All posts by Greater Bay Insight

Railways, bridges update: more speed, less haste

Will Hong Kong one day be cut out of the Greater Bay Area’s one-hour “life circle”? It might sound like an absurd suggestion, but when plans are scrutinized more carefully for a proposed new link between Shenzhen and Zhuhai, it is easy to indulge such paranoid thinking. 

This week, both city governments released updates on the so-called Deep Bay project, which runs through the Lingdingyang Channel, professing their support for it. This link would allow the eastern and western sides of the Bay to be within half an hour of each other, bypassing Hong Kong.

On the other hand, plans for a second high-speed railway line running from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, via Dongguan and Shenzhen, suggest Hong Kong will be drawn ever-more tightly into the Bay’s transport network. This one might even be running Maglev trains at 600km/h.

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Hong Kong gets its Act; what now?

Hong Kong’s position in the world spotlight is moving fast. Now that the US Congress has approved the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which President Trump seems ready to sign into law, the world’s focus on the rule of law in Hong Kong will likely take on a broader dimension. Every time the central government does or says something related to the power of Hong Kong courts to issue rulings, foreign investors will need to hold their breath and remain that much more alert to what the reaction could possibly be from the United States. 

Never mind all the high-falutin language about freedom, the new law’s real threat is if it forces a review of Hong Kong’s special trading status, separate from the rest of China. If Hong Kong has its status revoked by the US, the blow to not only the flow of goods, but of finance, between the two countries could be devastating. 

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Fast-growth firms to watch in Guangzhou

Guangzhou is producing some highly valuable, fast-growing companies in new areas of technology, according to a new report released by consulting firm Deloitte, which identified 20 worth watching.

Software and Internet-related firms account for more than one third of the city’s top 20 fastest-growing companies, as picked by the consultancy. Two “clean tech” companies made the list, while the rest were financial, new media, intelligent manufacturing, cloud computing, big data and e-commerce. 

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Qianhai Justice Center opens for business

On a corner of the Qianhai special economic zone in Shenzhen, a new building was recently opened. But this building is unlike any other of the gleaming high-rise office towers going up in the district. It is filled with judges, lawyers, and legal assistants from all over the world, and its mission is nothing less than to boldly push forward reform of China’s justice system – with Hong Kong as a partner.

The Qianhai Justice Center, the first permanent public building in Qianhai, is a part of a “national pilot demonstration area of law-based governance”. Begun in 2014, it was completed in August and opened for business on November 6. Its mission is to provide “one-stop legal services” to members of the public from anywhere within the Greater Bay Area: notarization, mediation, intellectual property rights registration and enforcement, accounting services, and in-house legal advisory services.

This is what being a Pioneering Zone for Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is all about.

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Huizhou, Shenzhen combine port operations

Here is a good story about Greater Bay Area integration that is working, and delivering results. Huizhou has a deepwater port with significant potential. Shenzhen has container traffic that it needs to manage better, as its existing ports at Yantian and Shekou are running at high capacity utilization. Putting their management together makes sense, and that is what they have done. 

They are calling it the “Huiyan Combination Port” operation. It essentially involves closer collaboration between the Yantian and Huizhou container terminal, which enables streamlined customs declarations and inspection procedures for Huizhou Port, and improves handling procedures for loading and unloading international vessels in Yantian Port. 

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Baishizhou: a tale of Shenzhen’s housing challenge

Shenzhen’s housing policies have been the focus of intense online discussion in recent months, with many commentators and analysts comparing them to Hong Kong’s. The city’s plans to build 1.7 million new homes by 2035, at a rate of more than 80,000 per year, are unthinkable for Hong Kong, where the government has said it hopes to build 10,000 new social-housing units in the next three years. Moreover, Shenzhen has made it clear that 40% of its housing supply will be earmarked for subsidized housing – in comparison with its neighbor, where 29.1% of households live in public rental housing and another 15.5% in subsidized home ownership housing.

However, Shenzhen is not without challenges of its own in achieving these goals. And sometimes, examples come to light showing the complexity of the city’s housing market. One such case is the redevelopment of the Baishizhou neighborhood.

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Beijing speaks, not yet rules, on face-mask ban

Nervous observers worried about the rule of law in Hong Kong didn’t have to wait long to gauge Beijing’s stance on the subject. Within 24 hours of the High Court’s ruling that the Hong Kong government’s face-mask ban was unconstitutional, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee issued a statement blasting the decision as being unconstitutional itself. Saying only it (the NPCSC) had the right to rule on constitutional matters, it said the decision had “weakened” the administrative power of the Chief Executive.

This is not yet a breach of the rule of law in Hong Kong. The statement was an opinion, not a ruling. It is, however, evidence of a surprising lack of political nous by members of the NPCSC. By speaking out on an issue that was not vital to the government’s ability to handle the ongoing crisis – a glance at TV footage shows how futile the ban has been – rather than waiting, the NPCSC has pre-empted the Hong Kong government’s efforts to find another way to legally enforce the ban. The High Court’s decision had, in fact, left the door ajar to the government to do this by not ruling on whether the ban was necessary under an emergency situation. 

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GBA firms happy, but want more

Over the past year, it has seemed like not a month could pass without a local government pointing out how much it had “given back” to companies via tax cuts and other subsidies, to help them cushion the current economic slowdown. Unsurprisingly, therefore, a survey by the province’s leading business media group has found that a high percentage of companies based in Guangdong’s nine GBA cities are satisfied with the region’s business environment. 

When pressed further, however, most say that they would like more. Further tax cuts and lower labor costs would be nice, they say. Moreover, at least a third of them would like to see “integrated market rules” in the Greater Bay Area.

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Zhuhai pushes hukou reforms

Zhuhai is pioneering a change in the way cities treat their migrant workers. People living in the municipality without a formal household registration (hukou) are now able to apply for various types of housing previously restricted to hukou-holders.

A public consultation draft has been issued on the city government’s website, which deletes the old category of “migrant workers” and incorporates it into a new category of “newly employed workers.” At the same time, the draft expands the coverage of its public-housing rental policy to “talents”, while dropping their effective rates from 50% of a project’s benchmark rent to 30% – an effective 40% rent cut. 

Whether other cities follow suit remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

Read more (in Chinese).