No free rides for cities in Greater Bay Area, President Xi Jinping tells Hong Kong entrepreneurs during Shenzhen trip
- Chinese president tells pair that city’s young businessmen and women ought to get more support to seek opportunities on the mainland
- Cities in region should complement each other, Xi tells private gathering
None of the 11 cities in the Greater Bay Area is a free rider and all should work together to make the region a leading economic powerhouse in the world, said China’s leader Xi Jinping during his visit to Qinhai, Shenzhen on Wednesday.
According to two Hong Kong businesspeople he met, Xi also said more support ought to be given to young Hongkongers keen to seek opportunities on the mainland.
Shenzhen, the third city Xi visited during his first trip to Guangdong since 2012, has been closely watched for its status as the starting point for China’s economic reform and opening up 40 years ago, an anniversary that will soon be marked.
Under Beijing’s bay area scheme, Shenzhen is one of the nine cities in Guangdong province that will be turned into an innovation and technology powerhouse, together with Hong Kong and Macau, to rival Silicon Valley in the US.
During his stop at the 14.92 sq km Qianhai special economic zone on the southern edge of Shenzhen, Xi met with entrepreneurs, including Eric Kuo Wai-keung, 28, and Henri Pang Yik-hang, 27, the only two from Hong Kong among the 14 people present.
Xi spent an hour with them at an outdoor venue close to the Guiwan River, they said. The gathering was not covered by state media.
At the spot, the group could see a landmark – a large stone on which the two Chinese characters for “Qianhai” selected from former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s handwritings were engraved.
Other participants included five officials from the Qianhai administration, three representatives of the economic zone’s early builders, three mainland entrepreneurs and Charles Li Xiaojia, chief executive of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing.
“Xi said, ‘it’s not the case that some cities in the Greater Bay Area are stealing the glory of other cities’,” Kuo recalled. “[Cities] should ‘complement each other, collaborate with each other and seek to succeed together’ he said.”
Pang said: “Xi said the Greater Bay Area should be planned as a whole, and it will eventually be a leading regional economic entity, on par with the Tokyo Bay and the Silicon Valley.”
Kuo added: “Xi also mentioned that as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge was commissioned [on Tuesday], increased exchange among the cities would generate more opportunities.”
Both Kuo and Pang found Xi to be “approachable”.
“During our conversation that lasted less than one minute, he kept holding my hand, and said more support should be provided for Hong Kong youngsters who were willing to start their business on the mainland after I told him where I came from,” Kuo said.
Pang added: “He appeared to have good knowledge of the frontline work because he said he knew what to expect visiting Qianhai six years apart, and the reality turned out to surpass expectations.”
In Shenzhen, Xi also visited a museum of reform and opening up, and a community centre that pioneered to provide 24-hour public services.
On Wednesday afternoon, Xi continued his trip – which since Monday has covered Zhuhai, Qingyuan and Shenzhen – to the provincial capital Guangzhou.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, and three ministers were visiting Beijing. The two cities signed an agreement to work closer on eight areas, ranging from innovation and technology to youth development.
Additional reporting by Tony Cheung