China’s plans for Greater Bay Area common market should consider EU as model, think tank says

China should learn from the practices of the European Union to transform the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area – one of President Xi Jinping’s three major strategies for regional integration – into a common market, a think tank said on Thursday.

Doing so would mean aligning rules and standards to facilitate greater flows of people and goods throughout the region, according to a proposal released by the Guangzhou Institute of the Greater Bay Area, headed by prominent political scientist Zheng Yongnian.

Zheng’s team recommended a personnel mobility system similar to that of Europe’s Schengen area to attract top scientific and technological talent.

It is not a copy of … the EU Common Market … Its focus is the free flow of resource factors

Guangzhou Institute of the Greater Bay Area

The Bay Area Technology Immigration Programme, as the institute named it, would also feature a long-term residence visa similar to how other places recruit skilled immigrants for employment in hi-tech fields.

“It is not a copy of the super-sovereign state model of the EU Common Market,” the proposal authors said. “Its focus is the free flow of resource factors and optimal allocation of resources within the region.”

He Dongni, academic deputy dean at the institute, said integration is vital to address challenges like decoupling, supply chain shifts and tech controls through a resilient and unified domestic market.


China’s ambitious plan to develop it own ‘Greater Bay Area’

China’s ambitious plan to develop it own ‘Greater Bay Area’

The goal is to ensure seamless connectivity of the region in two years and high compatibility by 2035, she said.

Deep regional integration of market rules is expected by 2050, He said, adding the current process is proceeding more slowly than planned because of the Covid-19 epidemic and unpredictable geopolitical changes.

Beijing is counting on regional development, in part, to further elevate the economy.

However, the Greater Bay Area, which Beijing hopes to build into a world-class zone rivalling San Francisco and Tokyo, still faces several administrative barriers.

For instance, Hong Kong’s case-based common law system is distinct from mainland China’s and Macau’s, which each practice different systems of code-based civil law.

The think tank called for a substantial reduction of institutional barriers in the service trades, as well as a unilateral opening to Hong Kong and Macau service providers and further relaxation of market access.

It also proposed using digital yuan cross-border payments as a jumping-off point to explore applications in tourism, consumption, accommodation and labour services before an eventual expansion to trade, investment and finance.

Deeper integration, however beneficial, should make a point to be inclusive and receptive, said Wang Jiangyu, director of the Center for Chinese and Comparative Law at City University of Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong practitioners, government legislators, and industry associations [need] to participate. If not, it will be difficult to understand their ideas,” he said.

“Without understanding their thoughts, they may feel [this is] being imposed upon them.”


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