According to James Chang, managing partner of regional economic clusters and south markets at PwC China, creating a group identity is a top priority for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Despite the significant progress made in hardware that unifies the 11 cities, it is crucial to connect in terms of soft power, such as reconciling different professional standards and cultural gaps, and better facilitate a flow of people. This is important to achieve high-quality development and make the economy more efficient and sustainable, which is China’s goal in building a modern socialist country.
While the Greater Bay Area has an increasingly sophisticated jigsaw of interconnected infrastructure binding the cities, an invisible “identity issue” is still urgent to tackle. People from mainland cities in the Greater Bay Area find it challenging to find a sense of belonging in Hong Kong and Macao, and vice-versa. To address this, more measures should be introduced to increase mutual recognition of professional qualifications and standards between special administrative regions and the mainland region within the city cluster. Additionally, Hong Kong could consider a pilot program in the Greater Bay Area for issuing special working visas for mainland residents who are willing to work in its Northern Metropolis, which the special administrative region government strives to turn into an innovation and technology hub near its border with Shenzhen.
Overall, Chang believes that facilitating the flow of professionals could be a starting point for changing the mindset, and hopefully, people from different parts of the city cluster will gradually accept and embrace the Greater Bay Area’s culture and value, though it may take a long time.