Journalists take photos on the Hong Kong section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge during a press preview of the bridge on Oct 19, 2018. (PARKER ZHENG / CHINA DAILY)
The opening of the 55-kilometer Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will provide a crucial boost to the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, according to analysts.
The first road link to span the Pearl River Estuary, will energize the regional economy and integrate cities from both sides of the estuary into one dynamic community
The first road link to span the Pearl River Estuary, will energize the regional economy and integrate cities from both sides of the estuary into one dynamic community.
The Bay Area, in the Pearl River Delta of south China, is comprised of nine cities in Guangdong province plus the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao.
Last year, the total Gross Domestic Product of those 11 cities in the region reached 11.7 trillion yuan (US$1.68 trillion). It means five percent of the nation’s population contributed over 14 percent of country’s GDP in 2017.
Similar to the San Francisco Bay Area in the United States, the strategy behind the development of a Bay Area in China was to merge the 11 cities into a world-class city cluster, able to compete on a global scale.
“HZMB is one of the most important elements of the development of Bay Area,” said Jason Ni Meng-cheng, assistant professor of the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering at the City University of Hong Kong. Ni specializes in research into mega transport infrastructure.
The bridge, he says, will redistribute resources in the Bay Area and generate a significant impact on regional development. “Without it, the concept of Bay Area
can’t turn into a ‘ringed system’.”
Noting that HZMB will be open 24 hours a day, Ni said the structure, for the first time, will provide an unstoppable transportation channel between east and west across the Pearl River Estuary.
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Completion of work on the principal section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is set for early February. (DJ CLARK / CHINA DAILY)
Although ferry services run throughout the day, their frequency is reduced substantially after midnight, Ni noted. Thus, the operation of HZMB will significantly increase the flow of people and goods across the estuary.
Ni also noted that the bridge will encourage more Hong Kong people to visit Macao. This will promote communication and exchanges of professional services between the two SARs. He predicted that will help to diversify Macao’s economy, which is heavily reliant on tourism and the gaming industry at present.
Construction of HZMB, the world’s longest sea-spanning, began at the end of 2009. Once operational, the bridge will cut the travel time between Hong Kong and Zhuhai, Macao from four hours by car to less than 60 minutes.
Antony Leung Kam-chung, Hong Kong’s former financial secretary from 2001 to 2003, participated in the SAR government’s initiative to build a bridge connector prior to 2003.
A study of the Pearl River Delta at that time showed that foreign and Hong Kong investors would be most attracted to locales within three hours of Hong Kong, Leung said.
Development still lags in places like Zhuhai and Jiangmen, farther away, on the western side of the delta, he continued. Once the bridge opens, and with the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, now operational, he predicted more investment will flow west as far as the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
Agreeing with Leung, Lin Ming, chief engineer of the bridge’s island and tunnel project, said HZMB will generate more urban areas in the Bay Area, as the country’s urbanization relies mainly on coastal regions.
“The delta in Guangdong is a perfect site for metropolises,” Lin said. “Sustainable development in the delta requires more transport infrastructure — the more, the better.”
He dismissed criticism that the bridge will benefit only Hong Kong. “If you only have your eye on benefits that the bridge can create for Hong Kong, you are only talking about a 20-year timescale. If you look to the future in 30 to 50 years, the bridge is for the Bay Area as a whole. The further your outlook, the better you will understand the significance of the bridge,” he said.
Prior to HZMB there has been no easily accessible channel linking more than 69 million people living in the region.
The San Francisco Bay Area, which is home to just over 7.68 million people, is connected by 5 sea crossings, including the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
This Feb 6, 2018 photo shows a section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge. (PHOTO/CHINADAILY.COM.CN)
The HZMB also will serve as an example for future cross-border cooperation under the “one country, two systems” principle. The project was a cross-border effort, shared by the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao.
Su Yi, head of the Working Group on Crossboundary Policy Research for the bridge operator HZMB Authority, said the cooperation and coordination among the three governments opened a door for institutions under different political systems and cultures to have more exchanges.
It has laid a foundation for the three administrations to have more cooperation in the future development of the Bay Area, Su said.
In terms of better communication within the Bay Area, that will start with the easier flow of capital and goods and the innovation of policies, Su said. But ultimately, it’s about the connection between people from different backgrounds, he concluded.
Gavan Ord, manager of business and investment policy for CPA Australia, a global accounting body, echoed Su’s views.
It helps change people’s mindset when it comes to business activities with Macao, Zhuhai and other cities on the western coast of the estuary, Ord said.
“In the past, I saw Macao and Zhuhai as cities not easily reached. There was always the hustle to catch a ferry around the clock or take a four-hour drive otherwise,” Ord said.
“But with the opening of HZMB, you feel that you are closer to the other side of the ocean and it helps integrate separate communities into one,” Ord said. “It even diversified my choices for my leisure time.”
Within a few decades, people in the Bay Area are expected to live in a broader and more integrated international community, connecting by modern transport infrastructures and more convenient policies across the border and the sea.
At the same time, south China will be energized again, 40 years after the country’s reform and opening-up in 1978.
HONG KONG NEWS