There was a time when the Greater Bay Area was known as the Pearl River Delta. That era ended officially on February 18 with the launch of the region’s masterplan by the State Council. Left behind was the region’s chief rival, the cluster of cities and provinces gathered around the mouth of China’s greatest river, known as the Yangtze River Delta.
It would appear that the Yangtze River Delta is being asked to catch up. On Monday, President Xi Jinping chaired a meeting of the Politburo at which it was decided to elevate the Yangtze River Delta’s development to a national-level strategy. According to China Daily:
- China will bolster the integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta with measures to advance innovation-driven development and upgrade its industry chains, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee decided at a meeting on Monday.
- The integrated development of the Yangtze River Delta region must focus on the key elements of greater integration and high-quality development to lead the growth of the whole Yangtze River Economic Belt and East China, the statement said.
The YRD includes Shanghai and Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces. It had a GDP of 21 trillion yuan ($3.06 trillion) in 2018, which accounted for around one-fourth of the national total. That it almost double the size of the GBA’s economy. What it is still lacking, however, is a catchy name.
Sorry, YRD, Greater Bay Area is already taken.
What does this mean for the GBA? For a start, the two regions are actually incomparable. The YRD has a much larger population and, despite having free-wheeling Shanghai at its center, it is far more weighted toward state-owned enterprises. Perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t have a Hong Kong or a Macau, with independent legal systems and fully convertible currencies. But its leaders will surely lobby for favourable policies at the highest levels in Beijing. Which is fine. Our primary competitor is the US, in case anyone doesn’t know yet. The rise of the YRD should be win-win for the GBA.