Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

China’s Bay plan seen as ‘blue print’ for future development

Luminaries tell Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau forum close cooperation to create jobs, boost infrastructure development and allow labour mobility

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2017, 12:07am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 June, 2017, 12:24am

A roundtable of prominent thought leaders in technology and commerce spelled out their support for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area on Tuesday, saying it provided a credible blue print for future development.

Billionaire Pony Ma Huateng, the head of Tencent, the world’s largest games company by revenue, laid out his vision saying closer regional cooperation would provide a platform for the next generation of entrepreneurs in Guangdong, encompassing Hong Kong and Macau.

“If the young people in Hong Kong and Macau don’t understand the opportunities in the Bay Area ... they might think their jobs are taken away,” Ma said. He was moderating a panel of technology and business leaders at the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area Forum. “What I’d like to see is more collaboration from the younger people in Hong Kong and Macau [with the mainland].”

China’s Bay Area is the Next Big Thing, but where is it

Ma and fellow panellists stressed they were confident that strong and close collaboration among urban centres within the Bay Area would create more jobs and a better future for the younger generation.

They added the Bay Area needed to become a technology centre. For that to happen it required drivers in the form of solid academic research, efficient infrastructure and labour mobility.

Zhang Lei, founder and chief executive of investment fund Hillhouse Capital Group, an early investor in Tencent, said the mainland in the past was seen as a copycat but now was focused on innovation.

“We need to make sure that the Bay Area is driven by innovation,” Zhang said.

Wang Wei, chairman of express delivery firm SF Holdings said he was upbeat on the prospects for the Bay Area to foster innovation.

Wei said SF would be happy to offer work experience to outsiders, adding that companies in the area had to form a community to exchange ideas on a regular basis to support growth.

Compared with the San Francisco Bay Area, China’s Bay Area has an advantage of being a dominant manufacturing hub of global tech firms, said Sean Randolph, senior director, Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

Randolph, however, noted that like the San Francisco Bay Area, there has to be lower administrative barriers in China’s Bay Area so the right ecosystem is nurtured to encourage organic growth of start-up companies.

Critics of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area Forum have said it may fail to deliver the necessary benefits as envisaged by its proponents.

But speaking at the forum in Hong Kong, Ma said he was motivated by more than profit and short-term benefits for his firm, which is also the owner of China’s most popular messaging app WeChat, which has more than 937 million active users.

Other experts said the benefits of the Bay Area cooperation were enhanced by the close proximity of regional manufacturing hubs.

Professor Li Zexiang at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology believes a combination of the facilities in Shenzhen and the research in Hong Kong’s universities would give the Bay Area a significant edge over Silicon Valley, home to the world’s largest technology firms.

Despite all the strengths that the cities have in the planned Bay Area, forum participants said the key challenge would be the differences in legislation between Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland.

Additional reporting by Raymond Cheng