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Greater Bay Area Project: Opportunities and Challenges for Russia
Remarks by Larin Viktor,Vice-Chairman, Russian Academy of Sciences, Far Eastern Branch
2019/11/01

  My first visit to Hong Kong happened as far as 48 years ago, in August 1971. For the first time I came to Shenzhen in May of 1985. So I have the reasons to say I know the past, view the present and can imagine the future of this region. So I have reasons to be an optimist talking about GDA initiative.

  We in Russia very carefully monitor what is happening in China, how the country is developing, what ideas are putting forward and what plans and programs are realized here. Seven decades ago, after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the USSR acted as a teacher, and China as a student. Today the roles have changed. China is much more successful in economic reforms than Russia, and Russia has now a lot to learn from China.

  However, I will not convince you that the idea of GBA is being carefully calculated in Russia. Few people in Moscow and in the western part of the country can say something intelligible about this project. The situation is completely different in the east part of Russia, in Pacific Russia, for which the development of relations with China is really vital and the appearance of a new powerful economic, transport, financial, technological center on the Pacific coast can become the role model and driver for its own development as well as strong competitor.

  Being, at first, the Russian national, the second, the citizen of Pacific part of Russia (my native city is Vladivostok), and the third, representative of the Russian Academy of Sciences, I try look at the GBA project through the prism of these three entities’ interests, but first of all through the prism of Russia Pacific territories (usually called the Russian Far East). At the same time I hope to find the opportunities for Russian scientists, mainly belonging to Academy of Sciences, to contribute to the project as well as to benefit from it.

  Why I suggest the leading Russian scientists to join and support the project? There are two objective and thoughtful reasons to do it.

  I learned from the Plan and some speakers already confirmed today that the GBA initiative aimed at creation in GBA the first-class scientific research area. If the initiative develops according to plan, and I do not have doubts it will do, the area has be become a strong know-how producer. It will also develop into a competitor and challenger not only to existing industrial, trade, financial, and transportation centers but to the leading research and technological bodies throw-over the world. Definitely, the size, economic potential and interconnectivity of the GBA will create significant opportunities not only for the wide range of business to work here, but for the many bright minds attracted by the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities and creativeness.

  At the same time there are many world players who are already experiencing anxiety, fear and irritation caused by the new successes of China. The diversity of industry sectors presented in the Greater Bay Area allows it to compete in multiple sectors on a world-class level. Hong Kong’s financial influence can rival New York. Shenzhen’s high-tech enterprises and internet companies can grow into strong competitors of the enterprises of the Silicon Valley. Guangzhou’s auto industry, as well as appliance industries in Zhuhai and Foshan are also compete with their counterparts in Tokyo. That is mean that GBA should and able to increase China complex power, its international competitiveness, global and regional influence.

  At the same time the development of GBA will certainly produce a number of uncertainties, it will increase political tension around China, it will enlarge the number of PRC rivals and envious. The conclusion may look cynical, but this trend is working for strengthening the strategic partnership between Russia and China. So, from geopolitical point of view, Russia benefits from the implementation of GBA project though I doubt that today Russian political elite is ready to recognize and accept this fact.

  From the pragmatic point of view It would be also hard to say the same words in relation to Russia’s opportunities to gain economic advantages from GBA. For today I see only one obvious grassland where the objective interests of both sides are an adequate their thinking and potentials. This is marine economics.

  The GBA plan supposes to enhance international competitiveness of the GBA port cluster, to develop Hong Kong’s status as an international maritime center, to support Hong Kong’s development of high-end maritime services such as ship management and leasing, ship finance, marine insurance as well as maritime law and dispute resolution services. The plan supposes to strengthen Chinese capabilities in marine observation, forecasting as well as disaster prevention and mitigation, and raise the level of exploration and utilization of marine resources, developing industries such as marine tourism, marine technology and marine biology. All these directions are very promising and advantages for Pacific Russia and make a ground for cooperation between local authorities, scientific institutes, marine companies and various organizations.

  However, from my point of view as a scientists who work in Russia and know the trends of China scientific development well, the scientific context of GBA plan looks most impressive.

  First of all, the plan pretends to make Hong Kong – Guandong – Makao area a dynamic hub of innovation. GBA plan basically supposed to be driven by innovation. It should be founded on the innovation-driven development strategy, and as it written in the document, has “to improve regional innovation system, pool together international innovation resources, and develop a focused area of global technological innovation”. All these goals are very generalized, but their realization should stimulate big progress in many fields of Chinese science.

  One of the principle goals of the project is make the GBA the leading international innovation and technology hub which can develop and possesses the most advanced technologies and high-tech industries. So the plan proposes to attract international advanced technology, managerial experience and high-quality talents, support multinational companies in setting up global research and development centers, laboratories and open innovation platforms in the Greater Bay Area, and enhance the Greater Bay Area’s ability to allocate global resources.

  Greater Bay Area is already a home to numerous universities, scientific research institutes, high-tech enterprises and large-scale national scientific projects, many of them have national and global influence. Now the Chinese government declares the idea to transform this area into international innovation and technology hub.

  The development of the Greater Bay Area faces many challenges. At the same time it by itself creates new challenges for the global and regional environment, not only for ecology but for political and economic once. These challenges should be carefully studied, permanently controlled and timely responded on the base of scientific analysis and practical recommendations. I perceive these challenges as food for academic minds, as a platform for the development of scientific diplomacy, as a real opportunity for the world scientific community to make a positive contribution to modern development.

  The plan suggest to encourage higher education institutions, R&D institutes and enterprises from other regions to participate in events on innovation and technology in the Greater Bay Area, to encourage interaction and exchanges between technological and academic talents. I suppose it is in the interests of Russian Academy of sciences, especially of the Institutes and researches especially belonging to its Far Eastern branch to join this attractive project to share their experience, to create new ideas, knowledge and technologies.

  Why I again and again mention in my report the Russian Academy of Sciences? That is because to my deep view, cooperation in science and technology should overshadow the trade in oil, gas and consumer goods.

  What is the Far Eastern Branch of RAS? It covers 46 scientific institutions on the huge territory from Vladivostok on the south to Magadan on the north and from Baikal Lake on the west to Kamchatka on the east which have more than three thousand scholars and do their researches in various fields starting with ocean, volcano, biotechnology, and agricultural studies to medical, social and humanitarian researches.

  These spheres, taking into account the natural, scientific and transport and logistics potential of Pacific Russia, can become a new driver of economic relations between Russia and China. They can radically change the nature and significantly increase the scope of interregional cooperation. Arctic exploration and the development of the Northern sea route can become the most important area of such cooperation, involving joint scientific expeditions, exploration and development of energy resources, Arctic tourism, and environmental protection. An the GDA can greatly contribute to this process.

  Finally, I would like to say that within a new wave of technological revolution and industrial transformation set to begin, it would be imprudent for any nation and country to ignore Chinese initiatives, especially in the sphere of research and development aimed to foster the country strategic development and to make China the leader in this or that sphere of world politics and world affairs.

  In conclusion, I want to wish Chinese people the successful implementation of the GDA construction plan and express the hope that the international academic community will actively participate in this process.

  Finally, I’d like to express another, in some part fantastic, hope that in some decades some of you come to Vladivostok to share your experience in building the GBA with the people who initiate the construction of Greater Vladivostok International Bay Area which combine the interests and efforts of Russia, China, United Korea and Japan.