Deepening cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao to develop the Greater Bay Area

By He Lifeng | Qiushi Journal | Updated: 2021-09-13 08:30
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The Liantang—Heung Yuen Wai border crossing. When freight inspection lanes officially opened, August 26, 2020, Liantang—Heung Yuen Wai became the seventh land crossing between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, adding yet another major logistics channel in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER MAO SIQIAN

II. Strengthening facilities and mechanisms for market integration

President Xi has emphasized the need to promote regulatory alignment between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao, accelerate the construction of intercity railways in the GBA, and promote quick and efficient flows of goods, personnel, and other necessary items to improve market integration. The regulatory environment of the GBA encompasses the "one country, two systems" policy as well as three customs areas and three legal systems. On the one hand, this provides the opportunity to draw upon their respective strengths to achieve complementary and coordinated development, but on the other hand, it presents objective institutional obstacles and problems. The Outline Plan proposed deepening cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao to optimize the investment and business environments of the nine cities in the Pearl River Delta and enhance market integration in the GBA. In recent years, the GBA Leading Group Office has worked with relevant departments and the Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao governments to simultaneously develop the "hardware" of infrastructure and the "software" of regulations and mechanisms, in order to form interconnected facilities and regulations, promote efficient and convenient flows of factors of production, and accelerate market integration in the GBA.

Increasing infrastructure inter-connectivity

Infrastructure supports economic and social development, and is necessary for conveniently transporting workers, reducing logistics costs, increasing efficiency, and optimizing the layout of industries. Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao are continuously expanding their infrastructure cooperation, including transportation infrastructure, to enhance the convenience of traveling within and beyond the GBA through the creation of a world-class integrated transportation hub. In terms of ground transportation, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Nansha Bridge are now open to traffic, and the Shenzhen-Zhongshan Bridge is under construction. All of these have made the east and west banks of the Pearl River Estuary more accessible to each other. The Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link has officially opened to passengers, linking Hong Kong to China's national high-speed rail network. Construction has started on other major projects, including the Ganzhou-Shenzhen and Guangzhou-Shanwei high-speed railways, and the GBA rail transit network is nearing completion. In terms of aviation, work is underway on third runways at both Hong Kong International Airport and Shenzhen Airport, the third phase expansion of Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, and the renovation and expansion of Zhuhai Airport, while preparations for the renovation and expansion of Macao Airport are ongoing, consolidating the GBA's cluster of world-class airports. In terms of port facilities, the cargo inspection channel at Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai Port and the passenger inspection channel at Hengqin Port have officially opened. The construction of the Guangdong-Macao New Corridor (Qingmao Port) has been completed, and customs clearance facilities in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao have all been improved.

Deepening convergence of regulations and mechanisms

Joining up regulations and mechanisms is a basic requirement for allowing efficient and convenient flows of factors of production and encouraging market integration, and it is the most pressing issue that has been communicated by various sectors of society in the GBA. Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao are all interested in finding commonality between their institutional rules in order to converge and accommodate various market mechanisms. To assist personnel flows, the Zhuhai-Macao border point at the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Hengqin Port passenger inspection area have implemented a "joint boundary" system of customs clearance, whereas, Hong Kong West Kowloon Station employs a juxtaposed control system, all of which has improved customs clearance within the GBA. To facilitate flows of goods, the mainland and Hong Kong have implemented the "cross-boundary single lock" system within the GBA, and the same model is being extended to Macao, further simplifying customs clearance procedures. In the area of qualifications, the GBA already recognizes or is facilitating the recognition of Hong Kong and Macao professional qualifications in the key fields of construction engineering, medical care, education, law, accounting, and tourism.

Reaching a new level of opening to the outside world

The GBA has all the traits of an export-oriented economy with discernible international advantages, making it an important gateway for China's foreign trade. It has the foundations, conditions, and capacity, not to mention the responsibility, to lead the promotion and creation of the new "dual circulation" development dynamic (prioritizing domestic consumption—"internal circulation"—while remaining open to international trade and investment—"external circulation"). In terms of opening up financial services and other service industries, cross-boundary cash pooling of domestic and foreign currencies has been implemented, the Cross-boundary Wealth Management Connect Pilot Scheme is being accelerated, preparations to set up GBA insurance service centers are progressing, and cross-boundary auto insurance within the GBA for policies bought in Guangdong, Hong Kong, or Macao is being trialed. Agreements have also been signed with Hong Kong and Macao to support their full participation in the construction of the BRI and to expand the Guangdong 21st Century Maritime Silk Road International Expo into the China (Guangdong) Maritime Silk Road Expo. The "Greater Bay Area" China-Europe Express freight train operating out of Shenzhen has also gone into service.

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