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Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Ready to Take Shape

Source: Du Ying Date: 2019-03-20
In the 2019 Government Work Report, the government pledges to support Hong Kong and Macao in seizing the major opportunities presented by the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development strategy, leveraging their strengths, and deepening mutually beneficial cooperation with the mainland in all fields. Building the Greater Bay Area is a momentous decision by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core. It is of strategic significance for Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to be frontrunners in the Chinese economy, for developing a more open economy, and for the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao. Recently, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council released an outline development plan for the Greater Bay Area, essentially kicking off implementation on the ground. In recent years, especially since President Xi Jinping witnessed the signing of the framework agreement in Hong Kong on 1 July 2017, the three regions have been working closely with one another. With the support of government ministries, they focused on a few priority areas and laid a solid foundation for the Greater Bay Area to get off to a good start.
 
Developing an international scientific and technological innovation hub was among the priorities. In recent years Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao worked together on a scientific and technological innovation corridor connecting Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Macao; an agreement has been signed to establish an innovation institution in Hong Kong affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences; plans are being fleshed out for a Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park; construction of the China Spallation Neutron Source project in Dongguan has begun; China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City is being upgraded; mechanisms for jointly building and sharing infrastructure and facilities for major scientific R&D are being created; Hong Kong and Macao are allowed to apply for scientific and technological programs on the mainland and access the funding; Hong Kong private funds are encouraged to be part of the financing for science start-ups in the Greater Bay Area; mainland science startups are approved to access financing on the listed platforms in Hong Kong; and cooperation between the three regions on intellectual property protection is strengthened.
 
Infrastructure connectivity is greatly improved. This is the first move for building the Greater Bay Area. On 23 October 2018, President Xi Jinping declared the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge ready for traffic. Zhuhai and Macao cooperate to implement one-stop customs clearances in the two ports, connecting the east and west banks of the Zhujiang River seamlessly. The Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong High Speed Rail was opened, officially making Hong Kong part of the national high speed railway network. Construction of the Humen Second Bridge and the Shenzhen-Zhongshan Bridge is moving forward steadily. The vision to create a one-hour traffic circle including the major cities in the Greater Bay Area is being turned into reality. The clusters of ports and world-class airports in the Pearl River Delta enjoy growing international competitiveness. The network of infrastructure for information, energy, and water resources for Guangdong-Hong Kong and Macao is becoming stronger.
 
Obstacles to the free flow of production factors have been reduced, meeting the urgent demand of the Greater Bay Area. With enhanced coordination, self-clearance services are available at the main land ports to enhance port functions and more ports now offer 24-hour clearance, making it much easier for travelers between the ports. Authorities in public security and transport are working out ways for vehicles with a single license from Hong Kong or Macao to be allowed on the roads of the mainland. The customs authorities are cutting the time for the clearance of goods. By the end of 2018, the overall clearance time of imports within the jurisdiction of Guangdong Customs and that of export had been lowered by 25.2% and 49.8% respectively, much shorter than the national averages.
 
The people see the benefits first-hand. This is the ultimate goal of building the Greater Bay Area. The three regions made joint efforts to ensure those from Hong Kong and Macao working and living in Guangdong can equally access the resources of education, health care, old-age care, housing, and transport as the mainland residents. Public services and social security networks are better connected between the three regions. The fees for long-distance cell phone calls and roaming costs have been reduced, making it more convenient for people from Hong Kong and Macao, especially the young, to study, work, start businesses, and live in the mainland. Efforts have also been made to tackle pollution, such as cleaning up polluted waters, to jointly build a healthy ecological environment.
 
Cooperation platforms have been established to support the construction of the Greater Bay Area. These platforms play a pioneering role in promoting innovative development. The Qianhai Special Economic Zone in Shenzhen is moving faster to create a business environment that respects international practices and the rule of law, attracting the world’s best minds and enterprises. The Hengqin New Area in Zhuhai focuses on supporting Macao in appropriately diversifying its economy. A Traditional Chinese Medicine Science and Technology Industrial Park of Cooperation between Guangdong and Macao is built, with over 100 health-related businesses registered. Nansha of Guangzhou is being built into a Demonstration Zone for Comprehensive Cooperation among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Guangzhou) and Qingsheng integrated transport hub of Sun Hung Kai Properties have been launched in Nansha.
 
An ancient Chinese poem reads, “Someday, with my sail piercing the clouds; I will mount the wind, break the waves, and traverse the vast, rolling sea.” Following the blueprint of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, we will further pursue closer cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, implement all the tasks laid out in the outline development plan, and turn the vision of the Greater Bay Area into reality at an early date.
 
(The author Du Ying is a councillor of the State Council and former Vice Chairman of the NDRC.)