Editorial : Mega bridge marks a new era for Bay Area

【明報專訊】PRESIDENT Xi Jinping's attendance at the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) has highlighted its importance attached by the central government of China. One has to comprehend the meaning of the bridge's opening from the angle of macro-history. The bridge's opening is a monument to the massive historical changes over the 40 years of China's reform and opening up. It is also a symbol of the mainland's march from a "major bridge-power" towards a "strong bridge-power" as well as an important milestone in the future development of Hong Kong and the mainland. As much as the mainland has to grow from a "major power" to a "strong power", Hong Kong also has to break through its bottleneck and plan for the future. The opening of the bridge can give impetus to the building of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (the Greater Bay Area). It can also become the engine powering the upgrading and transformation of the mainland and Hong Kong. The integration of the Greater Bay Area will bring about significant changes to the circumstances surrounding the region that includes Hong Kong. The city's role as a "connector" is already outdated. It should take part actively in planning out its future rather than "passively wait for good luck".

Spanning about 55 kilometres, the HZMB is the world's longest sea crossing. In the eyes of the central government, the HZMB is the nation's biggest mega infrastructure project after the Three Gorges Project in the 1990s and the Qinghai-Tibet Railway built at the beginning of the 21st century. The project is of the utmost importance to Hong Kong's and the mainland's development. It was at first expected that Xi might give a speech about the 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up. However, it turned out that he just uttered during the ceremony a sentence twelve Chinese characters long: "I declare the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao bridge officially open". Furthermore, the fact that he walked side by side with Hong Kong Chief Executive Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor both when entering and when leaving the venue has also raised much concern and discussion.

The idea of building the HZMB was proposed by the Hong Kong government for the sake of connecting the city with the western coast of the Pearl River Delta. The arrangement that Lam entered the ceremony side by side with Xi reflects the importance of Hong Kong in the eyes of the central government. It also highlights Beijing's expectation of the Hong Kong government to play a leading role. When addressing the audience, Lam said that with the new bridge and Chek Lap Kok International Airport nearby, Lantau Island would become a double gateway to the Greater Bay Area and the world, and the "Lantau Tomorrow Vision" project would create a better future for Hong Kong. One may foresee the central government will keep a close watch on how the "Lantau Tomorrow" project and the HZMB mutually benefit each other and how things will go in the future.

From the birth of idea, the construction to the completion of the project, the HZMB project has been a reflection of the massive changes over the 40 years of China's reform and opening-up as well as the evolution of the relationship between Hong Kong and the mainland. The bridge was first proposed by local businessman Gordon Wu in the early 1980s, but the idea was opposed by the British colonial government. It was not until 2003 that the SAR government proposed the concept to the central government of China and was given the go-ahead. During those two decades in between, the purpose of building the bridge also changed radically. At first the project was intended to boost the mainland's opening-up and narrow down the economic differences between Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. But now the project has become an embodiment of the central government's support in saving Hong Kong from an economic trough and reinforcing the city's status as a financial, trading and shipping hub.

With the opening of the HZMB, the concept of "one-hour living circle" in the Greater Bay Area will also gradually take shape, bringing to Hong Kong brand new opportunities of regional development and new possibilities of all sorts. For example, the HZMB together with the third runway of the Hong Kong International Airport can give Hong Kong a role to play as an international aviation hub in the Greater Bay Area, which may mean a huge increase in the volume of cross-boundary passengers in the future. The government should plan forward and break fresh ground for the repositioning of Hong Kong.

明報社評2018.10.24:灣區新時代開啟 港善用可破瓶頸







monument to sth : a thing that remains as a good example of somebody's qualities or of what they did

utter : to say sth

trough : a period of time when the level of something is low, especially a time when a business or the economy is not growing

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