China's Zhejiang province rolls out plan to build Greater Bay Area

Tourists flock to a bridge on the West Lake in Hangzhou in eastern China's Zhejiang province. Photo: AFP

The Zhejiang Provincial Development and Reform Commission has unveiled a specific blueprint to build a Greater Bay Area, which the province wants to be an economic powerhouse for the Yangtze River Delta region and home to technological innovators, as China has elevated the construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area to a national strategy.

Economic prospect

The Zhejiang Greater Bay Area will bring the Hangzhou Bay economic rim, the Ningbo-Taizhou-Wenzhou port industrial belt and the Yiwu-Ningbo-Zhoushan open channel under an integrated region which is centered on Hangzhou and Ningbo, according to the blueprint.

Xie Xiaobo, the spokesman of the Zhejiang Provincial Development and Reform Commission, said that the Zhejiang Greater Bay Area will be a "world-class, green and smart greater bay", whose economic output is expected to be doubled to 6 trillion yuan by 2022.

Hangzhou and Ningbo will play a leading role in promoting the quality development of the Hangzhou Bay economic rim, as the two cities have gradually become new destinations for technology companies and talented people.

Hangzhou, where e-commerce giant Alibaba Group is headquartered, has joined the race with other big cities for professionals and experts with a series of favorable policies such as allowing people holding high academic degrees to obtain citizenship and offer government housing subsidies to high-level talents who agree to work there.

Ningbo has followed suit, and even gone further by establishing talent liaison offices in nine cities such as Beijing and Shanghai for its future plan of introducing talents. Ningbo has also made a detailed plan for the development of the Zhejiang Greater Bay Area, with 14 projects already being put in place.

The Zhejiang Greater Bay Area will try to get the central government's approval to be the location of a free trade port, a new type of economic zone featuring a higher degree of openness in market access, trade, investment and personnel exchange.

In April, the Chinese government identified the southern island province of Hainan as the location of the country's first free trade port, embarrassing the economically developed coastal cities like Shanghai, a key driving force behind the economy of the Yangtze River Delta region. Many experts say that Shanghai could be a very important city linked with the Zhejiang Greater Bay Area not only because of its financial hub status but also its rich political resources that might help gain a strong economic support of the central government.

Transportation infrastructure

In order to promote the connectivity of the cities covered by the Zhejiang Greater Bay Area, Zhejiang province is planning to spend 1 trillion yuan to build transportation infrastructure such as top-class ports and airports in the next half-decade.

A total of 70 transportation infrastructure projects will be opened in the next five years, with 44 projects to start within this year, including a railway line between Shanghai and the Zhejiang cities of Jiangxi and Ningbo. Another railway line connecting Hangzhou with Wenzhou will also be a priority. By 2022, the Zhejiang Greater Bay Area will operate at least 100 domestic and international airline routes.

The transportation infrastructure will support the movement of people and goods.

Zhuo Yongliang, director of the Development and Opening up Research Institute in Zhejiang province, said that the creation of the Zhejiang Greater Bay Area should start with the building of transportation infrastructure, which will be helpful in promoting the coordinated development of the cities in the region.

Technological innovation

According to a research report jointly released by the Institute of Science and Development under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Association for Science and Scientific and Technological Policy, the Zhejiang Greater Bay Area faces three problems including the lack of world-class scientific research infrastructure, universities and industrial innovation.

Zhuo said that the Zhejiang Greater Bay Area still lags behind the world's famous greater bay areas including the New York, San Francisco and Tokyo Bays in areas of technological innovation and industrial structure.

In the blueprint, the Zhejiang Provincial Development and Reform Commission reaffirmed its plan to strengthen efforts to implement the Internet Plus strategy proposed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in 2015, pledging to set up an innovation demonstration zone in the Zhejiang Greater Bay Area, which will focus on the research and development of the emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and quantum communication.

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