Debunk the myths over Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area
6 May 2018
Young people in Hong Kong are optimistic about having the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area (the Bay Area) as a home base for future ventures, according to a recent survey by a youth group. However, I have also noticed from the report that many of them will not consider venturing into the Bay Area, mainly because of concern over various unknowns and the conception that it is too far from Hong Kong. In the light of this, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) will step up publicity to help the public know more about the Bay Area. Meanwhile, with this article today, I hope to help debunk the myths held by some of our young people over the Bay Area.
The Bay Area comprises nine cities in Guangdong Province, namely Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhaoqing, Dongguan, Huizhou, Zhuhai, Zhongshan and Jiangmen, and the two SARs of Hong Kong and Macao. The key objective of developing the Bay Area is to maximise the comparative advantages of all member cities and regions, intensify the co-operation among Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao, and promote co-ordinated economic development of the area, and thereby create a cluster of distinctive yet mutually complementary economies in the region.
In terms of scale and potential, the Bay Area is more than comparable to the New York Bay Area, Tokyo Bay Area and San Francisco Bay Area. Measuring an area of about 56 000 km2 with a population of over 67 million, the Bay Area, according to the figures in 2016, has outdone both its Tokyo and San Francisco counterparts, which are 37 000 km2 in size with a population of 44 million and 18 000 km2 in size with a population of 7.6 million respectively. The population size of the Bay Area is on a par with that of the United Kingdom, France or Italy.
In terms of economy size, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Bay Area is about US$1.4000 trillion, approaching that of the New York Bay Area (US$1.4400 trillion) and Tokyo Bay Area (US$1.8000 trillion). It is also comparable with that of Korea (US$1.4112 trillion; ranking 11th globally) and has outpaced that of Australia (US$1.2046 trillion; ranking 14th globally). Looking ahead, I believe that the Bay Area will become world class and the very best of its kind.
The Bay Area has a clear strength in transport logistics. The total container throughput of the ports at Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guangzhou alone, reaching 62.642 million twenty-foot equivalent units of containers, is more than three times of the combined throughput of the Tokyo Bay Area, New York Bay Area and San Francisco Bay Area. The airport passenger volume is also higher than those of the three major bay areas.
Hong Kong also takes pride in its judicial system. Enjoying the dual advantage of “One Country” and “Two Systems”, Hong Kong maintains an independent judiciary, an excellent legal regime, and a protection framework of international standards for intellectual property rights. All these have served us well in playing our important role as a platform for two-way exchanges between Mainland China and the rest of the world.
Given its strategic importance to Hong Kong, the Bay Area development is high on the agenda of the SAR Government. The Steering Committee on Taking Forward Bay Area Development and Mainland Co-operation chaired by me will work out the strategic objectives and a detailed action plan for Hong Kong’s participation in this venture, with a focus on leveraging our unique strengths in the Bay Area.
The Legislative Council (LegCo) joint-Panel paid a duty visit to the Bay Area last month (on 20 to 22 April). Thirty-two LegCo Members from different parties and groups across the political spectrum toured five Bay Area cities (namely Shenzhen, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Foshan and Guangzhou) together to see for themselves the latest development and planning of the area, and met with provincial leaders and local officials to exchange views. Feedback from the delegation was positive. The LegCo Members have learnt more about the Bay Area through the site visits and meetings.
The Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area will be promulgated soon. Government promotion and publicity through various media and websites will then follow to enhance public awareness of the development. Trade associations, professional bodies and non-governmental organisations are also encouraged to organise activities to dovetail with the publicity campaign, so as to introduce the new opportunities brought by the development for different sectors of the community.
To me, the career development of our younger generation is particularly important. Young people of Hong Kong, with their international perspectives, are well placed to give added impetus to many emerging industries, especially innovation and technology, and cultural and creative industries. One of the major tasks in the Bay Area venture is for Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to jointly build an international technology and innovation hub. As for cultural and creative industries, the geo-cultural affinity between Hong Kong and fellow Bay Area partners has given us much room for collaboration. The Bay Area is vast and close to the huge Mainland market. It has fertile soil for innovation and technology as well as cultural and creative industries. In addition, the province and the two SARs are working hand-in-hand to develop youth entrepreneur hubs to attract young talent to the region, presenting them with business and career opportunities.
As mentioned above, some young people might have brushed aside the idea of venturing into the Bay Area because of the conception that it is too far from Hong Kong. That distance, I believe, will no longer be a problem once they have learnt about the latest progress of our growing transport infrastructure links with the Bay Area. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the new Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point are all scheduled to open in the coming year. These projects, coupled with the on-going enhancement of the inter-city transport grid in the Bay Area, will develop the Bay Area into a “one-hour sphere of life”. The comprehensive transport networks will make travelling easy and swift.
The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau will set up a Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area Development Office once the Development Plan is ready. The Office will be dedicated to co-ordinating the work of relevant bureaux and departments in Hong Kong through liaising with the National Development and Reform Commission, relevant central authorities, the Guangdong Provincial Government and the Macao SAR Government for the implementation of the Development Plan. It will also proactively engage trade associations, professional bodies and relevant stakeholders in the promotion and publicity of opportunities in the Bay Area opening up to Hong Kong enterprises and individuals, and collect their views so that the measures devised can better meet their needs.
As far as Hong Kong is concerned, we have a unique role to play. Through aligning ourselves with the development strategies of the country and capitalising on our strengths and the region’s development trends, we can maximise our special functions in the development of the Bay Area. Let us seize the opportunities of this venture to propel Hong Kong forward.