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Hong Kong and its Environs: “A Mega-cluster of Diversified Regulatory Districts”

June 22, 2012

A great article in the Atlantic on competitive governance in action in the Pearl River Delta region:

Indeed, Hong Kong is quickly becoming the hub of a new version of the “one country, two systems” motto used by the mainland to characterize its relationship with Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. The cluster of cities around (and including) Hong Kong forming the Pearl River Delta – from Shenzhen and Guangzhou in the north to Macao and Zhuhai to the west – are becoming an archipelago of inter-locking hubs with varying policies related to visiting, immigration, business and political freedom. Call it “one mega-city, many systems.”

This increasingly integrated urban cluster of almost 100 million souls constitutes China’s mostly densely populated urban corridor. Some experts say it’s actually the biggest city in the world, even if it bears several names. Like an archipelago of islands growing closer rather than farther apart, the Pearl River Delta’s main cities are fusing into a de facto mega city-state that easily would sit in the G20. The Pearl River Delta is China’s wealthiest zone, with an aggregate GDP of over $800 billion,  slightly larger than that of the Netherlands.

But far from being unified, the Pearl River Delta region is the foremost model of the future multi-tiered pan-urbanism, a mega-cluster of diversified regulatory districts: physically linked but acting almost like micro-states unto themselves. In a single day, you can cross from Hong Kong, an open society with aggressively free media, to more state-directed but still very global Shenzhen or less-glitzy Dongguan, to the freewheeling and somewhat sleazy gambling haven of Macau, or the tax-free master-planned Zhuhai/Hengqin. Along the way, you will go through checkpoints ranging from full-fledged border crossings requiring visas to light security checks.The journey reveals the different constitutions and political priorities playing out even as the Delta region physically becomes ever more one single city.

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