MACAO, China, Dec. 20, 2019 /PRNewswire/ --

Editor's note: Under China's Greater Bay Area blueprint, Macao is poised to become a core engine driving the mega-city cluster around the Pearl Delta into an economic powerhouse. In the recent forum among a series of Vision China events hosted by China Daily, four prominent figures – from academic and business circles – shared their in-depth insights into Macao's significant role and historical opportunities in riding the momentum of regional development.

Collaboration, connection to drive development

Prominent Macao businesswoman Pansy Ho Chiu-king offered a piece of advice on becoming a trailblazer during the development of the Pearl River Delta — be collaborative, forward-looking and persevere.

The group executive chairman and managing director of Shun Tak Holdings started to visualize a decade ago how the cities within the Pearl River Delta could better connect, long before the initiative of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area was flagged.

Working for the development of the region for 25 years, Ho said she had practical experience gained through different economic cycles. Her first insight was understanding that collaboration was more important than competition.

When she became general manager of Shun Tak Holdings in 1995, her first assignment was to restructure one of the company's core business — ferry services.

But rather than act as a lone wolf, Ho decided to join hands with China Travel, Shun Tak's then-rival.

"We all wanted one common objective — how to create (business) so that this region can come together," Ho said at a Vision China forum.

Her company was involved in one of the first joint ventures between a Macao SAR-based company and a State-owned enterprise.

Together, Ho and her partner opened up new routes to connect the cities of the Pearl River Delta. She said it was the first time the notion of creating an aggregated region came to fruition, well before the 11-city cluster began to take shape.

Similar projects followed, such as air and sea links based on the tried-and-true model of the joint ferry service. A versatile businesswoman, Ho then set her sights on the arts. She believes Macao needs to include more arts and cultural events into regional development to avoid becoming stuck in a "monotonous, traditional business model."

"Macao is an open economy with a lot of liberty in terms of exploring creativity," Ho said.

The city also needs to look at building complementary industry sectors that go beyond traditional tourism and the gaming industry.

"We do many of these projects, and therefore work never stops," said Ho, adding it was important for everyone to become aware of the potential of the region. Ho said Macao was much more than many people's perception of being only a large property development. "Within those properties, we can offer extra capabilities to share opportunities with our neighboring cities," she said.

Business magnate sees bright future for region

Young people can find opportunities in multiple sectors in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, as the area's potential will continue to grow stronger, said prominent Hong Kong businessman Allan Zeman.

Zeman, founder of Hong Kong nightlife district Lan Kwai Fong, made the comment at the Vision China forum in Macao recently.

He urged youngsters to look at things with different eyes and see things other people do not see. As a successful businessman, Zeman said, he always looks at things as "not what they are, but what they could be".

Through this perspective, he said the bay area shows tremendous promise. Last year, the gross domestic product in the area reached $1.5 trillion and it had 70 million residents. By 2030, it is likely to have 80 million people and the GDP could grow to $3.5 trillion.

Seeing the vision of China, Zeman came across the world from Montreal, Canada, to Asia decades ago. He has been living in Hong Kong and Macao for 48 years, and his best known tie to Macao is through his role as nonexecutive chairman of Wynn Macau, a subsidiary of US-based hotel and casino firm Wynn Resorts.

Zeman had his first office on the Chinese mainland 35 years ago. In recent years, he has felt like he has been reading and living in a history book on China, watching changes take place, which are fairly "mind-boggling".

"So when this vision for the bay area came along, I'm supposed to be this visionary entrepreneur again," he said. "And every business person around the world wants to become part of it."

Zeman noted Hong Kong, Macao, Shenzhen and Guangzhou are four economic pillars in the area. He believes every city has its own uniqueness and they can work together as a family but still be competitive.

Hong Kong could support the development of the area with its strength in financial services. Macao used to be a small charming city with Portuguese culture, but now is on its way to becoming a tourism and leisure center. Shenzhen remains a cradle of technology giants and Guangzhou will focus on commerce and trading.

"These could present many best opportunities for young people in the area in many years," Zeman said.

He urged youngsters to venture into the bay area, have a future there, study hard and embrace technology.

'China model' of development provides unique advantages

The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, a plan to create a globally competitive cluster of cities in the Pearl River Delta, stands as a living embodiment of foresight embedded in the unique "China model" and offers the next growth engine for the world's second-largest economy, Zhang Weiwei, director of China Institute at Fudan University, told a Vision China event in Macao recently.

Zhang, a theorist of the China model of political and economic development, said the initiative reinforces the theme of regional integration with a synergistic effect. It brings a harmonious combination of local competition and overall cooperation. It is also a vivid example of pragmatic experimentalism and creates "a new point of growth" for such a large and fast-changing country.

All of these are winning growth formulas in a China model that has produced a miracle of development never seen before in human history, Zhang noted.

The influential Chinese scholar said the China model theory has gained traction in recent years as the country becomes more proactive in its own development path and strategic policy.

In the political domain, China has created a model that can be summarized as "selection+election". Selection is largely based on meritocracy, and Zhang firmly believes this model is superior to the Western model of relying on popular elections.

Economically, its "socialist market economy" is essentially a mixed economy: mixing the visible hand with the invisible hand, state planning with market forces.

Socially, the China model is about highly positive interactions between society and the state.

The uniqueness of the China model should be understood in the context of China as a "civilizational state" — a marriage of "nation-state" and "civilization-state" — that has developed from hundreds of states amalgamating into one over thousands of years.

Zhang pointed out that with a large population and territory, a long history and rich culture, the Chinese state has been ruled by a "unified Confucian ruling entity".

"In case of the Western model, I'll call the political system a partial interest political party. In China's case, it is the holistic interest party that represents the overwhelming majority of Chinese people. This is China's unique advantage and overwhelming policy force," Zhang reckoned.

Such an advantage allows China to plan for the medium to long term and even for the next generation and next century, rather than for the next election, he added.

The Greater Bay Area, which is very much within the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021–25), offers another vivid example of the country's foresight and visionary planning, concluded Zhang, who said he is a firm believer that the initiative has what it takes to become "a mega power of success".

Greater Bay Area in vanguard of China's global march

The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area is in the vanguard of China's global economic rise, said John Ross, senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Technological development in the region stimulated the integrated development of the entire Greater Bay Area, which also contributed to the development of the world economy, Ross said in a speech at Vision China in Macao.

He said the region is at the forefront of the "flying geese" development of China.

Ross is a former director of economic and business policy for the mayor of London.

From an economic perspective, Ross said, it's significant to step back and look at the fundamentals of the bay area and its long-term strategic development.

"There are no other centers of development of high technology in the world, which match either the California one or the bay area," Ross said, adding that China is beginning to move ahead of the US in some technology fields. Technological development can determine many other features of the entire region, he said, including skilled workers, changing infrastructure needs, and the high influx of visitors.

"These features define the Greater Bay Area as one of the most important economic centers in the world," Ross said.

The bay area is working hard on developing itself into an international innovation and technology hub.

It consists of nine cities in Guangdong province and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao, with the region's GDP accounting for about 12 percent of the national GDP.

Ross noted that the interconnected Greater Bay Area had leading international financial centers, particularly Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

Macao is one of the world's most important leisure centers, and manufacturing, retail and other services can be found in the region.

Speaking of the recent unrest in Hong Kong, Ross pointed out the temporary difficulties in the city don't alter any of the fundamentals of the Greater Bay Area. "Hong Kong can't be towed away from China and parked somewhere in the Pacific," Ross said.

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