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Hangzhou is at the centre of Zhejiang’s plans to establish its own integrated economic area. Photo: Alamy

Chinese province Zhejiang jumps on the Greater Bay Area bandwagon with its own ambitious regional blueprint

Provincial authorities eye national backing for plans to link three economic zones, doubling output within them by 2022

The eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang is aiming to follow in its southern counterparts’ footsteps by setting up a “Greater Bay Area” to double economic output in a zone centred on its capital Hangzhou.

The provincial government on Monday unveiled its economic blueprint to integrate development of the Hangzhou Bay economic rim, the Ningbo-Taizhou-Wenzhou port industrial belt, and the Yiwu-Ningbo-Zhoushan open channel.

Unlike the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area scheme, which connects nine Guangdong cities with Hong Kong and Macau, the Zhejiang plan links three areas within one province and covers around 30 million people – less than half of the population encompassed by the southern strategy.

Zhejiang’s goal is double the economic output within the three areas to 6 trillion yuan (US$938 billion) by 2022, with 750 billion yuan in investment over the same time.

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The province also hopes to convince Beijing to elevate the blueprint to a national plan, a move that would attract more investment.

It became provincial policy in December when governor Yuan Jiajun said Zhejiang wanted to have a “world class” bay area by 2035.

According to the official vision, Zhejiang will ramp up work on transport links to unify the three areas. In all, 44 major projects will be advanced this year, including a railway line between Shanghai, and the Zhejiang cities of Jiangxing and Ningbo. A rail link between Hangzhou and Wenzhou will also be a priority.

But Li Jian, a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said Zhejiang’s plan would not be able to rival the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau scheme in strategic significance.

Li also said the Zhejiang plan would have to link up with other cities in the Yangtze River Delta to gain national stature.

“[The challenge for Zhejiang’s plan will be] how to interact with Shanghai, the regional leading force,” he said.

Greater Bay Area initiative cities riddled with municipal differences

Li said infrastructure was important to support the bay area “but the essentials are still the free flow of resources and people, market-oriented operations ... and regional coordination”.

Northeast Securities’ Xu Jun and Shen Xinfeng said Shanghai would be the driver of any economic integration in the Hangzhou Bay area because only the financial centre had the political resources to do so.

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They also noted that Shanghai Communist Party boss Li Qiang had worked in neighbouring Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.

Zhejiang reported 1.17 trillion yuan in gross domestic product in the first quarter, putting it fifth among the 31 provincial jurisdictions.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Zhejiang reveals blueprint for its own bay area