The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge Photo: IC

For the Spring Festival of 2019, Hongkonger Wesley Leung, 42, had a new way of visiting his friends and relatives in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province and Macao. Taking a bus and crossing a bridge over the sea, he left Hong Kong in the morning and returned at night. “I don’t think I could do this in one day without the bridge,” Leung said. 

Before its construction, taking a ferry was the main way people living in the three places visited each other, and it took much longer. Now, it only takes 30 minutes from Hong Kong to Macao. During his half-an-hour journey across the bridge, Leung shot videos and photos of the view with his gimbal and smartphone. “The length is beyond my imagination, and the expanse of the sea made my thoughts become much more open,” he said. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB), the largest ocean crossing in the world, is 55 kilometers long, and includes a 6.7-kilometer long undersea tunnel. While most Chinese were inspired by the feat, some netizens expressed doubts, saying the bridge was no more than a symbol.

Lingering doubts

Reported by the China News Service, according to statistics released by the General Office of Transportation of Guangdong Province, about 657,500 trips were made across the bridge from January to May, generating a total toll of about 124 million yuan ($17.45 million), while the cost was over 120 billion yuan. According to the data, the skeptics claimed that it was impossible for China to make profits from the bridge to cover its tremendous costs in a short time. 

Some were also concerned about the different traffic arrangements – on the mainland, you drive on the right, while in Hong Kong and Macao, you drive on the left. The HZMB is not the first bridge to connect the Chinese mainland and the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions (SARs). In 2000, the Lianhua Bridge opened to traffic, and was the first bridge between the mainland and Macao. 

The HZMB links Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao under the principle of “one country, two systems.” “To make full use of it, some measures are still needed to encourage people from the three parts to use the bridge,” said Chen Guanghan, a scholar at the Center for Studies of Hong Kong, Macao and Pearl River Delta of Sun Yat-Sen University, adding, “It’s a long-term strategy, which will bring some intangible assets to our country.”  

Intangible assets

According to the Xinhua News Agency report, the bridge will slash travel time between Hong Kong and Zhuhai from 3 hours to 30 minutes. As the key piece of infrastructure connecting the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, it gives cities on the west bank of the Pearl River Delta like Zhuhai an opportunity to boost their economy. “Cities on the east bank like Shenzhen have grown fast and one of the reasons is that they’re closer to Hong Kong,” said Chen, adding that at the same time, it also provides a good opportunity for areas in the west of Hong Kong like Lantau Island to develop their economy. The bridge deepens the blood ties between the compatriots from the mainland and the SARs, said Chui Sai On, former chief executive of Macao, at the opening ceremony for the bridge in Zhuhai. It seems that the bridge will not only connect economies, but also connect cultures. 

Li Tianxiang, a 19-year-old student from Zhuhai, said his grandmother is a Hongkonger who goes back to the mainland twice a year. “She told me that it has been more convenient for her to travel between the two places after the opening of the bridge,” said Li. During construction, Chinese engineers and related experts from the three places overcame many technical difficulties and created many patented technologies in the process. “It marks the highest level of bridge-building in our history,” said Chen. “All of these are intangible assets for us,” he added.

When Li went to see the bridge with his parents, the achievement left a deep impression on him. “It’s not a bridge that can be easily built by any other country,” said Li.