Last October, Chinese officials celebrated the opening of the Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge, a $20 billion, nine-year project that became the latest and greatest emblem of plans for the so-called Greater Bay Area (GBA)–which aims to rival similar innovative hubs in San Francisco, New York City, and Tokyo.

But as with the bridge, which attracted criticism for delays, accidents, and running over budget, China’s ambitions to further integrate its southern economic powerhouse haven’t always enjoyed smooth sailing. Despite its manufacturing prowess, differences in regulations as well as industrial makeup separate the 11 cities of the GBA. In order to level up the region amid trade tensions and a slowing economy, regulations will have to bring down those barriers, making the most of the cities’ individual strengths.

While the GBA was incorporated into China’s 13th Five-Year Plan in 2016, and the subject of an agreement signed by regional leaders the following year, a framework for development hasn’t been released yet. Premier Li Keqiang announced that a plan would be formulated last spring, but delays have since pushed its release back to February 2019 or later, South China Morning Post sources say. That may be due to worries that, like the Made in China 2025 blueprint, concrete plans would be perceived as a challenge to US tech dominance.

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Bailey Hu

Bailey Hu is based in China’s hardware capital, Shenzhen. Her interests include local maker culture, grassroots innovation and how tech shapes society, as well as vice versa.