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HK-mainland integration starts with infrastructure

2018-July-19       Source: Chinadaily.com.cn

'Integration into the overall development of the country" has become one of the most significant guiding principles for Hong Kong since the idea was floated in the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last year. To make this more than a political slogan, in August and December last year the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council announced two batches of policy measures to help Hong Kong and Macao residents who live, work and study on the Chinese mainland. We can expect integration is a real action plan.

'Integration into the overall development of the country" has become one of the most significant guiding principles for Hong Kong since the idea was floated in the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last year. To make this more than a political slogan, in August and December last year the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council announced two batches of policy measures to help Hong Kong and Macao residents who live, work and study on the Chinese mainland. We can expect integration is a real action plan.

Undoubtedly, integration is not an easy task. The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, as a flagship project, reveals how the presence of different systems complicates integration. According to the transit-based development strategy, the integration may start by building up an integration-friendly transport system. For the Bay Area, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is one of the most important infrastructure facilities. As the bridge will soon open, let's take this as an example to explore the significance of infrastructure to integration.

HK-mainland integration starts with infrastructure

The bridge is one of the most massive-scale transport infrastructure projects and its strategic value and practical implementation are significant for the socioeconomic development of Hong Kong. We should note that, in the time from the inception of the multi-governmental planning study to the bridge being opened for traffic, Guangdong province has experienced noticeable economic changes. The Western Pearl River Delta, as the landing point of the bridge, has presented new features in aspects of economic structure and development. Simultaneously, Hong Kong's economy and society face new demands and challenges in the process of development.

One Country Two System Research Institute studies show new features of the economic relationship between Hong Kong and Guangdong have emerged in the new economic environment. For instance the traditional Hong Kong export processing industry in the Pearl River Delta faces transitional difficulties resulting in the gradual decline in its competitiveness and exports; and the economic relationship between Hong Kong and Guangdong was transforming from trade in goods to trade in services and tourist consumption.

HK-mainland integration starts with infrastructure

The new economic development environment in the Western Pearl River Delta and new mode of economic cooperation between the region and Hong Kong mean the bridge will have limited impact on freightage but will significantly affect passenger traffic. In short, the strategic role of the bridge has changed from freightage to passenger traffic, suggesting it will play a crucial role in integration.

To fully realize the strategic value of the bridge, it is necessary to remove existing bottlenecks in its transport function by improving passenger commuting; it is also essential to proactively seize the development opportunities created by the bridge, strengthen inter-regional coordination and promote socioeconomic development in Hong Kong.

More practical arrangements are needed in three areas. Firstly, cross-boundary vehicle clearance should be improved. To be precise, authorities should facilitate "special single use quota for boundary-crossing personal vehicles" for Hong Kong private cars at the Zhuhai port. Secondly, comprehensive traffic facilities should be well planned. For instance, underground parking in the restricted zone of Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities for private cars from the mainland and Macao should be provided and transport links between HKBCF and other areas of Hong Kong should be improved. Thirdly, foreign tourist visa application procedures should be simplified to facilitate cross-boundary travel.

The recent facilitation measures the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council announced cover education, employment, starting businesses and daily lives and let Hong Kong residents on the mainland enjoy the same treatment as their mainland peers. However, these measures won't help much if cross-boundary transport is not efficient enough. The bridge will contribute to creating a "one-hour living circle", with the future commute between Hong Kong and parts of Western Pearl River Delta becoming more convenient. Efficient cross-boundary traffic will do Hong Kong people a great favor by expanding their living spaces to other Bay Area cities.

If the saying:" the road to success is always under construction" holds true, it is all the more imperative for us to make greater efforts to build our "road to success" by integrating our transport system with that of the mainland.

Editor: Will

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