Irene Wong King ran a traditional Chinese medicine company in Macao for years. Her business remained stable but far from a success until an industrial park offered a major boost.
After relocating the company to the Guangdong-Macao Traditional Chinese Medicine Science and Technology Industrial Park in Hengqin District of Zhuhai, a Chinese mainland city neighboring Macao, the Hong Kong businesswoman significantly expanded sales of medicine products in the enormous market of the mainland and finally pushed the development of the company on the fast track.
Wong's success story is an epitome of the development of numerous enterprises in Hong Kong and Macao, which have benefited from increasingly closer ties with the mainland and are bracing for even more opportunities from new favorable policies rolled out by the central authorities.
With a master plan unveiled in February, China is stepping up efforts to develop its Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area around the Pearl River Delta into a world-class city cluster that will lead the country's opening-up and innovation in decades to come.
The plan encouraged the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions (SARs) to make full use of their own advantages in fields from technological innovation to tourism and finance in a bid to achieve sustained growth amid the coordinated development of the area, which also consists of nine Guangdong cities including Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai.
The 11th Hong Kong Macao Cooperation High Level Meeting was held in Macao in September, the first such meeting after the plan was released.
"Under the principle of 'one country, two systems', Hong Kong and Macao will jointly take forward the development of the Greater Bay Area to achieve a win-win outcome for the diversified development of industries as well as economic and social developments of both places," Hong Kong SAR government's Financial Secretary Paul Chan said at the meeting.
The bay area had a combined population of about 70 million at the end of 2017 and its gross domestic product reached around 10 trillion yuan (1.48 trillion US dollars) in 2017.
Promising place for youth
Wong Yiu-hong, a junior of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, worked as an intern in a startup in Shenzhen for five weeks this summer in an exchange program jointly launched by Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
Along with scores of other young people, Wong also visited tech firms and incubators and received guidance from investors and mentors.
"I am thinking of setting up an industrial design business with my classmates in the Greater Bay Area after graduation as I have always dreamed of having a company of my own," Wong said.
The Greater Bay Area provides a broad stage for young people and entrepreneurs in Hong Kong and Macao to stretch their wings.
Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR Carrie Lam has said enormous opportunities will be brought to young people, citing 10 entrepreneurial bases launched by Hong Kong and Guangdong to further promote youth innovation and entrepreneurship in the bay area in May.
In December, Macao and Zhuhai signed agreements to push forward 21 projects to help Macao people set up businesses in innovation parks in Zhuhai, covering a wide range of sectors from big data and finance to bio-medicine and intelligent manufacturing.
Pang Chuan, vice president of Macao University of Science and Technology, said the Greater Bay Area is a promising place for Macao young people and advised Zhuhai and Macao to build an education and technology hub amid the expedited development of the area.
Link between China, world
The Greater Bay Area will also reinforce the role of Hong Kong and Macao as an important link between China and the rest of the world.
Macao serving as a cooperation platform between China and Portuguese-speaking countries (PSCs) has been included in the outline development plan for the bay area.
Maria Joao, the PSCs Entrepreneurs Association's vice president and its representative in Macao, said the construction of the bay area has provided this platform with wider influence and more functions and helped the PSCs access China's consumer market and share the development of China.
Trade between China and the PSCs has grown rapidly during the past 10-odd years. In 2018, the bilateral trade value amounted to 147.35 billion US dollars, booming from about 11 billion dollars in 2003. Of total, China imported goods worth 105.51 billion dollars from the PSCs last year.
Thanks to the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong will also be able to cement its role as an international financial center and more effectively help Chinese enterprises going global.
Analysts said Hong Kong will become an even more attractive fund-raising market for businesses in the area where the technology and innovation sector is growing in an unprecedented pace.
A Hurun report published in November showed there are 33 young companies valued more than 1 billion US dollars in the Greater Bay Area. More money-starved tech firms are expected to go public in Hong Kong as its stock exchange has loosened the listing rules for companies with weighted voting rights.
Choi Koon-shum, chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce of Hong Kong, said the area offered an enormous opportunity for Hong Kong to integrate into China's rapid development and benefit from major national strategies including the Belt and Road Initiative.
"In the robust development of the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong can continue to give full play to its strengths and consolidate its position as a crucial hub that brings in overseas investors and helps Chinese firms go global," Choi said.