Zhuhai joins GBA tech drive

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.

By 2025, Zhuhai plans to be well integrated with the GBA’s overall technology development. We won’t bore readers with the jargon, but suffice to say that it will give priority to any company with a plan for technological upgrading and the development of new technologies. According to local media, the plan focuses on six areas: regional collaborative innovation, promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship development, source innovation and achievement transformation, innovation platform carriers, innovative talents, and technological and financial support. It proposes 20 specific policies and measures.

Zhuhai already has a decent scorecard in terms of its tech development. Overall R&D expenditure is running at nearly 3.2% of the city’s GDP, while the output value of its high-tech sector is close to 60% of total industrial output. But it’s the quality that it hopes to improve. By 2025, Zhuhai expects the number of patents owned per 10,000 of the population will have risen to 75. (By comparison, Shenzhen reached 80 in 2017.)

That is just for starters. By the end of the GBA masterplan in 2035, Zhuhai expects nothing less than global tech glory to have been achieved: “A dynamic regional innovation system will be basically formed, and the degree of internationalization of innovation will be significantly improved; a number of world-class scientific research institutions, innovation platforms and innovative companies will emerge, producing a number of original results with global influence.”

Judging by the wording of the text, it would seem that this masterplan was designed before President Xi Jinping visited Macau on December 20. That was when the central government’s National Development and Reform Commission announced that Macau and Guangdong (not Zhuhai) would jointly administer an area of Hengqin. The size of the area and the details of the joint administration have yet to be announced.

In any case, Zhuhai seems to be fully aware of the fact that its technological upgrading plan will be done in conjunction with not only Macau, but also Hong Kong:

“In terms of promoting the development of regional collaborative innovation, Zhuhai will actively promote innovation cooperation between Zhuhai, Hong Kong and Macau, build an international scientific and technological cooperation and exchange platform, and promote collaborative innovation of production, teaching and research.” 

Needless to say, large funds are expected to be made available in Zhuhai to support local enterprises in their tech development. Major projects will get subsidies of up to 5 million yuan each.

Separately in Macau, an announcement was made today by a locally registered joint venture between major state-owned companies, known as the Greater Bay Area Common Home Investment Company, that it will establish its first “Macau Greater Bay Area Fund” with an initial paid-in capital of 100 billion yuan. This will be spent on the “construction of the Greater Bay Area”, with particular focus on fintech, healthcare and medicines, and “culture and education”.

The firm’s managing director, Zeng Zhilong, was quoted by Macao Daily News as saying the fund would play a key role in the development of southern Hengqin, through the construction of a “Zhuhai-Macau Future Intelligent Technology City”.

Southern Hengqin is currently zoned for leisure resorts, but much of it has yet to be reclaimed from the South China Sea. Source: Hengqin Government

This project does not get a mention in the Zhuhai or Hengqin masterplans, which suggests it may be something new. It is not clear what exactly is meant by “southern Hengqin” but there is a large area of water off the southern coast of Hengqin that has been set aside for reclamation. It could be this.

The fund is backed by the biggest of the state-owned enterprises in Macau and Zhuhai: the  Nam Kwong Group (Macau) and the Nanyue and Zhuguang groups from Zhuhai, as well as “celebrities in Macau”, according to Macao Daily News.

As the local media outlet reported:

“It is hoped that by actively cooperating with the Macau Special Administrative Region Government and the Zhuhai Municipal Government, a new Macau-Zhuhai Industrial Zone will be established.

“At the same time, it plans to invest in the development of the southern area of ​​Hengqin and establish a “Zhu’ao Future Smart Technology City” to strive for cooperation between Zhuhai and Macau, to finally realize the development pattern of Xiongan New District Technology City in the North and Zhuhai-Macau Technology City in the South Bay Area”.

For those readers unaccustomed to the comparison, Xiongan is a completely new city being built just outside Beijing, a pet project of President Xi’s, designed to be a futuristic city run on the latest technology and eco-friendly.

We will update in due course, once more details become available.

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