An economic zone just across the border will include a "mini Hong Kong" shopping complex to lure mainlanders who would otherwise head to the SAR.
The Qianhai Management Authority says the complex can ease pressure on Hong Kong from the flood of visitors under the individual travel scheme.
Plans are to have a mall up and running by year's end.
Qianhai, a 15-square-kilometer spread to the west of Shenzhen, is intended to be a test zone for financial reforms. It is among 14 special zones offering tax incentives to investors.
Qianhai managers said yesterday they are negotiating with Hong Kong merchants who can be represented there.
But analysts doubt the complex will match Hong Kong's famed role as a shopping paradise, where a wide variety of high-quality products may be bought with confidence.
At best, they say, Qianhai will divert a limited number of mainlanders, and those wanting high-end, branded products will still head here.
"The concept of setting up a shopping center in Qianhai to provide another choice for mainlanders is purely exploratory at this stage," Qianhai authority spokesman Wang Jinxia told The Standard yesterday.
Wang said Hong Kong retailers may offer products in the complex alongside branded foreign goods, but the authority has yet to be advised on whether they should be tax free.
Qianhai managers showed mainland and SAR media around the zone and briefed them on the concept.
Responses to the project are guarded at this stage, however, and various experts doubt there will be a solid challenge to Hong Kong.
Terence Chong Tai-leung, an economics professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, does not see Qianhai replacing the SAR, bearing in mind the range of high-quality products available.
Economist Andy Kwan Cheuk-chiu thinks mainlanders intending to purchase branded products will still prefer to shop in specialty stores here.
Many visitors, Kwan added, do not travel to Hong Kong just for shopping. They are interested in facilities set up for tourists, such as theme parks.
Caroline Mak Sui-king, chairwoman of the Retail Management Association, said her organization needs to see firm plans for the shopping center to assess the impact on Hong Kong.
The idea of a shopping center across the border follows concerns here about how large numbers of mainland visitors have stretched the rail network and other facilities.
It also follows a proposal from the rural body, the Heung Yee Kuk, to set up a huge mall in Sha Tau Kok to divert cross-border shoppers from crowded areas on Hong Kong Island and Tsim Sha Tsui and to ease anti-mainlander sentiment.
On Monday, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Gregory So Kam-leung was in Beijing to discuss the individual travel scheme and multiple-entry permits in particular, though no decisions have been reached.
More than 40.7 million mainlanders visited the SAR last year. Of those, 27.4 million arrived under the individual travel scheme.
But arrivals for last month's Labor Day Golden Week holiday fell for the first time since 2003, when Beijing started to allow individuals to travel here.
Visitors from May 1 to 3 slipped 1.7 percent to 388,070.