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The Power of China’s Urban Clusters

The “Chinese Dream” of national rejuvenation touted by President Xi Jinping is not, as some in the West seem to think, about world domination. Instead, China has advanced a vision of inclusive, sustainable economic growth – and its leaders are doing what it takes to translate that vision into reality.

HONG KONG – In February, China’s State Council unveiled guidelines for developing the “Greater Bay Area” (GBA), covering nine cities around the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province, plus Hong Kong and Macau. While the rest of the world remains mired in a seemingly interminable debate over how to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth, China is working to deliver it.

According to China’s long-term development strategy, the central government remains responsible for overall stability and national security. Against this background, lower-level governments, state-owned enterprises, and the private sector (including foreign companies) should compete to generate new ideas and establish best practices that can be applied more broadly.

In 2010, China identified three major urban clusters that would lead this process: the Pearl River Delta (which later expanded to the GBA); the Yangtze River Delta (YRD), centered on Shanghai; and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei cluster (BTH). Together, these regions are home to 300 million people, cover 400,000 square kilometers (154,000 square miles), and contribute $4.8 trillion, or more than 35%, to China’s total GDP.

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