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Greater Bay Area

China’s Greater Bay Area leaders must collaborate and not be ‘too arrogant’ with each other, says Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti

Territoriality potential roadblock to success for Beijing’s 11-city integration plan, leader of top US ocean hub for trade with China tells Hong Kong audience

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 August, 2018, 3:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 August, 2018, 10:21pm

For Beijing’s ambitious “Greater Bay Area” integration plan to succeed, leaders of the 11 cities involved should prioritise collaboration and not “be too arrogant” with each other, said the leader of the United States’ No 1 hub for ocean trade with China.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, who is in Hong Kong as part of a 10-day trade mission in Asia, made the comments on Wednesday at a public lecture, where he was asked for his views on the project’s potential.

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The Greater Bay Area is a central government plan to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into a financial and innovation powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley.

Garcetti drew parallels between the initiative and Los Angeles. About four million people live in the California city but it is part of Los Angeles county, which has 87 other municipalities. The county’s total population is 10 million.

“The key to cities doing well is putting down your territoriality, of figuring out a way to collaborate, it requires chief leaders, like people like myself, to not be too arrogant,” Garcetti said.

“Coming together is very important,” he said, adding that he had made it his mission as mayor that all 88 of his counterparts in Los Angeles county would come together four times a year so that everyone would “get heard, and get listened to”.

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The Greater Bay Area, which is being overseen by the country’s vice-premier, Han Zheng, has a population of 66 million people. Beijing is expected to roll out a development blueprint soon.

Integrating the 11 urban economies, worth a total of US$1.58 trillion around southern China’s Pearl River Delta, is one of the top challenges for Beijing as Hong Kong and Macau each have their own legal, monetary and political systems that operate differently from mainland China.

A top Guangdong official previously criticised the province’s exchanges with Hong Kong and Macau for being more talk than action.

“Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau come under ‘one country, two systems’ and three custom zones … There were often many meetings, dialogues, and complicated etiquettes, but little strength in pushing things forward pragmatically, or systems in consolidation,” Wang Rong, chairman of the provincial Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said in May.

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Separately, Garcetti also spoke about the importance of cities collaborating in what he called an “age of acceleration” when things are changing so quickly they surpass the ability of humans to adapt to that change.

“Cities must multiply our strength and results by working together,” he told the audience of about 130 people at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s business school in Central. The crowd was made up of about 40 people from Los Angeles, who were part of Garcetti’s delegation, as well as participants from universities, think tanks, banks, consultant firms, international chambers and consulates.

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Garcetti gave the example of tackling climate change through a collaborative effort.

According to Garcetti, Los Angeles experiences at least one extra day of dangerous smog because of pollution emitted from Chinese factories, while pollution from wildfires in California also makes it way to Hong Kong.

“Climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions by cities around the world. We can build all the walls we want, but pollutants don’t respect borders.”