China Center for International Economic Exchanges

Wei Jianguo: Building the Greater Bay Area with Chinese Characteristics
Date:Jul 04,2017    Source:CCIEE

This is a English translation of the article written by Wei Jianguo, Vice-Chairman of CCIEE and published in the Global Times, one of China’s most influential newspapers

On the morning of July 1, 2017, the “Framework Agreement on Deepening Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Cooperation in the Development of the Bay Area” was signed in Hong Kong. Xi Jinping, President of China, attended the signing ceremony. The goal of the cooperation among the three areas is to create a world-class bay area and city cluster, which represents a historical opportunity for the economic development in this region and even China as a whole, according to Xi Jinping.

Bay Area Economy Drives Global Economic Development

The development of human history shows us that the world economy has experienced three stages gradually, “from oasis to rivers”, “from river to bridge and road”, and finally, “from road to marine economy”, and the essence of a marine economy is bay area economy.

Historically, the bay area economy nurtured and catalyzed several revolutions. The first one originated from central England, represented by Birmingham and Coventry, and later quickly spread to the bay area with London as its center.

In the middle of the 19th century, Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb, leading to the second revolution featured with the wide use of electricity. From New York to New Jersey, and to California, the US experienced rapid development from the east to the west. 

In the third industrial revolution represented by atomic energy, aerospace, computer technology, the bay area economy of San Francisco demonstrated an overwhelming advantage in innovation. The global informationization wave, triggered by the Stanford University and the University of California at Berkley have nurtured a number of well-known companies such as Intel, Apple, Cisco, just to name a few.

The global economic pattern shows that about 60% of the aggregated economy is concentrated on the estuary area, while 75% of all the large cities and 70% of industrial capitals and population can be found in the area which is usually 100 kilometers away from the coast. Some of the leading bay areas like New York, San Francisco and Tokyo have become an important engine driving both world’s economic growth and technological revolution due to their open economic structure.

For many less-developed economies, the development of bay area economy is fundamental for them to catch up with advanced countries. The rising of relatively small countries like South Korea, Israel and Singapore explained the vital role played by bay area economy at the initial stage of economic development. Geographically speaking, many of the most dynamic economies around the world are located near the bay areas. In other words, the era of the global bay area has become an irresistible reality. 

Guangdong-Hong Kong and Macao is the major force for China’s participation in globalization

Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhaoqing, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Huizhou, Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Hong Kong and Macau spread like the bright pearl in a region of 65,000 square kilometers. With a very high population density, the strongest innovation capability and comprehensive strength, this region has become the major playing field for China’s participation in globalization. Moreover, this region is also China’s hub of innovation and R&D. As a leading region in China’s economic development, this region also has had a positive impact on the economy of the southern, central and southwest of China. Shenzhen and Hong Kong are the world’s third and fourth largest reciprocity ports while Guangzhou is the sixth largest cargo port. In 2016, the GDP of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao amounted to 1.36 trillion USD, more than the famous San Francisco bay area.

With excellent infrastructure and other favorable conditions, China should make the greater bay area an open free trade zone. Bay area economy is based on ports and is bound to have an open economy and thus, opening up is the prerequisite and fundamental advantage of the economic development in the bay area. Comparing with other free trade areas, Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao should be the first one to build a world-class business environment of international standard, attract more foreign direct investment and engage in the formulation of international rules.

The greater bay area should become a hub to lead global technological innovation as it gathers information and talents together, which in turn has provided innovation with vitality, enhanced innovation structure and ultimately made significant progress in innovation. Cities like Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Dongguan could be designed as the core of technological innovation and make them the influential players internationally.

The greater bay area could set a good model of regional cooperation in the mainland China. Cities located in the bay area will be the biggest beneficiaries in the process of opening up. We must learn from successful international experience to coordinate the cooperation between the greater bay area and pan-pearl river delta region, which offers strategic support to the greater bay area because it has a large amount of personnel, raw material and markets. The greater bay area ought to grasp this opportunity and reach common development with the pearl-river delta region.

The greater bay area should also be built as an excellent place for both working and living. This area is quite multicultural as it has not just traditional Chinese culture, represented by Hakka culture and Tide Shan culture, but also modern culture, represented by Guangdong and Hong Kong. In order to display China’s “softer power”, we should build a platform for explaining and spreading Chinese culture. This is not just a matter of cultural integration, but also a chance to make the best use of the “one country, two systems”, explained by China’s president Xi Jinping.

Apart from that, we should make the greater bay area a great international fashion and design center and form a world’s class city cluster, so that young and vibrant cities like Shenzhen and Dongguan will be able to drive strong consumption, while ancient cities like Guangzhou and Hong Kong can become more energetic and lead the development of modern services industry. Meanwhile, the greater bay area is suggested to organize more international cultural and artistic festivals, tourism and fashion events, so that Chinese and foreign companies can have more self-created brands.

Hong Kong, the “Dragon’s eye” in the greater bay area

During the development of the greater bay area, we need to pay attention to the following two aspects.

On one hand, we should avoid vicious competition. The pan-pearl-river delta cooperation is not new, but it was not very successful in the past because of the vicious competition among cities of this region. All the cities and their senior officials wanted to be the leaders and hence, they were less willing to share their resources and comparative advantages with one another. Consequently, they did not manage to make significant common progress. This kind of mentality must be avoided if we want to build a world-class city cluster. Instead, cities should work together, complement each other and have the same vision of development. The central government should play a leading role in gathering new resources and capital, and design the master plan.

On the other hand, Hong Kong should be the “Dragon’s eyes” of the greater bay area due to its importance in international finance and logistics.

We should learn from successful international experience when building the greater bay area with Chinese characteristics.

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