China Primers - Guangdong

A new Global Mega-City like No Other: Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area

What do you get when you merge nine mega-cities and two regions? A combined population of over 67 million and a GDP that’s predicted to reach US$4.6 trillion by 2030.

That’s a GDP figure that would put the area in fourth place on a list of countries ranked by GDP and topping Germany and almost on par with that of Japan.

That’s quite a staggering feat, and one can easily see with such a size it’s economic gravity is going to have effects on South East Asia, Australia and beyond. Economically and politically, as policy by necessity is tied to the trail of money.

The cities and regions that are planned to be involved in creating the Pearl River Delta Greater Bay Area are Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing plus Hong Kong and Macau.

Geographically that’s an area equating to some 56,0000 sqm.

Living in Shenzhen for some time it was something that was regularly being talked about, whether that be by mainland locals who were constantly moving between HK and the mainland and by mainland officials especially in Shenzhen who saw great synergies to be unlocked.

Other compelling facts include:

  • The area features three of the worlds busiest container ports: Shenzhen #3, Hong Kong rank #5, and Guangzhou on rank #7.
  • 275 Fortune Global 500 firms had invested in Shenzhen, and more than 280 in Guangzhou. 15 Chinese Fortune Global 500 firms are headquartered in the region
  • Since 1979, 63% of all foreign investment in Guangdong came from Hong Kong
  • When the transport infrastructure is complete, the 11 cities will be at most within one hours reach of each other
  • The area already generates 10 percent of China’s gross domestic product with less than 5 percent of the population



The primer was perhaps the HSR (High Speed Rail) networks that have opened to connect these areas with the much awaited Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link (XRL) set to open in 2018. For example, the journey from Guangzhou to Hong Kong currently takes around two hours which would reduce to around 45 minutes with the opening of the HSR. Likewise, journeys between Shenzhen and Hong Kong would be reduced to 15 minutes.

With Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong connected that’s the major economic and industrial hubs connected, setting the stage for a massive social and economic transformation. And there are expectations for it to be quite popular with reports indicating that 114 pairs of trains will run on this line daily.

Also opening in 2018 is the massive engineering marvel that is the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge which will shorten a four-hour road journey to just 30 minutes.

The domestic economic stimulation from tourism alone due to convenience is sure to be staggering by itself.

Then consider the synergies in terms of agriculture, industry, and services. Each region and city has its own specialty in one or more of these sectors. Some examples may include Hong Kongs advanced financial services sector, Shenzhen’s hi-tech manufacturing and development, Guangzhou for automobiles and consumer goods to name a few.

The synergies extend further throughout the region to include agriculture and manufacturing beyond the big industry bases at Shenzhen, Dongguan, and Guangzhou.

It won’t be without challenges, the people of Hong Kong have a very different identity to their mainland counterparts, differing social values, and different style of governance. Merging these regions into one will be no small task on the administrative front to also consider immigration policies, visa policies, three different currencies in use and differing tax policies. Underlying all those differences though is a common, and unique identity, with all sharing roots in Cantonese culture.

Under current plans, the goal is for the creation of the Greater Bay Area to be mostly complete by 2020 and realising it’s potential by 2030.

While we are all fixated on the rise of China, pay attention to the rise of the Canton Super State.