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Bridging the Gap Between Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China: The Greater Bay Area

Apr 10, 2019

The Hong Kong- Zhuhai- Macau Bridge and the newly inaugurated high-speed rail network mark the increasingly closer ties between Hong Kong, Macau and the Mainland in pursuit of championing China’s vision of a Greater Bay Area. China has now initiated the next phase of the megaproject: economic integration of the regions.

Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the Peoples Republic of China on the 1st of July 1997. Subsequently, Macau acquired the same status on the 20th of December 1999. Since then there has been massive development throughout the Guangdong province, starting from Shenzhen and Zhuhai, stretching all the way north to Guangzhou city.

What is the Greater Bay Area?

The Greater Bay Area is China’s ambitious plan to economically link the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau with nine cities in Guangdong province on the Mainland to rival the conurbations of San Francisco, New York and Tokyo. The idea behind the Greater Bay Area is to capitalise on the composite advantages of each region’s unique expertise and eventually assimilate the cluster of cities into a single market with economic, social and cultural synergy.

Distinct Role of Each City in the Greater Bay Area

Although Hong Kong and Macau are part of the Mainland, under the devised “One Country, Two Systems” framework they operate with distinct economic, legal and social systems. This arrangement has driven Hong Kong’s status as a leading international financial hub and trade entrepôt, and allowed Macau to reign as the world’s most lucrative gambling destination.   Accordingly, Hong Kong is anticipated to play an integral role in the professional and financial services sector as well as enrich its role as a conduit for international trade within the Greater Bay Area. Similarly, Macau will promote tourism and entertainment. The nine Mainland municipalities will predominantly contribute to the technology and manufacturing sectors.

Recent Progress of the Greater Bay Area

On the 18th of February 2019, the PRC Government formally issued an Outline Development Plan (“the Development Plan”) for progressing the Guangdong- Hong Kong- Macau Greater Bay Area further than just structural connectors. The Development Plan blueprints the strategic positioning and joint participation of each city in realising the Greater Bay Area vision, including the spatial layout, developmental objectives and guidelines for implementation.

The Developmental Plan is an important document marking a major step in guiding the current and future efforts in actualising the Greater Bay Area. In the short term, it is projected that cooperation between the three regions would have deepened substantially with a smooth flow of various factors and a pleasant ecological environment being formed by 2022. In the long term, by 2035, the Greater Bay Area should have become a fully developed economic system boasting international competitiveness and influence supported by a high degree of interconnectivity, technological and economic innovation.

The economic opportunities offered by the Development Plan of the Greater Bay Area are huge, creating one of the largest industrial areas in the world. The biggest challenge confronting Hong Kong and Macau is maintaining their positions of prominence and avoid being overshadowed by the enormity of the development of their northern neighbours.

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