China's Greater Bay Area drums up support as Hong Kong, Macao, Guangdong officials converge
Hong Kong, Macao, Guangdong officials converge
Published: Mar 25, 2019 07:33 PM

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, speaks at a session at the annual China Development Forum in Beijing on Monday. Photo: Li Qiaoyi/GT

Leaders of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area sat down together at a high-level forum in Beijing on Monday, beating the drum for the Chinese megalopolis that's envisioned as a match for the bay areas of San Francisco, New York and Tokyo.

"The Greater Bay Area has good potential to become not only the Silicon Valley of the East but also Silicon Valley and Wall Street within the same urban cluster," Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), said during the annual China Development Forum.

To Hong Kong, an SAR under the principle of "One Country, Two Systems" that enjoys a high degree of autonomy, the Greater Bay Area offers an unprecedented opportunity to become integrated into the nation's development. The integration will inject new impetus into the city's economic growth, Lam stated. 

As the global economy is beset with uncertainties, instability and rising protectionism, the openness and inter-connectivity of the urban cluster is "a solid demonstration of how economies with different characteristics can work together to achieve a win-win outcome," she said.

Citing dependence on a single industry and limited space and labor  as problems of Macao's economy, Fernando Chui Sai-on, chief executive of the Macao SAR, said the Greater Bay Area is an important historical opportunity for Macao to achieve moderate diversity of its economy and maintain long-term stability and prosperity. 

The two SARs and nine cities in South China's Guangdong Province including Shenzhen and Guangzhou are the next big thing in bay area terms. A grand development plan for the southern megalopolis was unveiled in February by the State Council, the cabinet, which outlined the country's vision to build the Greater Bay Area into a global innovation hub.

"It has potential to do that," Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide, the world's largest privately funded nonprofit organization, told the Global Times on the sidelines of the forum, speaking about the Greater Bay Area's chance of becoming the next Silicon Valley.

"It's got a combination of business environment and the quality of life that will attract tech entrepreneurs," he said.

Hong Kong and Macao are mature, developed market economies and free trade ports, while the nine cities in the Pearl River Delta are considered to have the most outward orientation on the Chinese mainland, said Ma Xingrui, governor of Guangdong Province. 

The Greater Bay Area bears many similarities to international first-rate bay areas, and even outstrips them in some fields, he noted. Ma pledged that the province will implement the newly approved foreign investment law and align with Hong Kong and Macao in legal services, finance, healthcare and infrastructure, among other fields.

Efforts will be made to attract renowned businesses from China and abroad to set up regional, functional and professional headquarters in the Greater Bay Area. A group of foreign-invested projects involving more than $10 billion will be introduced to the area, according to Ma. The province will also work with Hong Kong and Macao to launch branding campaigns in overseas markets. He revealed a promotional event for the Greater Bay Area will be held in Tokyo on April 9. 

The efforts disclosed by Ma are considered helpful for the Greater Bay Area's aspirations to be a global success. 

"I was asking a question online that didn't get pulled up, which is, will the leaders of the Bay Area engage advertising and marketing firms to advertise and market in places like Europe and US to individuals and mid-sized companies, not just the big multinational companies, so people understand," asked Gallagher, who sat beneath the stage.

He reckons it will take a great deal of marketing and branding efforts for individuals to see this is a lifestyle opportunity, in the same way as many people see Silicon Valley.

Also worth mentioning is that Han Kuo-yu, mayor of Kaohsiung of China's Taiwan region, who is on an ongoing visit to the mainland after touring Hong Kong and Macao, put the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, a key project connecting cities in the Greater Bay Area, in the limelight, triggering speculation of the island drawing on the pioneering experience of the Greater Bay Area to revive its economy. 

Han's delegation left Hong Kong for Macao via the bridge, the world's longest sea crossing. "The 'heartshaking' bridge, with its 'amazing scenery' and 'smart design', could provide examples and experience for bridge construction all over the world," Han said on the bridge, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday.