Each day brings closer the opening of the bridge from Hong Kong to Zhuhai and Macau, at the end of this year.
The government of Zhuhai is eager to seize this historic chance, which will see it become the only mainland city to have land linkages with both Hong Kong and Macau special administrative regions (SARs), to attract more companies from Hong Kong.
At an investment promotion event at the end of August, it announced a "Zhuhai-Hong Kong-Macau Co-operative Logistics Park" project, covering an area of 800000 square meters. The venture underlines Zhuhai's ambitions to be a logistical center for the two SARs and the whole west side of the Pearl River Delta, including Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Heshan.
Zhuhai vice-mayor Lu Xiaofeng noted that Hong Kong was the city's largest source of foreign investment–US$26.03 billion in 1535 ventures. Of these, 668 are in the Hengqin New Zone (HNZ), with registered capital of 79.24 billion yuan.
Yang Chuan, director of the HNZ management committee, said his zone would be the center of a "Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Economic Zone", covering an area of 26 square kilometers.
"With the opening of the bridge, the HNZ can use the advantages of Hong Kong's airport, logistics and financial services and, with the bridge, drive the flow of people, goods, capital and information," said Yang.
Transport has always been the Achilles heel of Zhuhai; it was established as a Special Economic Zone in 1980 because it was next to Macau. It developed more slowly than the two SEZs of Shenzhen or Xiamen; it had no land connection to Hong Kong or rail link to the rest of China. Its passenger rail line to Guangzhou opened only in 2011 and a cargo one at the end of 2012.
In 2016, the city posted GDP of 222.64 billion yuan, a rise of 8.5 percent over 2015, with utilized foreign investment of US$2.295 billion, up 5.4 percent.
Its main industries are electronic information, bio-pharmaceutical products, electrical appliances, electrical energy, petrochemicals and precision machinery. It wants the bridge to attract more Hong Kong investment, especially in high-end manufacturing, new and high-tech industries, marine economy, eco-agriculture and traditional Chinese medicine.
Zhuhai wants the new logistics park to become a transportation hub serving Hong Kong, Macau and the cities on the west bank of the Pearl River.
It also wants the bridge to rejuvenate its Jinwan airport which has been running far below capacity since it opened in June 1995 in Sanzao township, 37 km from the city center. In 2016, the airport handled 6.13 million passengers, compared to a design capacity of 12 million.
Since August 2006, Hong Kong International Airport has held a 55 percent share in a joint management company with the Zhuhai government; the company has the exclusive right to manage and operate the airport for 20 years.
The airport is looking at ways to utilize its spare capacity, such as handling cargo and passenger planes and business jets for which there is no space in Hong Kong's congested Chek Lap Kok airport. The new bridge makes such plans more feasible.
On August 25, the Hong Kong Transport Department announced details on Hong Kong private cars that can apply to use both ends of the bridges. A quota of only 3000 permits will be issued before the bridge opens.
The four categories are enterprises with an accumulative tax amount of 100000 yuan in the past three years: recognized national high-tech firms: HK residents who donated a total of five million yuan for charity in Guangdong: HK residents who are members of the NPC and CPPCC at national or Guangdong provincial, prefecture or county level.
In addition, the Hong Kong and Guangdong governments will issue a quota of 300 cross-boundary permits for mainland private cars. State-owned, collectively owned and private firms with a total tax amount of at least one million yuan in the last three years may apply.
At the investment promotion event, the Zhuhai government also announced that, in partnership with the Lai Sun Group of Hong Kong, the elite British Harrow School will open a campus in Hengqin, on an area of 50000 square meters. Due to open in 2020, it will take 1000 students, from kindergarten to secondary school.
Harrow already has a campus in Hong Kong, in the city's Tuen Mun area, which opened in September 2012. The first British boarding school in Hong Kong, it has 1,180 students in the current academic year.
Its Hengqin campus will be the second British school there. In August, the Zhuhai government announced that Wycombe Abbey International School will open a campus in Hengqin on September 1, 2019.
It will be a co-ed, full boarding school offering the national curriculum of England and Wales to more than 1000 pupils from kindergarten to secondary school. Wycombe Abbey was established in 1896 as the first full boarding school for girls in England.