III. Deepening cooperation to improve people's living standards in the GBA
Politics reflects the will of the people, which itself is determined by people's standard of living. Improving people's standard of living and wellbeing are fundamental to developing the GBA, and it is the key to winning over the people of Hong Kong and Macao. We currently face challenges to maintaining people's standard of living in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao, which need to be resolved in the ongoing development of the GBA. The Outline Plan stated that the GBA should expand cooperation in fields including education, culture, tourism, and social security to jointly create high-quality public services and a superior living, working, and traveling environment. In recent years, the GBA Leading Group Office has worked with various bodies as well as the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao to help residents develop the GBA, with the focus on areas of particular concern to people in Hong Kong and Macao. This has promoted in-depth cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao and ensured that the people of the GBA lead happier, more satisfying, and more secure lives.
Developing a thriving and business-friendly Greater Bay Area
Employment has the biggest impact on people's standard of living. Throughout the development of the GBA, employment and entrepreneurship have been given special attention, with policies and measures continuously improved to help Hong Kong and Macao residents find employment and set up businesses in the mainland. To this end, the need for employment permits for Hong Kong and Macao residents to work in the mainland has been removed, and Guangdong has started enrolling Hong Kong and Macao residents who work or are seeking work in the province in its basic public employment and entrepreneurship services. Public institutions in the GBA now allow Hong Kong and Macao residents to apply for jobs, with an initial batch of more than 10,000 jobs offered, subject to passing the necessary examinations. Guangdong province has also built 12 innovation and entrepreneurship bases for young people from Hong Kong and Macao, and Hong Kong and Macao entrepreneurs are eligible for funding under local entrepreneurship subsidy policies. As of the end of 2020, the innovation and entrepreneurship bases had incubated 698 projects involving Hong Kong and Macao residents, creating more than 8,800 jobs and attracting more than 1,000 young people from Hong Kong and Macao.
Creating a harmonious and livable Greater Bay Area
Creating a convenient living environment is important for attracting Hong Kong and Macao residents to the mainland, so the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao are working on regulatory convergence in the areas of housing, education, medical care, and social security. To help Hong Kong and Macao residents buy houses in other areas within the GBA, documentation requirements have been eased and Hong Kong and Macao banks can be used to complete purchases. Policies have been implemented to allow the children of Hong Kong and Macao residents to access pre-school education, compulsory education, and take high school and college entrance exams, and progress is being made in setting up cooperative study programs involving Hong Kong and Macao colleges in the mainland. Procedures for Hong Kong and Macao residents to access medical services in other areas within the GBA are also being optimized, and 48 medical institutions funded by Hong Kong and Macao have opened in the mainland. Restrictions on accessing medicines and medical devices in Hong Kong and Macao have been relaxed further, and qualified medical institutions in the GBA can now use drugs and medical devices marketed in Hong Kong and Macao. Finally, Hong Kong and Macao residents can join social insurance policies in the mainland, and links between the social security systems of the mainland, Hong Kong, and Macao are steadily being created.
IV. Promoting cooperation platforms and integrated development
The construction of the GBA depends closely on the overall work of the state in each of the sub-regions and the implementation of relevant laws and regulations. The more progress that is made, the greater the difficulties and challenges that are encountered, with many dilemmas and quandaries to be dealt with along the way. Building major cooperation platforms in a targeted manner, intensifying the reform and innovation of systems and mechanisms, and accumulating experience in key areas and links are positive and stable choices for coordinating development, innovation, and risk management, creating examples for others to follow and driving deeper cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao.
The Outline Plan required the accelerated construction of major cooperation platforms, such as the economic development zones at Qianhai in Shenzhen, Hengqin in Zhuhai, Nansha in Guangzhou, and the Lok Ma Chau Loop, in order to exploit their experimental and demonstrative roles in driving reforms to a deeper level, expanding opening up, promoting cooperation, creating new development horizons for Hong Kong and Macao, promoting shared public services, and driving comprehensive cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao. In recent years, The GBA Leading Group Office has worked with relevant central departments and the governments of Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao to accelerate the construction of major cooperation platforms and promote complementary development and competitive advantages within the GBA.
Constructing the Guangdong-Macao Intensive Cooperation Zone in Hengqin
The CPC Central Committee and the State Council are keen to use Hengqin to promote the appropriate diversification of Macao's economic development. President Xi has visited Hengqin four times and given speeches on the importance of the Guangdong-Macao cooperation zone, in which he has emphasized the need to make a success of cooperative development between Zhuhai and Macao in Hengqin in order to boost Macao's longterm development. The GBA Leading Group Office is closely focused on this priority of promoting appropriately diversified economic development in Macao, which it considers the immutable aim of the work in Hengqin. A grand plan for the Intensive Cooperation Zone in Hengqin has been formulated, which clarified the overall requirements, main tasks, and supporting measures for the further development and opening of Hengqin, and related policies and measures are being introduced as quickly as possible. The University of Macao and the Macao University of Science and Technology have established the Industry-Education-Research Demonstration Base in Hengqin. A policy has been implemented to allow certain Macao registered vehicles to enter and exit Hengqin, with the quota increased to 10,000. The construction of the Macao New Neighborhood project for Macao residents has been launched, and supporting education, medical care, and legal services have been added.
Advancing reform and opening up in Qianhai
The Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone has been constructed to support Hong Kong's economic and social development, enhance cooperation between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao, and create a new pattern of opening-up. The GBA Leading Group Office is using the service industry, an industry in which Hong Kong holds a competitive advantage, to promote in-depth cooperation between Hong Kong and Shenzhen, along with the rest of Guangdong. The intention is to build Qianhai into a foothold for expanding Hong Kong's development space and furthering the mainland's reform and opening up. We have formulated plans and arrangements for reform and opening up in Qianhai and expanded the zone's scope. Qianhai is taking the lead in areas such as facilitating trade and investment as well as financial opening up and innovation, with a number of achievements having been replicated in Shenzhen, the GBA, and across China.
In addition, construction of both the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Cooperation Zone for Technology and Innovation at the Lok Ma Chau Loop and the Guangdong-Hong Kong Intensive Cooperation Park in Nansha is progressing steadily. In the Shenzhen part of the former, the regeneration of the Huanggang Port area and upgrading of the Futian Free Trade Zone are progressing apace, more than 20 scientific research projects led by five Hong Kong universities are being implemented, and a raft of scientific and technological innovation policies are being piloted. In the Hong Kong part of the cooperation zone, preparatory work on infrastructure and preliminary operations is advancing. At Nansha, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Guangzhou) and the Pearl Science Park of the Chinese Academy of Sciences are being constructed, and more than 3,870 Hong Kong and Macao enterprises and a number of Hong Kong and Macao youth entrepreneurship projects have been attracted to the park.
The 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25) is the first five years of the new journey to build a modern socialist country, during which China will enter a new stage of development and encounter profound and complex changes in its development environment. The world is undergoing major changes unseen in a century, which the global novel coronavirus pandemic has accelerated. There is a backlash to economic globalization, protectionism and unilateralism are prevalent, and the world has entered a period of turbulent transformation. China, meanwhile, is in a critical period for realizing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Our economy has shifted from the stage of high-speed growth to the stage of high-quality development, creating a new "dual circulation" development dynamic. Moreover, China's economy is at a key juncture in transforming its mode of development, optimizing its economic structure, and switching to new drivers of growth, but there are still many weaknesses to overcome if we are to achieve high-quality development. Within this context, to promote GBA, we must continue to be guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and fully implement the "one country, two systems" policy, under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong and the people of Macao administer Macao, with a high degree of autonomy for both regions. We must continue to administer Hong Kong and Macao in accordance with law, maintain constitutional order in the two special administrative regions, as ordained by the Constitution and the Basic Law, and fully utilize the unique advantages of Hong Kong and Macao as well as the pioneering excellence of Guangdong in reform and opening up and the leading role of Shenzhen as a pacesetter in developing Chinese socialism. We must focus on enhancing technological innovation, increasing market integration, improving people's wellbeing, strengthening exchanges, and promoting major cooperation platforms between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao, in order to better integrate Hong Kong and Macao in China's overall national development and expand and strengthen drivers of high-quality development.
He Lifeng is vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, minister and secretary of CPC Leadership Group of the National Development and Reform Commission, and director of the Office of the Leading Group for the Development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, English edition, No 4, 2021)