Late last week, Xia Baolong told a gathering of Hong Kong’s elite that the city’s future leader had to prioritize fixing the housing market. He might have been motivated by an article that had appeared a few days before, making fun of the fact that the cost of a decent-sized flat here is what one could pay to live like an Italian duke. Or maybe he had been troubled by an analyst predicting average prices for Hong Kong homes are set to rise another 10%-20% this year.
It is not likely he was bothered by the impact on housing prices of “real and painful” talk of Hongkongers leaving the city, because Hong Kong’s current leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam, shrugged off that news a few days later, pointing out that there would be plenty of reasons for new arrivals to be happy with the state of affairs here.
Lam might have been a bit miffed that Xia had not been reading between the lines of her interviews with local media earlier in the week. She had said that fixing the city’s property woes is her top priority for the last year of her current term. She also hinted at running for another five years, indicating that her Policy Address in October will be “visionary”.
Critics pounced to say that her past failures are an indication of the likelihood of future success on property policy. Yet what this might be overlooking is that substance could make up for Lam’s style shortcomings this time, now that she has a National Security Law to back her up.
Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng has set tongues wagging with comments to local media concerning Henqin, the island in neighboring Zhuhai, suggesting the central government could be preparing to transfer control over all or part of it to the Macau Special Administrative Region.
Ho said in an interview at an event in Macau today that “there is good news” for the specific progress of the so-called Guangdong-Macau Intensive Cooperation Zone, the parameters of which have not yet been clearly defined. “It will be announced within this month or next month”, Ho said, when asked about the details, adding that “it’s not convenient to disclose the relevant information now, as this is a central government policy.”
The Guangdong-Macau Intensive Cooperation Zone concept was first announced around the time of Macau’s 20th anniversary celebrations in December 2019, presided over by President Xi Jinping. One idea floated by political observers since then is that Macau would use this framework to expand the administration of its University of Macau campus on Hengqin. The campus currently has a fence running around it and is accessed only via a tunnel from the Macau side. But other analysts see a joint administration of the entire island being more likely, as its border controls could easily be moved back from the current Hengqin crossing to two bridges connecting Hengqin to the rest of Zhuhai. These already have customs checkpoints, because Hengqin is a New Area, a kind of special economic zone.
Ho went a bit further in today’s press conference, again hinting at what lay in store for Macau in Hengqin. The whole country hopes that Macau will be stable, develop at an appropriate pace, and diversify its economy, he said. When a reporter asked if this meant Hengqin could help in this mission of diversification, he said: “That is the road the country has paved for us.”
Macau’s integration with neighboring Hengqin New Area under the GBA masterplan appears to be picking up after a high-level meeting was held between Macau and Guangdong last week. Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng spoke of several areas of practical focus between the two sides after meeting his counterpart, Guangdong Governor Ma Xingrui, according to local media.
Foremost of these was the joint development of an area on Hengqin, yet to be formally defined, called the Intensive Cooperation Zone. It is not yet clear how this zone-within-a-zone will be governed, but it is possible that Macau law might be extended to it. This would be groundbreaking if it happens, as no such plan has yet been proposed for either of Guangdong’s two other New Areas – in Guangzhou’s Nansha or Shenzhen’s Qianhai. (Read our backgrounders on all of Guangdong’s zones, as well as specifically Nansha and Qianhai.)
What makes Hengqin more important to Macau is that the SAR is running out of space for development. Its current 20-year masterplan (2020-2040) does include land reclaimed from the sea, but nearly all of it is earmarked for residential development. Hengqin, opposite the casinos on Cotai, is seen as a place to expand industries and business – with some space already set aside for non-gaming tourism, Chinese medicine, technology, and the MICE industry, among others.
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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”.