A view of Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
The Northern Metropolis project danced to the tune of the cross-border development project launched by Hong Kong’s sister city, Shenzhen, one year ago. The project, the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Boundary Control Points Economic Belt (the Belt), initiated by the Shenzhen municipal government, aims to upgrade cross-border services at the seven checkpoints to Hong Kong, including but not limited to Luohu (Lo Wu in Hong Kong), the first and foremost commercial center that pillared the economic startup in the early days of Shenzhen.
By listing the project on top of the agendas of Guangdong provincial development strategies for the Greater Bay Area and the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), Shenzhen is eyeing a brighter future of opening up wider to the world. The city is determined to transform the seven checkpoints, and their vicinity areas (the Belt), into promising business centers that are expected to intensify cooperation between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.
The potential of the Belt sandwiched between two sister cities is obviously huge. Such potency and prowess, being unleashed to its full strength, would turn the Belt into a platform of cooperation among the three cities of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Macao, making it a showcase of new success in Chinese economic reform. With economic vitality and huge resources, the Belt is also expected to galvanize Hong Kong economic vitality like the Qianhai region has done to Shenzhen. Moreover, it is highly possible for the Belt to be listed in the State agenda of economic development.
Above all else, the forerunners in the Belt will dip their toes in the water to a full economic integration among the cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area by aligning the rules and regulations of the three cities, which will eventually lay a sound and solid basis for further economic cooperation.
Setting up a transregional organization to facilitate and regulate business practices in the Belt will be a viable program to accelerate the alignment of rules and regulations among the cities. This will certainly play its role in realizing the vision of the Northern Metropolis in Hong Kong. In this regard, it is necessary to set up a transborder administrative body, the Border Economic Belt Administration Commission, to coordinate the parties from different cities with distinctive jurisdiction systems. Such an arrangement, we believe, would also allow Hong Kong to play a bigger role in the GBA.
The BEBAC would comprise delegates from the governments of all levels, including those from the National Development and Reform Commission and ministries in Beijing, the Guangdong Provincial Government in Guangzhou, the HKSAR government, and the Shenzhen municipal government. It should be a permanent body underneath the GBA Supervisory Group headed by Vice-Premier Han Zheng.
As for the operation, we could take a leaf from the European Commission’s book to coordinate the different parties from the distinctive economic systems. The European Union is one of the most efficient transnational entities in coordinating its member countries, making it an ideal role model for the proposed commission to follow suit. As a supranational administrative body under the jurisdiction of the EU, the European Commission is composed of 28 members, including one president and 27 members of managing committees who are in charge of affairs in various expertise. Every member of the commission is equal, and they make policy decisions in tandem. The tenure of the commission lasts five years, and every member state is allowed to form a working team of six to nine government officers.
The BEBAC could, likewise, adopt the same mechanism by appointing a president to supervise the overall operation and a group of supporting members as the task forces in various economic sectors in the three cities. The meetings within or among the task forces, however, might be on a regular but more-frequent basis than those of the EC.
The top brass of the BEBAC would need to think outside the box to ensure the smooth operation among the different jurisdictions in the region. That said, experts and stakeholders of Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Macao should be recruited as team members to tackle the cases with expertise and flexibility. A feasible but flexible regulation system is needed in the Belt for the mutual recognition of professional qualifications of different jurisdictions. Thus, professional practitioners may be allowed to practice across borders. The same logic works for the government regulations and protocols for cross-border practices.
The BEBAC would aim at facilitating the business operations in the Belt, making it as inclusive as possible to embrace the distinctive practices and patterns in the trio. To start with, medical and internet services are “soft” touches, and the business protocols are also good “starters” for those who want to test the waters.
By and large, a full-fledged integration to knit the Greater Bay Area into one piece still takes time, albeit every side of the border is now accelerating its pace. This proves the value of the Belt, especially for those who are on the edge of their seats to venture into “no man’s land” in the Northern Metropolis and transform the deserted wild place into a booming zone of trails and successes. We are fully convinced that the BEBAC would be effective in facilitating and accelerating the integration process. The Belt will be Hong Kong’s first foothold to tap the promising land of the GBA and to reap the harvest from the unparalleled opportunities generated by the economic growth in the nation as a whole.
Witman Hung is a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress and principal liaison officer for the Hong Kong, Shenzhen Qianhai Authority.
Liang Haiming is dean of the Hainan University Belt and Road Research Institute.
Shi Xufeng is an associate research fellow of Hainan University Belt and Road Research Institute.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.