Time zone for Hong Kong

The Pearl River Delta is slowly growing into a single colossal megapolis (view our PRD map here). And as controversy reigns over the continued urban development into the HKSAR’s northeastern territories, we dissect the future of the extravagant sprawling metropolis and see how its emergence will affect – and perhaps eventually kill – Hong Kong. By Samuel Lai.

Two hundred years ago, only three percent of the world’s population lived in cities. Today, more than half of all the people on the planet are urban dwellers, leading some to claim that this is the ‘century of cities’. As developing metropolises expand magnificently in both size and population, their perimeters blur, merging into one another, giving rise to endlessly interconnected chains of urban zones which have simply been dubbed ‘megacities’. It is a phenomenon of our time – and one, perhaps, which is most incredibly exhibited right here on our doorstep, right across the border in the Pearl River Delta.

It wasn’t that long ago that the PRD was a humble, rural place. Back in 1978, it was mainly agricultural, with villages dotting the marshy lands, occupying only 0.45 percent of the area of China. However, since then, it has seen some of the most rapid urban expansion in human history. In a little more than 30 years, it has becoming the heart of the thriving Chinese economy, embodying – for better or worse – the Mainland’s emergence as a global power – the factories, the incredible pace and scale of development, the sheer number of people – and accounting for nearly one-tenth of the entire country’s economy. During that time, its urbanisation rate increased drastically from 28 percent to 83 percent, making it one of the most densely urbanised regions in China. And in coming years, these already extravagant figures are only going to rise… sharply.

The rise of the PRD
Since the Open Door Policy was implemented in 1978, the centres of the Pearl River Delta have seen astonishing rises in population, from mere rural villages to sprawling, urban centres. Here’s how dramatic the upswing has been...

In 2008, the Chinese government unleashed a plan to merge the Pearl River Delta’s nine cities – consisting of Shenzhen, Dongguan and Huizhou in the east, Zhuhai, Zhongshan and Jiangmen in the west, and Guangzhou, Foshan and Zhaoqing in the centre – into a single megalopolis. Essentially, the blueprint proposes a spending of near to RMB2 trillion on more than 150 major infrastructure improvements to forge a colossal network of transportation, water, energy supply and telecommunication. And, indeed, the plan projects some quite mind-blowing statistics for the Pearl River Delta by 2030: one megacity, 66 million people, 54, 733sq km, a GDP of RMB 15 trillion, a per capita GDP exceeding RMB 220, 000 and an urbanisation level in excess of 90 percent.

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