GBA Brief

Fertile ground: how outsiders are hoping for a harvest from the GBA

Cities in the Greater Bay Area are revving up to realise the benefits of the world’s newest super-cluster. Places like Meizhou and Yangjiang that didn’t make the cut as participants in the plan want a piece of the action too.

Eleven cities in the GBA are primed to capture most of the profits from the plan for a new mega-city. But how about the places that didn’t win one of the golden tickets? Here are a few examples of how they are trying to position themselves for the years ahead. 

Meizhou, a city of about 5 million people in northeastern Guangdong, spreads out over hillier terrain that makes it a bit less accessible than some of its peers. But for the same reason it has an attractive natural environment, which is home to fertile farms and agribusinesses. Pride of place goes to the pomelo but the prefecture sees itself as a ‘farm for GBA’ in general, selling a range of vegetables and fruits to its wealthier neighbours. 

Another plan is to germinate its green advantages in developing its tourism industry and drawing more visitors from GBA cities, playing on the reputation of the long-life in the local population.That could mean herbal medicine ventures and wellness centres that cater to people from other parts of Guangdong. 

Meizhou has been drumming up support by signing development agreements with the cities of Zhuhai (home to a large number of retirees) and Guangzhou. But success will depend on finding the right partners. For instance, Foshan-based property developer Country Garden has highlighted next-generation agriculture as a focus for investment as part of a plan to deliver high-quality foods to customers. Meizhou may have something to offer – and it could certainly benefit from the contacts and capital that Country Garden makes available.

In response to some of its transportation bottlenecks Meizhou is also looking for ways to improve its connectivity with the GBA at large by bringing forward the launch of a high-speed railway line (expected to commence operations later this year) and enhancing its road network.

Qingyuan is another city in Guangdong that doesn’t want to miss out. It organised an investment promotion event in the provincial capital Guangzhou in August and said it had been successful in securing commitments for projects worth Rmb20 billion. 

Last year, Shenzhen-based Tencent said it would be putting Rmb30 billion into Qingyuan,which isn’t too far north of Guangzhou,to build a cloud-computing hub there. More broadly, Qingyuan is promoting a range of policies to reduce costs for investors – promising cheaper land, lower electricity bills and fewer taxes to make the city more attractive.

Yangjiang, a little further west from the Greater Bay Area’s Jiangmen, is beefing up its two major industries in a bid to tap the GBA market. Boasting a cluster of metals and alloys makers, it has been positioning itself as a materials supplier. As a coastal city Yangjiang has also been trumpeting plans for a major research lab for clean energy, boosting its wind power know-how. The longer term goal is to become a major generator of offshore energy for the province as a whole.  

Other cities in Guangdong are working on ideas to tap the GBA theme and there are even a few candidates from the neighbouring province of Guangxi trying to piggyback on the plan as well

One of the complaints about the guidelines for the GBA so far has been that they have been too broad-brush and leave too much open to interpretation. But for the cities without a formal claim to membership this is something of an opportunity, giving a chance for their officials and entrepreneurs to connect with the scheme. Some are presenting their position on the fringes as a strength, promoting themselves as lower-cost hubs for logistics, production backyards and potential outsourcing partners.

Most aim to combine local resources with the technology and capital of their wealthier neighbours. And why not? Indeed, what these cities are demonstrating is the far-reaching implications of the GBA as a concept and how policymakers hope it is going to supercharge the wider region, and perhaps further beyond.