on. Giving sports a cultural spin would not only encourage participation, it would also lay the groundwork for youth to build camaraderie.
The Greater Bay Area is set to spearhead world-class innovation and boost the economy. It is crucial to attract innovative industries, cultivate talent and generate an exchange of ideas among higher education institutions. Such exchanges will allow academics and students within the area to interact and learn from each other. This can also act as the foundation for exploring ways to increase the mobility of talent across cities, and can be extended to postgraduate studies and vocational training.
We can look into launching youth innovation showcases across the region to provide a platform for long-term exchanges of ideas. Conditions are ripe for such a platform, with several technology competitions and exhibitions taking place annually in Hong Kong and on the mainland. An annual youth innovation fair, modelled on the China Hi-Tech Fair, could be held in different cities across the region. Accompanying lectures and forums could increase interaction among youth, academia and industry.
Arts and culture can also draw the interest of youth in the region. In fact, Hong Kong has one of the best youth orchestras in Asia. Its performances of familiar tunes such as Pearl of the Orient and Under the Lion Rock have impressed internet users on the mainland. Joint performances with young musical talent across the bay area should be encouraged. Isn’t a regular Greater Bay Area youth arts and culture festival worth considering? This would not only help build a regional identity but also spread goodwill and culture.
With the hardware for connectivity in place, it is vital that the software keeps pace. Routine academic, sporting and cultural exchanges will not only develop the Greater Bay Area into a magnet for youth, it will also allow young people to witness prosperity and development on the mainland, while deepening mutual understanding.
Dr Ken Chu is group chairman and CEO of the Mission Hills Group and a National Committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference