In the spring of 1979, the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping drew a circle on a map. The circle on the coast of the South China Sea, covering 327.5 square kilometers in reality, was designated as the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (then consisting of Futian, Luohu, Nanshan and Yantian districts).
In 2011, the circle was enlarged to the whole territory of Shenzhen, covering 1,997 square kilometers. Facts have proven that Deng’s drawing of the circle was a right choice. After 40 years of robust and steady development, Shenzhen has developed from a small and poor fishing town to a modern metropolitan city that boasted a GDP of 2.422 trillion yuan (US$355 billion) in 2018, ranking third among all Chinese cities.
On Feb. 18 this year, top Chinese authorities led by President Xi Jinping drew another circle in South China by unveiling the outline development plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, aiming to build the region into a world-class city cluster and an important pillar for the Belt and Road Initiative.
This new circle is much bigger than the former one. The 11-city cluster is comprised of Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and nine cities in Guangdong Province, namely Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing. The Greater Bay Area covers 56,000 square kilometers and the total population reached about 70 million as of 2017. Its combined GDP was US$1.5 trillion in 2017, which was equivalent to the GDP of Russia that year.
As we all know, the Pearl River Delta is already one of the most important powerhouses driving the Chinese economy. But why does the Chinese Government aim to initiate the Greater Bay Area now?
Actually, with a marked increase in its economic strength and regional competitiveness, the Pearl River Delta area has possessed the fundamental conditions for developing into an international first-class bay area such as the New York, San Francisco and Tokyo bay areas. Such a foundation of development is made up of its unique geographic position, robust economic strength, high concentration of innovation factors and relatively advanced level of internationalization.
Among the 11 cities, Hong Kong, Macao, Guangzhou and Shenzhen work as the core engines for further development with complementary and coordinated functions. While Guangzhou has been serving as an international trade center for more than 2,000 years in China, Hong Kong and Macao have successively become international port cities, and Shenzhen is an emerging example of the success of the country’s reform and opening-up policies during the past four decades.
A modern comprehensive transport system is also a solid support for the socio-economic development of the Greater Bay Area. In terms of transport connectivity, besides those existing facilities, two major transport links launched in the second half of 2018 — the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link and the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge — mean more convenience and choices for people living in the area, with the travel time having been greatly reduced between cities within the area.
Meanwhile, with deepened and broadened cooperation, the Greater Bay Area will help leverage every city’s comparative advantages, facilitate the effective and efficient flow of various factors of production, optimize industrial structure and resources allocation, improve business investment and trade liberalization, consolidate its innovative and technological edges, ensure alignment with international market norms and regulatory standards, foster cooperation in social security and social governance, integrate the development of urban and rural places, and build a pleasant ecological environment within the region.
Talent is the most important factor keeping our sustainable development. If acting alone, Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao may face their own limitations in attracting high-caliber global talent. But now, by joining hands and taking advantage of the vast mainland market with Hong Kong’s international prestige and professional expertise, the Greater Bay Area will show more vigor and have a much better chance in the future global talent competition.
(The author is the editor-in-chief of the Shenzhen Daily with a Ph.D. from the Journalism and Communication School of Wuhan University.)