Over the next decade, the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) will become a major priority for the Macao government as it works to pro-actively promote the concept both at home and abroad.
Several foreign partner nations have hosted delegations from Macao in recent months, eager to access the rich economic opportunities presented by the GBA. Chief Executive Chui Sai On visited the Southeast Asian nations of Cambodia and Thailand in May, meeting with high-ranking government officials from both countries and signing a number of agreements over the course of his five-day visit.
Then in June, Secretary for Economy and Finance Leong Vai Tac headed a delegation on a combined visit to Portugal and Brazil, two major partners in the Portuguese-speaking world. Like Chui, he advocated Macao as a platform for entry into the GBA and the broader Chinese market.
The Chief Executive spent June and July closer to home, visiting the nine Guangdong cities included in the GBA (along with Hong Kong). He assured his counterparts that Macao is ready to co-operate in the development of the cluster, explaining how the territory can contribute through its relations with the Portuguese-speaking countries, platform for tourism, and financial centre.
He also travelled to Beijing in June to discuss the GBA with the Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng, who oversees the GBA Initiative.
In August, Chui participated as a member in the first plenary meeting of the leading group for the development of the GBA at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The meeting was headed by the Vice Premier Han Zheng, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
In the meeting, Han Zheng said that the 11 GBA cities needed to fully utilise the area’s “comprehensive” advantages to build a vibrant and internationally competitive area and a world-class group of cities.
Han Zheng also said that “one country, two systems” was the “best system” for ensuring Macao and Hong Kong’s long-term stability and prosperity. He added that the development of the GBA must closely follow the Basic Law, upholding strictly the principle of "one country" and utilising the advantage of “two systems,” so that the GBA can be successful.
According to a statement by the Government Information Bureau, Chui said that Macao would fully co-operate with the national development strategy and actively utilise its own unique advantages to participate in the development of the GBA, in order to diversify its economy and continue to raise Macao people’s living standards.
Strength in numbers
Originally conceived in 2006 as part of a development strategy for China, the Guangdong–Hong Kong–Macao GBA made its official debut at the National People’s Congress in March 2017 as part of the government work paper of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
The GBA, like all city clusters, leverages the economics of agglomeration: the greater the concentration of related business interests, the lower the cost of production. It increases competition in the supply chain, encourages greater specialisation and division of labour, and makes it easier for employers to locate the best professional for the job.
The plan outlines the target, development direction, and major tasks of the GBA, which comprises Macao, Hong Kong, and nine cities in Guangdong province: Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Foshan, Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Huizhou, and Zhaoqing.
With an area of 56,000 sq km and a population of almost 68 million, the GBA accounts for less than one per cent of China’s land and only about five per cent of the population. Yet in 2017, they contributed around 7.1 per cent to the national economy with a combined GDP of US$1.74 trillion. Such numbers – achieved without the full benefits of integration and co-ordination promised by the GBA – bodes well for the area’s future.
During his visits to the nine mainland cities, Chief Executive Chui met with city leaders to discuss the construction of the GBA and to strengthen contact and co-operation. The delegation also toured a number of industrial facilities and explored various business opportunities, including new green businesses and innovative, high-tech projects.
Chui noted that, in the cities visited, he found room for co-operation and complementarity in the management and training of the tourism sector, youth entrepreneurship, and traditional Chinese medicine.
The GBA, concentrated in the Pearl River Delta of southern China, is one of 19 planned city clusters; yet only two others – the Yangtze River Economic Belt in the east and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area – are under active development.
According to the official timeline, a globally competitive cluster of metropolises in the GBA will be almost fully established by 2020, while by 2030, it will become a global first-class bay area and city cluster, also a global advanced manufacturing, innovation, international shipping, financial, and trade centre.
China’s central government is expected to announce details of the development process for the GBA in the second half of this year.
During his June meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng, Chief Executive Chui acknowledged that, in the past, the appropriate diversification of Macao’s economy was limited by a number of constraints and objective factors, including lack of staff and land, and acknowledged that the GBA will help diversify the economy and accelerate economic development.
He affirmed that the government is undertaking preparatory work to ensure the co-ordination of the Five-Year Development Plan of Macao, the Governance Action Plan, and the construction of the GBA.
In an official statement, Chui acknowledged that the government is aware of the role and functions of Macao within the GBA and is committed to meeting the wishes of the Chinese authorities, who want Macao to co-ordinate its development with the other cities of the region in order to obtain benefits shared by all and establish conditions for the economic diversification of the Special Administrative Region.
The statement noted that initiatives will be launched to create a high quality ecological environment and to make it easier for the citizens of Macao and Hong Kong to work and live in mainland China.
Efforts to develop infrastructure throughout the region are already well underway, creating critical transport links between the two SARs and the nine mainland cities of the GBA. The long-awaited Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, set to begin operations this year, will enable the flow of people in the area – an important complement to government efforts to ensure the sharing of information, capital, and logistics between all members of the area.
The recent visits by Chief Executive Chui and Secretary Leong highlight how Macao’s ability to contribute extends far beyond powerhouse industries within its narrow borders, to the sprawling Portuguese-speaking world and the overseas Chinese community, strong ties that make the small SAR the perfect platform for those eager to access the many opportunities waiting in the Greater Bay Area.
TEXT Sha Kai Sa
PHOTOS Government Information Bureau