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Greater Bay Area

Official blueprint for China’s ‘Greater Bay Area’ to be unveiled in early 2019, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam reveals

  • Plan to create innovation hub to rival Silicon Valley will ‘advance to the next stage’, chief executive says
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 7:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 11:03pm

The long-awaited official blueprint for a southern Chinese innovation and technology powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley is expected to be unveiled early next year, Hong Kong’s leader revealed on Saturday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said: “It will be the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China next year. We believe the development of the Greater Bay Area will also advance to the next stage. We believe the development plan will be officially released early next year.”

Lam’s remarks came hours before she was set to make a four-day duty visit to Beijing.

She was scheduled to meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Monday, when she planned to report what her administration has achieved in the past year in areas including politics, economy and welfare.

It has been more than three years since the “Greater Bay Area”, which comprises Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in the neighbouring Guangdong province, was first mentioned in a development action plan, jointly outlined by China’s top authorities of economic planning, commerce and foreign affairs.

It has been uncertain when the blueprint would be announced. The authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said it would be made public soon.

In August, Lam became the first chief executive in Hong Kong history to join a leading group under China’s cabinet, the State Council.

Chaired by Vice-Premier Han Zheng, Beijing’s point person on the ambitious bay area project, the leading group for developing the Greater Bay Area also includes leaders from Macau, Guangdong and central government departments.

Last month, China’s National Development and Reform Commission said it was making a specific plan for infrastructure in the bay area.

The plan covers six goals, including building an innovation corridor linking Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau, and streamlining customs and immigration procedures.

Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think tank, said cities in the bay area had long been waiting for the blueprint, to determine their roles, functions and forms of collaboration.

It would be worth watching how the blueprint would handle the topic of developing home-grown technology, against the backdrop of the US-China trade dispute, according to Lau.

The two largest economies in the world are now in a 90-day trade war truce, until March 2019, after the two state leaders, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, met in Argentina at a G20 summit. Talks have started to address US complaints about topics including China’s intellectual property protection, state-owned enterprise subsidies, market access and state-led industrial policies.

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“The Greater Bay Area hit on two points that the Americans are most vigilant about,” Lau said. “On one hand, the area is a junction with strategic significance in China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, which the US sees as a threat to its superpower status.

“On the other hand, the area is planned to be China’s innovation and technology powerhouse. However, even with the trade dispute subsiding, the US will continue to step up restrictions on technology transfer to China.”

China has a huge consumption market, the industrial chains in the bay area are very resilient, and the cities adjacent to the area can provide vast space for further development
Zhang Yansheng, China Centre for International Economic Exchanges

The belt and road plan is China’s signature global trade push.

Zhang Yansheng, chief researcher at the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, said the trade dispute would not hinder the area’s development, but could be an opportunity for the area instead.

“China has a huge consumer market, the industrial chains in the bay area are very resilient, and the cities adjacent to the area can provide vast space for further development,” Zhang said.

“The larger the external pressure becomes, the greater regional integration will be. The high-quality elements of the bay area can therefore generate high-quality development.”

The advantages of the area, according to Zhang, include world-class universities and capital markets in Hong Kong, great innovation power in Shenzhen, mature public services in Guangzhou and sophisticated manufacturers in Foshan, Dongguan and Zhongshan.