They may seem strange bedfellows: Hong Kong, one of the world's freest markets, and the mainland, a communist planned economy - even though they are in the same country. Even less likely, it might be assumed, is the prospect of lively, capitalist Hong Kong actively campaigning to be a part of a mainland five-year plan, a foundation of the planned economy since the days of Mao Zedong . But this is exactly what is happening, as the city strives for greater integration with the vast, fast-growing and often aggressively capitalist market across the border, amid fears it may otherwise be marginalised and warnings that it may have been already. Hong Kong officials are now busy talking to their mainland counterparts about how the city can play a bigger role in the country's economic development under the 12th five-year plan, which is due to start in 2011. Underpinning this effort, according to one of the government's top advisers, is a growing anxiety in Hong Kong about being shoved aside by cities such as Shanghai - and a surprising level of community support for greater involvement in the country's blueprint for the next five years. The National Development and Reform Commission, the mainland's top planning body, is holding preliminary talks on the five-year plan. In 2006, for the first time since the handover, Hong Kong rated a mention in a five-year plan. But it was a brief one - just two lines of text in the 90-page 11th plan referring to the central government's support for preserving Hong Kong's status as an international financial, trade and logistics centre. This is probably because the Hong Kong government did not show interest in securing a role in the plan until late in the drafting process. According to one Hong Kong official, the government's reticence stemmed from a desire to avoid creating the impression the central government intended to interfere in Hong Kong affairs. This time things are different. The effort - involving several arms of government and co-ordinated by the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau - has seen visits to and from the mainland by officials and academics in the past year. Such a dialogue would have been inconceivable in the first few years after the handover, when most Hong Kong officials were happy to keep their distance under the banner of 'one country, two systems', and mainland officials followed the rule of non-interference in Hong Kong affairs. Attitudes started to change after 2003, when Beijing began helping to revitalise Hong Kong's economy after it had been battered by the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak and the Asian financial crisis. Professor Lau Siu-kai, head of the Central Policy Unit, the top Hong Kong government think tank, said there was a 'growing and pervasive anxiety' among Hongkongers about the city's role in China's economic development being usurped by mainland cities or it being sidelined by the nation's rapid development. 'The pace of change in the mindset of Hong Kong people is faster than we expected,' Lau said. More than 70 per cent of people polled by the think tank in September said Hong Kong needed greater participation in drafting the next five-year plan. A similar proportion hoped the plan would elaborate on the city's role in the country's economic development. Those who believe the anxieties are justified include Lu Ping. The chief mainland official overseeing Hong Kong affairs in the run-up to the handover, he says the city needs to develop a 'sense of crisis'. 'To be honest, Hong Kong has already been marginalised,' the former director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said in a recent interview. As part of efforts to ensure this does not happen, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) vice-chairman Liu Tienan led an 18-member team of mainland officials to Hong Kong in late September. They attended an economic conference organised by Lau's unit. Twenty academics from Hong Kong were invited to join a closed-door seminar in Beijing in October on Hong Kong's role in the 12th five-year plan. Co-organised by the Hong Kong Development Forum, a political group founded by business leaders, and the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, it was also attended by top officials from the NDRC and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. Lau said Hong Kong should study where it needed the support of the central government in the next five years and 'how Hong Kong can use its strengths to contribute to the nation's economic development'. Service industries were one obvious area, given efforts by mainland authorities to develop them, including financial services, he said. The Hong Kong government is also hoping to inject into the blueprint the thrust of a landmark agreement now being thrashed out with Guangdong for development of the Pearl River Delta in the next decade. The Plan for the Reform and Development of the Pearl River Delta (2008-2020) released by the NDRC last December spells out the central government's determination to turn Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong into an international metropolis. A framework agreement on the proposals is expected this month.