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The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge: A Short Economic Analysis

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Gazing out of the car window, I couldn't help but feel that seeing the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) was a little anticlimactic. It didn’t seem like anything special, just a lonely steel bridge cutting through the vast sea. However, the HZMB is arguably one of the most significant economic projects in the past decade, and represents the future of the Hong Kong-Chinese Economy. The world's longest sea crossing, it measures at 55 kilometers and connects the islands Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China through Zhuhai. It took 9 years to build, finally opening to the public in October of 2018. At the cost of 18.8 billion USD, there is still debate regarding its worth, and whether it justifies both the monetary and additional costs, including but not limited to worker fatalities and damage to wildlife. This article aims to examine the potential benefits of the HZMB and discuss its role in the future of the Greater Bay Area.

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Any A level Economics student would be able to tell you that the construction of a bridge is a Government’s investment into infrastructure, which in turn will lead to an increase in the production potential of the economy, otherwise known as the Long Run Aggregate Supply (LRAS). This theory is based on the idea that efficient transport links would enable people to save time travelling, and spend the time saved more productively. The HZMB certainly fulfills the conditions for this economic phenomenon, halving the travel time from Hong Kong to Zhuhai, with a similar reduction to Macau. However, there are many who believe that the true extent of a productivity boost falls short of expectations, believing that there is simply not enough traffic and demand for it to justify its construction.

Source: Tutor2u

Proponents of this stance would first address the necessity of this bridge. Given that the drive from Hong Kong to Mainland China via Shenzhen in about 40 minutes, one could make the argument that the bridge, which connects the two areas via Zhuhai with a ~45 minute drive is redundant. However, the key function of the bridge is to serve as a connection between Hong Kong and Zhuhai. While Shenzhen is directly to the north of Hong Kong, Zhuhai is to the west, separated by the Pearl River. Without the HZMB, the driving route to Zhuhai from Hong Kong takes 4-5 hours, due to a traffic bottleneck in Humen. This travel time is significantly reduced, directly connecting Hong Kong to the rapidly emerging economic hub of Zhuhai.

Only 2 years into the expected 120 year lifespan of the HZMB I believe that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg regarding its benefits. The bridge will allow for higher factor mobility, likely facilitating a major increase in cross-border business activity, vital to the economies of Hong Kong and the nearby Chinese cities. Economic theory would also further suggest boosts in trade, productivity and employment, that will last for decades after its construction. However, I believe the most exciting prospect to be the increased economic integration of the Greater Bay Area (GBA).

The GBA, also known as the Pearl River Delta is a megalopolis, made up of HK, Macau and 9 chinese cities, most notably Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou. I strongly believe that the GBA represents the future of the Chinese economy, as economic activity is increasingly generated or shifted to these cities. As of right now, 3 of the 9 cities in the GBA are within the top 5 Chinese cities in terms of GDP, just below Shanghai and Beijing. The HZMB will no doubt integrate these cities further, allowing both physical and human capital to move around easily, benefitting firms all around, especially those in the tertiary and quaternary industry. This increased traffic will in turn boost commercial activity, and could become the foundations of a future powerhouse in commerce, rivalling those within and outside of China.

Not only is the bridge an impressive engineering feat, it is also one of the most exciting prospects in terms of its economic benefits in Asia right now, with the potential to amplify the growth of the already prospering cities of Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macau. While it’s not as flashy as the Three Gorges Dam, or as iconic as the Shanghai Tower, the HZMB will likely remain a cornerstone of the future economic growth of the surrounding cities.


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