“This is the dream”

MB November Special Report | The ghost bridge

Management books will reserve space for the bridge; the work that will take the longest to pay off. And what does it matter to China? Only after the political goals come the economic motivations.

HZMB has already set many records and is likely to hit (at least) one more: the work that will take longer to monetize.

Elsewhere in the world, probably even in China, this would be a problem, but HZMB is a case in itself.

This is a political bridge, long before it can be seen from an economic or social point of view.

Incidentally, in the current socioeconomic context, the bridge would not be a first priority, such as the difficulty in monetizing it – and for some reason, since it was imagined over 30 years ago, it took a long time to move forward.

In the midst of the social crisis in Hong Kong (last September), the spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Bureau of the Chinese State Council, Yang Guang, defended that Hong Kong’s development as part of a mainstreaming project is “the best” for the semi-autonomous region, even when “protesters try to compromise” its future.

Revenue passed by Yang Guang: the benefits of increased connectivity between Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen.

Recipe from Yang Guang: the benefits of increased connectivity between Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen, realized through the Great Bay Area project, which will bring (in this case) to Hong Kong “long term” development and stability.

In this case, HZMB is the business card; the example China has to set; the showroom of its future plans.

“It has a psychological effect: it links the three places together,” explained Wei Dongqing, Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee and Executive Director of the HZMB Authority, when faced with poor use. “We are confident in the future: a united market; a united people,” he explains. “This is the dream.”

At the same time, another Chinese official added to the journalists: “At the political level, we needed this connection. On the other hand, it has a social meaning: it unites the Cantonese people, who speak the same dialect and share the same culture and blood ties.”

“Clamorous waste of public resources”? “White elephant”? “A deserted bridge”?

China is not very interested in discussing these arguments, since its rationale is very far away. Hardly before 2049…

“In the long run, there is a possibility that all cars in Macau and Hong Kong can use the bridge,” said the same Deputy Secretary of the Party Committee and Executive Director of the HZMB Authority.

“[HZMB] will enable compatriots in Hong Kong and Macau to share with the people in the motherland both the historic responsibility of national rejuvenation and the pride of a strong and prosperous motherland” – the GBA Outline Development Plan

It is no coincidence that the Outline Development Plan for the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, published last February, states that the project will “enable compatriots in Hong Kong and Macau to share with the people in the motherland both the historic responsibility of national rejuvenation and the pride of a strong and prosperous motherland.”

On the side of critics, who are mainly in Hong Kong, the work is viewed with great suspicion. “For Beijing, the crossing is nothing more than a giant symbolic work that ties Hong Kong’s destinies to those of the People’s Republic of China,” said Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy deputy from the RAEHK Transport Commission.

Political issues aside, the topic has interested researchers in many parts of the world and promises to continue to interest.

One is Austin Williams, senior lecturer in Architecture at Kingston School of Art and honorary research fellow at XJTLU University in China.

Professor Williams understands that, “clearly, this project is genuinely crossing boundaries and hoping to ‘unite’ significantly contradictory social and political traditions.”

“There are clear and immediate benefits to lives and living standards,” from the bridge, adds Mr. Williams, “but economic growth is not the be all and end all in this highly charged debate.”

In the opinion of this researcher of Kingston School of Art, the Chinese will to “’encourage’ young people from Hong Kong and Macau to study in mainland schools, to integrate the economy of the former colony further, and to maintain tighter control (…) clearly is of historic international concern rather than it simply being a minor domestic policy shift.”

The bridge is in the middle of everything.