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Greater Bay Area: Economic integration 'with Chinese characteristics'

Alexandr Svetlicinii

 , Updated 18:34, 19-Feb-2024
A view of the Hengqin International Financial Center in Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong Province, November 4, 2023. /Xinhua
A view of the Hengqin International Financial Center in Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong Province, November 4, 2023. /Xinhua

A view of the Hengqin International Financial Center in Zhuhai, south China's Guangdong Province, November 4, 2023. /Xinhua

Editor's note: Alexandr Svetlicinii, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is associate professor of Global Legal Studies at the University of Macau, where he also serves as program coordinator for the Master of Law in International Business Law. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Five years ago, on February 18, 2019, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council jointly released the outline development plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA). It was built upon the 2017 framework agreement on deepening Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao cooperation in the development of the GBA, which was signed on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

The release of the GBA development plan marked a significant milestone in this unique development initiative as it put forward an ambitious plan of integrating the three constituent parts of the GBA with their distinct economic, social, and legal structures in order to foster synergies for mutual development and enhance the international competitiveness of the region.

The political importance attributed to the GBA development was reflected in the establishment of the dedicated leading group, a high-level coordinating body of the State Council, established in August 2018. The present note highlights the three core principles of the GBA development approach, which differentiates it from other regional economic projects.

First, as specified in the aforementioned plan, the GBA development is driven by innovation and reform whereby the creation of synergies amongst its constituent part takes place though a series of experiments, which, if successful, could achieve a wider implementation. This approach was taken from China's own development handbook as many of the opening-up economic reforms commenced in the special economic zones in the eastern and southern provinces before being implemented throughout the whole country.

In a similar vein, various forms of regional integration within the GBA are being tested through special cooperation zones such as the Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone in Shenzhen and the Guangdong-Macao in-depth cooperation zone in Hengqin, Zhuhai City.

A stone, inscribed with the word
A stone, inscribed with the word "Qianhai," is seen in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, November 24, 2023. /Xinhua

A stone, inscribed with the word "Qianhai," is seen in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, November 24, 2023. /Xinhua

Each of the cooperation zones features a joint management mechanism and focuses on the development of the specific business sectors combining the synergies of their participants. For example, in Qianhai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong seek to develop new financial services, while in Hengqin, the Guangdong and Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) authorities plan to foster technological research, traditional Chinese medicine, and tourism.

Second, the GBA development plan pursues a continuous opening-up and mutually beneficial cooperation among the constituent cities. Since China's SARs of Hong Kong and Macao are separate customs territories, their commerce with the Chinese mainland is governed by the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangements, which extended a number of preferences for the Hong Kong and Macao businesses investing in the mainland. This asymmetric opening-up has substantially benefited the services-oriented economies of Hong Kong and Macao's booming tourism sector.

Third, the GBA development is implemented in the context of "one country, two systems" embedded in China's Constitution. Under "one country, two systems," the construction of the GBA creates an opportunity for the two SARs to update their legal frameworks that would be beneficial for the local businesses while preserving regulatory autonomy and choosing their own solutions for various aspects of market regulation and consumer protection.

For example, the competition authorities of HKSAR and Guangdong Province have recently published a competition compliance manual for businesses in the GBA. The manual underlines the importance of fair competition and explains how to approach the respective agencies in cases of anti-competitive conduct that may harm competition and overall business environment.

Besides the specific GBA-related objectives, the two SARs were accorded additional opportunities under China's industrial policies and development plans. For example, starting with the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011–2015), the Central Government outlined its economic development policies for the HKSAR and the Macao SAR following two major objectives: to reinforce and enhance competitive advantages for each SAR and to deepen economic cooperation between the Chinese mainland and the SARs.

Relying on its unique advantages, the GBA has become one of the most economically dynamic regions in China over the past five years, and it has been a model for the country's high-quality economic development.

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