SOME people build bridges to forge links between communities isolated by geography or cultural differences. But Gary Ngai Mei-cheong says the Special Economic Zone of Zhuhai wants to build a bridge to Hong Kong to isolate its neighbour, Macau. To the director of the Sino-Latin Foundation and vice-president of the Macau Cultural Institute, the proposal to build a road bridge from the north of Zhuhai across the Pearl River to Tuen Mun is an example of how not to co-exist with one's neighbours. The Sunday Morning Post reported last week that Zhuhai is negotiating with two Hong Kong consortiums and a number of overseas companies to work on the 53-kilometre link - over Macau's objections and ahead of any formal approval by the central Government. Worse, according to Mr Ngai, the bridge is one of a series of attempts by Zhuhai to undermine and overwhelm Macau both economically and politically. Macau officials and businessmen generally agree that instead of building projects to complement Macau's infrastructure and services, Zhuhai party secretary and former mayor Liang Guangda deliberately set out to stir up competition. He tried to hinder the construction of the Macau Airport, then decided to build his own international airport in competition and staged an airshow to attract world attention. Then he built Latin-style tourist attractions to compete with Macau and even set up an alternative Grand Prix motor rally to distract international interest from the well-established Macau Grand Prix. 'It is vicious competition,' says Mr Ngai. 'They want to eat us.' Mr Ngai also believes that Zhuhai's call for longer opening hours at the border crossing is a deliberate attempt to kill the Macau restaurant business by attracting diners to cheaper eateries in China. But to some, the competition from Zhuhai is a stimulus and an opportunity to develop the enclave. Mr Ngai's own foundation was set up earlier this year to find ways to build on Macau's special 'advantage', the 'Sino-Latin identity' which makes it different from other Chinese coastal cities. The theory is this should make Macau attractive to businessmen from Southern Europe and Latin America who the Macau Government believes will find it a more conducive for business. Air Macau vice-chairman Leonel Miranda who doubles as the government's planning and co-operation co-ordinator, is less worried than Mr Ngai about Zhuhai's vast and under-used airport. It may be large enough to take the biggest jumbo jets, but it is just a domestic airport. 'You can have an international airport facility,' he says. 'But if don't have any airlines or air services agreements, you don't have an international airport.' Mr Miranda points to Macau airport's success in attracting Taiwanese and international traffic and argues Macau will stay a separate and successful economy, useful to Zhuhai and to China as a link with the outside world and a cheaper alternative to Hong Kong. But the bridge project is a different matter. Mr Miranda agrees with Mr Ngai that the bridge should connect Zhuhai to Hong Kong from a location which brings Macau into the scheme instead of the proposed Lingdingyang route far to the north of the enclave on the other side of Zhuhai city. It could even be a bridge with two exits. One branch would go to Macau (possibly via the islands of Dom Joao and Montagna which the Portuguese administration once hoped to be allowed to operate on Zhuhai's behalf as a free trade zone before Mr Liang rejected the idea). The other would go north of the border. Macau clings to the hope that until the central Government gives the go-ahead for the bridge, an alternative link from Macau to the North Lantau Expressway is possible. Oddly, the Macau administration has done little to lobby Hong Kong for its proposal, and is relying instead on support from a central Government which it believes wants to keep Zhuhai's ambitions in check. Shortly before his death last month, Legislative Council Engineering Constituency representative Samuel Wong Ping-wai described Macau's alternative 'superbridge' plan as silly, impractical and expensive. For the Hong Kong Government, 'the Macau proposal does not exist'. Yet the plan's boosters still talk hopefully of the new infrastructure committee set up in March this year as a forum in which the central Government will be able to rein Macau in. The committee is a pale shadow of its Hong Kong counterpart, through which the Hong Kong Government is able to co-ordinate its infrastructure planning with Guangdong, Shenzhen and Zhuhai. It has none of the larger group's decision-making powers. As Mr Ngai puts it: 'it is already a step forward.' But he adds: 'We want better co-ordination, controlled by the central Government and not obstructed by egotists and manipulators from Zhuhai. All decisions on the bridge, and railway and port developments should be under the control of central Government, not Zhuhai, or we will never get the concessions we need.'