context: Mainland media does not report on concern in Hong Kong over Beijing’s increasing influence in the region. China’s ability to further integrate with Hong Kong is framed as a basically sub-national issue, with international connectivity an added bonus.

In an interview with the 21st Century Business Herald, Zhang Xiaoming 张晓明 Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office director detailed how the central government plans to position the Greater Bay Area (GBA)

  • world-class city cluster
  • international technological innovation center with a global reach
  • an important support network for the Belt and Road Initiative
  • a model region for deep cooperation between the mainland and Hong Kong and Macao
  • a region for high-quality living

Zhang says the GBA covers nine cities in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau, with a total population of 70 million and total GDP over 1 bn. As China’s most open and economically dynamic region, it has enjoyed a number of supportive policy measures including the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail and Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.

Zhang points out that Hong Kong, Macao, Guangzhou and Shenzhen can be considered ‘central cities’ of the cluster that lead the development of surrounding areas. Compared to bay areas in New York, California and Tokyo, GBA is unique in that it covers two government systems, three jurisdictions and three currencies. This necessarily leads to problems that need unconventional solutions. Such differences can also be turned into advantages, he says, because diversity means complementarity.

Zhang emphasises that Hong Kong and Macao will play a crucial role in China’s economic development. Hong Kong, as the largest offshore RMB hub, will help with internationalisation of the currency. With four universities ranked among the global top 100, Hong Kong will contribute to scientific research which can in turn be industrialised in Guangdong’s advanced manufacturing industry.