Published: 18:05, May 24, 2024 | Updated: 21:32, May 24, 2024
GBA will play a significant role in boosting nation’s cultural strength
By Yang Sheng

Cultural strength and economic prowess are two sides of the same coin. Never has it been the case that a culture flourishes without the underlying economy, be it a country or a region, having achieved admirable success. The Han, Tang and Song dynasties in the history of China are some of the most illustrious examples, so is modern-day American culture, which is most vividly featured in and promoted around the world by Hollywood productions.

Along this line of inference, one can easily come to the conclusion that the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), the nexus and economic center of the Lingnan region as well as a cultural meeting point, will attain greater cultural prominence and influence within as well as beyond the country than the region has ever achieved before, as the region’s economic prowess continues to expand. Thus, it is reasonable for one to assert that the GBA, or more exactly Lingnan culture, will play a significant role in the process of the nation’s drive to uplift its overall cultural strength.  

Aside from economic prowess, technological advance provides an additional boost to cultural strength, not only because technologies facilitate the propagation of culture but also because they attract attention to and admiration for the culture that has helped to breed those technologies. In this vein, the GBA, one of the most significant technology and innovation powerhouses not only in China but in the whole world, naturally enjoys stronger cultural influence than many other places.  

The GBA’s advantages as a cultural messenger, or communicator, do not stop at its economic and technological strengths. The region’s economic and technological strengths are inseparable from its open and inclusive humanistic or cultural background: Lingnan culture has been receptive to external cultures. This is by virtue of the Lingnan region’s geographical feature as a coastal landmass facing the ocean.

Lingnan’s geographical location has facilitated the economic and cultural exchanges between the region and the broader world. The region was the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road, an important maritime trade route connecting China and coastal states and regions across Asia and Africa, which flourished for over 1,500 years from the Han dynasty to the Ming dynasty. Ever since, “Lingnan culture has attached great importance on commerce and maintained a relatively open attitude toward foreign cultures.” (Lingnan: China’s Anti-Traditional Frontier, on the Chinese University of Hong Kong website.)

Lingnan culture has been open and inclusive not only toward foreign cultures but also toward the Zhongyuan culture. The forbidding Nanling mountain range had separated the Lingnan region from the Zhongyuan region before modern transportation systems were developed.

But the geographical barriers did not completely cut off economic, demographic and cultural flows between the two regions, which had actually been boosted by the continuous migration movement of Zhongyuan people to Lingnan mainly because the latter had provided a safe haven for the Zhongyuan population dislodged by regional wars over the thousands of years of Chinese history. Lingnan culture, which is a fusion of local culture and Zhongyuan culture, has been greatly enriched by the Zhongyuan culture and vice versa in the process of population flows over the centuries.

The openness and inclusiveness of Lingnan culture have not only been well preserved in the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao under the “one country, two systems” arrangement, but also enhanced in the whole GBA as integration between the two SARs and the partner cities on the mainland side of this city cluster grew over the years as part of national strategy.

The country’s drive to strengthen its connection with the rest of the world has created a bigger role for the GBA, which as a whole serves as an international platform that not only promotes excellent Chinese culture and technologies to the outside world but also introduces outstanding foreign cultures and technologies into the country. It is safe to assume that the region will play an increasingly significant role in the nation’s drive to build up cultural strength as integration grows in the GBA. After all, the Hong Kong SAR is designated as a hub for arts and cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world in the national 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25).  

There have been concerns that the regional integration could encounter a bottleneck sooner or later in the most crucial aspect of institutional alignment as Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao each have their own uniqueness in terms of governance institutions and regulatory frameworks. But if experience is any guide, one can confidently assert that such concerns are unwarranted. The “China miracle” is a product of creativity and innovation. Indeed, the “one country, two systems” design is an unprecedented innovation.    

The author is a current affairs commentator.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.