Beijing ‘losing no time’ to get input on blueprint for ‘Greater Bay Area’

State planning agency had been expected to release plan for southern China megacity cluster in September

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 9:34pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 October, 2017, 3:48pm

Beijing is “losing no time” to seek feedback on a draft plan to develop the “Greater Bay Area” connecting Hong Kong, Macau and southern Guangdong and is looking into the details, including a customs policy, a senior official said on Saturday.

He Lifeng, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), said the state planning agency had been working on a blueprint for the scheme with officials in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau.

“We have drafted the plan and we are seeking feedback – we’re losing no time. We will gather opinions on the draft to make further revisions,” said He, speaking on the sidelines of the party congress in Beijing. The NDRC had been expected to release the plan in September.

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China wants to develop a megacity cluster to match New York, San Francisco and Tokyo. The bay area plan covers nine cities in southern Guangdong including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan and Zhuhai, as well as Hong Kong and Macau. It covers an area of 56,000 sq km and a population of 68 million. The area’s combined economies were worth some 10 trillion yuan (US$1.51 trillion) last year.

He said he hoped the Greater Bay Area could become a global innovation hub to power economic growth.

The head of the planning agency also said building work on the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge had been stepped up. Policies would be unveiled to facilitate the flow of funding and make it easier for people to work in cities across the bay area, he said.

“We are studying related policies, such as those on customs,” He said.

Lin Jiang, an economics professor at Sun Yat-sen University, said the NDRC had highlighted infrastructure plans for the Greater Bay Area, indicating it wanted to resolve issues to do with checkpoint controls for rail and road links with Hong Kong.

“I believe Beijing will encourage the Hong Kong government to push to resolve these issues concerning the [bridge], checkpoint controls and bullet train connections with Hong Kong,” Lin said.

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Hong Kong would play a crucial role in the scheme, Lin said, because its legal system and financial strength could attract international investors and research teams to the bay area.

“The central government hopes the Greater Bay Area is not only a replica of the US Silicon Valley but can also outpace it as the most important centre for scientific and technological innovation,” Lin said.

Meanwhile in the north, the government is pushing President Xi Jinping’s plan to develop the Xiongan area, a key part of integrating the economic development of Beijing with the port city of Tianjin and neighbouring Hebei province.

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He said a high-speed railway linking Beijing and Xiongan was being built and there were plans for another bullet train to run between Beijing’s new airport and Xiongan.