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What is the Greater Bay Area?

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There is a new addition to the roster of Communist Party pet projects like the Belt and Road and Xiongan New City, which are part infrastructure build, part economic stimulus, and part political campaign all mixed up with a heavy dose of propaganda.

The “Greater Bay Area” is the latest entrant. What is the hot air all about? In That’s Guangzhou, Ryan Gandolfo explains:

The Greater Bay Area consists of nine Chinese mainland cities (Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Jiangmen, Foshan and Zhaoqing) and two special administrative regions (Macau and Hong Kong). This extended area covers 56,000 square kilometers with a combined population of over 70 million…

…The plan does not contain many tangible targets, but rather, calls on cities within the area to increase their efforts in the industries they are already invested. It will be up to the workers and innovators of this region to substantially improve in areas such as environmental protection, education, tourism, innovation and technology, financial services, transportation and logistics, international legal and dispute resolution, youth development, arts, intellectual property and medical services.

The plan also states that the development of the Greater Bay Area will “facilitate the enrichment of the implementation of ‘one country, two systems’ and foster closer cooperation between the Mainland and the two SARS (Special Administrative Regions),” while promoting opportunities for Hong Kong and Macau residents to live and work on the Chinese mainland. This excerpt reinforces China’s reason for linking both Macau and Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland with a new high-speed railway and the world’s longest ocean-crossing bridge.

Like Xiongan New City, the Greater Bay Area plan is not very transparent, or perhaps the plan simply has not been completed. On Bloomberg (porous paywall), Nisha Gopalan writes that the “plan gives scant detail on how Hong Kong and Macau will be integrated without eroding their special status”:

Hong Kong looks to be the likely loser. In the same breath as the blueprint pledges to uphold the “one country, two systems” framework that governed the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty, it talks of creating “an international and market-oriented business environment based on rule of law, under the jurisdiction and legal framework of mainland China.” The plan was released in Chinese and not in English, one of the two official languages of the former British colony.

For Hong Kong entrepreneurs thinking of setting up over the border, there’s no word on whether they’ll continue to enjoy the city’s 17 percent maximum income-tax rate. The mainland rate is 45 percent for those earning more than 85,000 yuan ($12,500) a month.

Another sign of how little anyone knows about the plan is this South China Morning Post story: Hong Kong legislators seek details from Carrie Lam on Beijing’s ‘Greater Bay Area’ plan.

Also read, in the Hong Kong Free Press: Mixed reactions in Hong Kong as Beijing sets out strategic integration plan for southern China ‘Bay Area.’

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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.