What better way to start the week than with some sort of sneak-preview of the Greater Bay Area Initiative Vision Plan from the South China Morning Post? The paper reports that Vice Premier Han Zheng has approved the Tech/Innovation Integration Hub-Zone Blueprint, which will be unveiled on February 21 ‘barring unforeseen circumstances’.
Will we finally learn what on earth the thing is?
The basic proposition is that you have a bunch of coastal cities clustered around a river delta/estuary, and if you do something (to be revealed on Feb 21, fingers crossed) it will start to perform a similar ‘powerhouse’ economic function as the Silicon Valley area around San Francisco Bay, or maybe the vast industrial region around Tokyo Bay, because an estuary is sort of like a bay. Voila – the world’s top bay area.
Regional geography types might point out that the Pearl River Delta is already performing such a function, with its vast swathes of factories, banks, sea ports, airports, power stations, residential areas, road and rail links, malls, schools, 7-Elevens, pet-grooming salons and everything else an economic dynamo needs.
Promoters of the concept excitedly insist that the extra yet-to-be-announced something can unlock the area’s great additional potential. They note that it is currently divided among a dozen or so municipal jurisdictions, whose mayors and other leaders compete with one another, and two of which are de-facto city states with their own currencies and laws, separated by international-style borders.
Skeptics point out that while merging Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Shenzhen and other mainland cities’ planning and other functions might produce economies of scale and efficiencies, it is difficult, if not unconstitutional, to absorb Hong Kong and Macau into the Mainland this way.
Some fear the whole thing is a plot to subsume Hong Kong politically and economically within a bigger cross-border entity. Others suspect the idea is more psychological or symbolic – aimed at encouraging the idea or feeling that Hong Kong is just a part of something bigger. In other words, to dilute Hong Kong’s separate identity. As in ‘We will no longer be Hong Kong people, but Greater Bay Area people’.
According to the SCMP, Beijing’s outline is some sort of Stalin-era central plan dictating where to locate all the tractor factories and where to put the cotton production:
Hong Kong will be the international finance, navigation and trade centre, as well as a transport hub. It will have the role of pushing finance, trade, logistics and professional services towards the high-end market. Macau will be an international tourism city and a platform for trade with Portuguese-speaking countries. Guangzhou will take a leading role as a national central city while Shenzhen will take a leading role as a special economic region and an innovative city…
What does Hong Kong’s exciting new role in ‘navigation’ entail? Which city will be the platform for trade with Spanish- or French-speaking countries? Will Guangzhou notice that it is being fobbed off with a silly title of ‘national central city’ instead of getting a real trendy modern sexy-sounding mission in life?
Sinister or stupid? Find out on Feb 21. Maybe.