Chinese businessmen and officials say the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, which opens Tuesday, brings greater economic and political integration to the Pearl River Delta as critics consider it a piece of propaganda.
“It has a psychological effect: it unites the three places,” summed up the reporters Wei Dongqing, one of those responsible for the project linking the former Portuguese and British colonies to the Chinese mainland.
“We trust in the future: a united market, a united people,” Wei added. “This is the dream.”
After nine years of construction, the infrastructure will be inaugurated with a ceremony in Zhuhai, a city adjacent to Macao, by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is scheduled to cross his limousine in a bullet-proof limousine, the Hong Kong press reported.
It is the world’s largest sea bridge with the main structure of 29.6 kilometres – a 22.9-kilometre bridge section and a 6.7-kilometre underwater tunnel – for a total length of 55 kilometres.
Construction began in 2011 and was expected to open in 2016, but several problems, such as work accidents, an investigation of corruption, technical obstacles and budget overruns led to a postponement of the inauguration.
Wu Ting, the founder of the Jiabin business school, told that despite the return of Macao and Hong Kong to China, there is still a lack of connection between the parties. “At the political level we need to strengthen the connection,” he noted.
“On the other hand, it has a social meaning: it unites the Cantonese people, who speak the same dialect and share the same culture and blood ties,” he added.
However, critics consider the work unnecessary and point out its high costs of construction and maintenance.
“The real purpose is to serve as a piece of infrastructure for propaganda, which announces the unity of China with the former colonies, despite the different historical, legal or even their own transport systems,” said Hong Kong journalist Erin Hale.
For the Chinese authorities, the bridge is a landmark of the Greater Bay’s regional integration project, which aims to create a world-wide metropolis from the territories of Hong Kong, Macao and other cities of Guangdong province such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
According to estimates by Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post, the bridge cost the three governments about 1.9 billion euros.