HK must zone in fast

Central Station | Mary Ma 8 Sep 2021

Beijing's decision to drastically enlarge the Qianhai economic cooperation zone to eight times its initial size is set to increase the room for Hong Kong to expand on its existing potential - but whether the SAR will dig deep into it depends on how quickly it can act to play the lead.

It's no secret that Shenzhen officials will not wait to step on the accelerator to overtake its neighbor.

As a Central Government Liaison Office spokesman commented the other day, it's not only that Hong Kong must keep moving forward, it must also do so quickly because moving forward alone but slowly would still leave it lagging behind the others.

The widely reported comment may best sum up the concerns that at least some officials in the central government have had over Hong Kong, fearing it may have not yet recovered to allow it to charge ahead the way it had done in the past.

Even if the same has been said about Macau, it has not been repeated as often as in the case of Hong Kong.

The State Council has formed two economic cooperation zones in the south, namely Hengqin in Zhuhai and Qianhai in Shenzhen.

The former had been under the administration of Zhuhai when it was set apart from Zhuhai for it to be jointly developed with Macau.

Similarly, Qianhai is part of Shenzhen and has been selected to be developed in cooperation with Hong Kong.

As joint development continues, both zones are expected to leverage on the edge of the unique system being practiced in the two SARs in accordance with the one country, two systems policy. The systems in the two SARs differ from that of the mainland.

Macau is tiny in both area and population. The 106-square-kilometer Hengqin is three times the size of Macau and would greatly expand the de facto territory of Macau jurisdiction if the project is successfully carried out.

Qianhai is slightly bigger than Hengqin after the former's area was increased from 15 square kilometers to around 120 square kilometers in accordance with the State Council's decision.

As a result of the expansion, a number of iconic industrial bases in Shenzhen are set to be included in the enlarged economic cooperation zone to be served by Hong Kong-based professionals in finance, accounting, laws, etc.

A government press release cited Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as saying Qianhai would foster Hong Kong-Shenzhen cooperation at a higher level and the two cities could be the "dual engines" driving development in the Greater Bay Area.

While the State Council's announcement was made on the day Lam visited the area, the coincidence was open to interpretation.

But Lam was wise in spotting that Hong Kong is also connected to Hengqin by land transport via the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.

In theory, the potential for Hong Kong to expand its catchment area is not confined to Qianhai but also Hengqin.

Of course, this is on the condition that the city acts fast and knows how to grab the chance.

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