Shenzhen takes the lead from HK?

Guangdong leads the country: In the first half, the province’s GDP broke the RMB5 trillion mark, ahead of Jiangsu (RMB4.86 billion) and Shandong (RMB4.18 billion).

Shenzhen leads Guangdong: Its economy is not only the province largest, RMB1.213 trillion over six months, but the fastest-growing, up 7.4% YoY.

Who leads the Greater Bay Area?

It is a question that is taking on a greater sense of urgency in the wake of the Hong Kong street protests, following the Party leadership’s elevation last week of Shenzhen to a “pilot demonstration area for socialism with Chinese characteristics.” 

The Global Times, which is not known for impartial journalism but is known for having a good sense of which way the political winds are blowing, says Shenzhen’s new status means that it will play a bigger role in leading the development of the GBA and influencing other urban areas in China.

The paper said that while Shenzhen’s elevated status would be more focused on how its development model can be replicated across China, as cities vie for a bigger role in “socialist modernization”, it is also about Shenzhen playing a bigger role in the GBA. 

Naturally, it follows that if Shenzhen is going to take more of a leading role, then the city previously thought of as the region’s leader might not be expected to.

According to Wang Yiwei, Jean Monnet chair professor at the Renmin University of China, the Shenzhen model, which is much less driven by market forces than Hong Kong, but much more than any other city in China, has become China’s “calling card” and gained the city global attention. “As the Belt and Road Initiative makes progress, many participating countries and regions are referring to their newly opened-up ports and development zones as their own Shenzhens,” Wang was quoted as saying. 

Bai Ming, deputy director of the International Market Research Institute, said that the “new-era Shenzhen” will be expected to generate more opportunities for other cities, for the common development and prosperity of the entire region. In other words, the city will need to show greater leadership qualities within the regional framework.

Referring to the comparison with Hong Kong, Bai said: “Because the two cities are so different, it won’t be a matter of who leads who. It will be a matter of which city has more influence and the other city wanting to benefit from that influence.” 

Tammy Tam, editor of the SCMP, hints at the attitude that appears to be hardening in Beijing to simply let Hong Kong drift along and focus attention instead on the development of mainland cities. In her column, she calls it the “Let it be” approach. Hong Kong will have to clean up its own mess, she says, because Beijing sees no upside to getting dragged in.

But will it be that easy to let Hong Kong drift along in its current crisis? Judging by crises in other countries, as well as Hong Kong’s history, as well as the rising tide of aggression being demonstrated by large numbers of the city’s youth, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office spokespersons are back at the table with journalists sooner than they might currently expect.  

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