Hong Kong's plan to build a northern metropolis south of Shenzhen, if successfully implemented, will mark a new era not only for the special administrative region (SAR), but also for the integration of the two cities and the development of the Greater Bay Area.
The ambitious plan, revealed by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in her policy address Wednesday, envisages a 300-square-kilometer metropolitan area in northern Hong Kong ideal for people to live, work and travel. The Northern Metropolis, which Lam's report says has enormous development potential "with resources for urban development being speedily pooled in," will create more land resources for residential use, alleviating the SAR's housing shortages. It will also become a new economic engine, creating much-needed jobs for the city's younger generation.
Compared to the Lantau Tomorrow Vision land reclamation plan unveiled in 2018, which aims to reclaim 1,700 hectares of land that could provide up to 400,000 apartments and create 340,000 jobs over the next 20 to 30 years, the new initiative will enable the SAR to better cooperate with Shenzhen and integrate into the overall development of the country.
Specifically, Lam put forward the spatial concept of "Twin Cities, Three Circles." "Three Circles" refers to, from the west to the east, the Shenzhen Bay Quality Development Circle, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Close Interaction Circle and the Mirs Bay (Dapeng Bay)/Yan Chau Tong Eco-recreation/Tourism Circle.
According to Lam, "Twin Cities, Three Circles" will facilitate close collaboration between the governments of Hong Kong and Shenzhen in areas such as economic development, infrastructure, innovation and technology, people's livelihood and ecological environment.
For years, Shenzhen and Hong Kong have been considering mutually beneficial integration measures. The Central Government and Shenzhen have been vigorously launching initiatives, such as the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone and the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Cooperation Zone for Technology and Innovation in southern Futian. However, anti-government elements in the SAR had until recently undermined the SAR's efforts to integrate with the mainland. With Hong Kong returning to stability after the implementation of the national security law, it is time to boost integration and address the issues that have plagued the SAR for years, such as the unaffordability of housing and lack of employment opportunities.
The future Northern Metropolis sits opposite to Shenzhen's core areas, across the Shenzhen River and Shenzhen Bay. The new metropolitan area will forge synergy with the 120.56-square-kilometer Qianhai cooperation zone and Shenzhen's maturely developed core areas, including Futian and Luohu.
The Northern Metropolis megaproject will also inject new vitality to Shenzhen's Futian and Luohu districts, which border Hong Kong's northern territory across the Shenzhen River.
For many years, Hong Kong had been wary of losing to Shenzhen in the competition among cities. Realizing that Hong Kong's future lies in its integration into national development, Lam's government is now eager to seek cooperation with Shenzhen, looking to leverage opportunities across the border and pool in readily available resources.
Previously, Hong Kong officials used to say "leveraging Hong Kong's advantages to meet the country's needs." During a recent meeting with Shenzhen Party chief Wang Weizhong, Lam said Hong Kong and Shenzhen should leverage the two cities' advantages, rather than simply tapping only Hong Kong's strengths, to meet the country's needs.
She also revealed during an interview with Shenzhen TV on Friday that she attended a grand gathering in Qianhai celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone (SEZ) on Oct. 14 last year, where she noticed that President Xi Jinping urged Shenzhen to pilot deeper reform and opening up from a higher starting point. Since then, her administration has joined hands with the Shenzhen government on many occasions, she told the broadcaster.
Lam also said southern Shenzhen's 300-square-kilometer swathe of land and 240 square kilometers of land in northern Hong Kong's Loop area and the future San Tin technology town, when working as a whole, will enable the two cities to develop innovative technologies and advanced manufacturing.
Hong Kong is home to several prestigious universities and has made considerable achievements in technology and innovation, enabling it to team up with Shenzhen, a tech hub with a full-fledged industrial chain, to leverage the complementary strengths of both sides.According to a Global Innovation Index report released by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in September, the Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Guangzhou innovation cluster ranks second globally, after the Tokyo-Yokohama cluster in Japan. Deepened cooperation between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, with a combined population of 27 million and a combined GDP of 5 trillion yuan (US$775.98 billion), will unleash new possibilities, boost the combined competitiveness of the two cities and play a pivotal role in the development of the Greater Bay Area.
(The author is a deputy editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily.)