[photopress:guangdong.jpg,full,alignright]Guangdong, the wealthiest mainland China province, under the guidance of newly appointed provincial Communist Party chief Wang Yang, is considering, only considering mark you, whether to integrate with Hong Kong and Macau to form a special cooperative zone. This would be similar to a free trade area (FTA), with the ultimate aim of turning it into a ‘world-class metropolitan belt’.
Guangdong needs something like this as it loses its competitiveness through rapid increases in labor and land costs.
Wang Yang urged Guangdong officials to ‘further emancipate their minds’ and think of new ways to let Guangdong continue to lead other regions in opening up to the outside world.
That ‘To emancipate the mind’ is not a new phrase. It was used by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s to urge officials to break ideological shackles of and so pave the way for the launch of capitalist-style economic reforms.
In part because of its proximity to Hong Kong and Macau, Guangdong took the lead in the country’s reforms of the period, becoming the first province to benefit from Deng’s ‘opening-up’ policy.
Of the four special economic zones Beijing approved in 1980 to pilot market-oriented economic reforms, three – Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shantou – are in Guangdong. The only other one is Xiamen, in Fujian province, facing Taiwan.
As China has gradually opened other provinces, particularly after its entry into the World Trade Organization, Guangdong is increasingly facing challenges from other regions, in particular from the Yangtze River Delta led by Shanghai.
It is under such circumstances that Wang proposed closer ties with Hong Kong and Macau to form a special cooperative zone.
Ambitious and inspiring as the idea may be, the greatest challenge to its implementation would be how to find some way, or ways, to narrow the great differences between the political, economic and social systems in the three places. Under ‘one country two systems’, Hong Kong and Macau continue the systems they inherited from British and Portugal colonial rule.
But perhaps it is possible and 23 provincial authorities and think-tanks in Guangdong are now jointly conducting feasibility studies on forming the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau special cooperative zone.
Source: Asia Times Online