The long-awaited Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA) masterplan was released on February 18, 2019. As had been expected, the 59-page English translation reads like a broadly ambitious guide to how the region is expected to develop over the coming years, leaving more specific implementation details to be fleshed out by local authorities, albeit under the guidance of the central government.
Although short of detailed prescriptions, the document provides a glimpse into how quickly the region is likely to change in the coming years: by 2035, nine Guangdong cities plus the Hong Kong Kong and Macau SARs (“9+2”) should be the world’s leading “bay area”. This would involve roughly doubling the region’s GDP over the next 15 years, thereby surpassing Greater Tokyo, Greater New York and Greater San Francisco.
You might have heard about the ‘Innovation Corridor’ linking Guangdong’s tech hubs with Hong Kong. But what is it? Here we explain the basics of ‘One Corridor, Ten Cores, and Multiple Supporting Nodes.’ Forget Zhongguancun in Beijing; this is where ‘China’s Silicon Valley’ is being built.
In the middle of the Pearl River flowing through Guangzhou’s Panyu district lies the Xiaoguwei Island, a 43.2 sqkm parcel of land along with its south bank that is home to 12 universities. Known as “University Town”, the collection of campuses was designed and built in the early 2000s to spur research and innovation throughout the entire province. Today it is one of the “ten cores” of the Science and Technology Innovation Corridor (STIC), the blueprint for “China’s Silicon Valley” within the overall masterplan of the Greater Bay Area.
The tertiary-institution district owes its creation to the far-sighted planning ability of provincial leaders. By the end of the 1990s, they had realized that 20 years of breakneck growth under the Reform and Opening era were running out of steam. A mismatch had developed between the needs of Guangdong’s booming manufacturing industry and the skills of its labor force. The higher-education sector had lagged the pace of change: by 1998, only 81 out of every 1,000 candidates for College Entrance Examination were able to secure places in higher education, according to southcn.com. More university places needed to be created.
The mission to solve this quandary was unveiled in 2001, with a masterplan to build a dedicated area for a cluster of universities. Construction began a year later, with an audacious goal set by the Party Secretary at the time, Zhang Dejiang, to “build the nation’s first university town”.
Zhuhai announced today its new masterplan for technological development, an ambitious blueprint that aims to transform the once-sleepy fishing village on the western side of the Greater Bay Area into a tech powerhouse. At the same time, details were released of Macau’s new Greater Bay Area Fund, which will raise 100 billion yuan initially and is focused on creating a southern version of Beijing’s futuristic Xiongan New District in the southern area of Hengqin, the special zone facing Macau’s casinos in Cotai.
According to a news release from the Zhuhai government, quoted by Nanfang Daily, the new tech policy is aimed at drawing a “road map” for the city to join the Greater Bay Area’s bigger project of becoming a globally competitive science and technology innovation hub.
Guangzhou and Foshan are planning
to jointly develop a new Greater Bay Area “hub” centered on the Guangzhou South
Railway Station. The aim of the project is to create a cluster of new strategic
industries, with input from Hong Kong and Macau, which will be valued at more
than RMB 1 trillion.
The announcement of the project,
which is grandly titled “South Station Area”, was made late last week but took
a few days to be picked up by local media. Here are the basic facts:
Guangdong Governor Ma Xingrui has a thoughtful piece in the China Daily HK edition. He says, in the style expected of a governor, that the Greater Bay Area is Guangdong’s future and, therefore, it is his No. 1 priority. He will spare some time to help with the Belt and Road Initiative, but GBA is his daily devotion, it seems.
Interestingly, he explicitly ties the GBA to the province’s Reform and Opening agenda. “In the new era, construction of the Greater Bay Area is the guiding principle for Guangdong’s further reform and opening-up,” he was quoted as saying. So it’s not just about unity and harmony and providing jobs to restless Hong Kong youths, it seems. Good to know.
Moreover, he lays out some specifics of what he is working on in terms of expediting cross-border integration with Hong Kong: “… integration of rules in education, trade, flow of talent, logistics, financing and information.” We will have to see what the schoolkids of Hong Kong have to say about that.
The article goes on to quote some really interesting stats to show what a region of boffins this is: “The State Council Information Office said R&D expenditure in Guangdong exceeded 250 billion yuan last year, ranking first in China and accounting for 2.65 percent of the country’s GDP. Guangdong ranked first in regional innovation capability in both 2017 and last year. The number of patent applications and grants reached 793,800 and 478,400 respectively.”
Mainland media are flush with news, analysis and commentary today about the State Council’s latest big plan for Shenzhen. Released over the weekend, the 4,000-character document is being spoken of in reverential terms, with some calling it an outline of Shenzhen’s mission to “complete” the so-called “China Model” or “Beijing Consensus” of economic and social development.
At first glance, the document does indeed carry some guidance that suggests Shenzhen has been chosen to lead the entire country in the next stage of its development. The reforms it has been tasked with are unique, and once implemented successfully, will be replicated across the rest of China. Chief of these is the exploration of “political change”.
Guangzhou has released a three-year action plan to accelerate the development of 5G, which is faster than even Shenzhen’s. By the end of the year, the provincial capital will have 20,000 base stations working, covering most of the city’s key business hubs. That compares to Shenzhen’s planned 8,500 base stations by the end of this year. Moreover, Guangzhou has set a three-year target of 65,000 base stations, compared to 45,000 in Shenzhen.
The differences are largely due to their respective geographic size – Shenzhen squeezes its 13 million residents into a smaller space than Guangzhou does with its 14 million. Both will ensure “comprehensive coverage” across their urban areas by 2021.
We reported yesterday on Zhuhai planning an airport expansionwith an investment of RMB4.8 billion. If we had waited a day, we would have seen the city’s much bigger picture: the airport is only part of a plan to build an “aerotropolis”.
Think Guangzhou is big? Think again. The city government has released a draft urban masterplan that envisages building the provincial capital into an “international metropolis”, with a population of 20 million, by the end of the current GBA masterplan in 2035.
That would mean adding 5.1 million residents – presumably all “talents” – over the next 15 years. That is an average of 300,000 per year. It would be an easing of its current growth rate, though: Guangzhou added 566,367 residents last year. That was No. 2 in the country for population growth, behind Shenzhen.
To support this growth, the city plans to build two million new housing units, of which at least 8% will be social housing. How will all these people get to and from home and work? On a railway network that will be adding 2,000 km of tracks, four times its current length. Hi-speed lines will bring in visitors from cities further away, such as Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Macau, while the Metro will be extended into neighboring cities as well. Moreover, a second airport is currently being planned in the area between Guangzhou and Dongguan.
Still think Hong Kong will be the GBA’s “dragon head”? Really?