China (PRC)

King & Wood Mallesons is getting on board with China’s plan to integrate Hong Kong, Macau and nine cities in Guangdong into a so-called Greater Bay Area.

The firm has set up a working group tasked with building a KWM International Centre in the area to better serve clients’ needs as they explore opportunities in the region. Led by Zhang Yi, the group will consist of the managing partners and head partners of the firm’s Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou offices. KWM China managing partner Wang Ling will relocate to Shenzhen to jointly promote the construction of the centre.

China’s plan to create a bay area to rival those of Tokyo or San Francisco was reportedly personally mapped out by the president, Xi Jinping, and has become a national strategy similar to the Belt and Road initiative.

While the specific details of the plan are not yet public, KWM global chairman Wang Junfeng says that he sees “historic opportunities” for the firm to leverage the regional advantages it has in the area, which covers 56,000 square kilometres, is home to 67 million people and has an annual economy worth US$1.6 trillion.

It is certainly a vast area — bigger, in fact, than either Tokyo or San Francisco’s bay areas. However, as its name reflects, the Greater Bay also lacks a single central city, not to mention three different legal systems and international borders. It remains to be seen how China will surmount these challenges.

Even so, research by KPMG and the Hong Kong chamber of commerce shows strong support for the initiative among executives in the region, who look forward to enhanced market access, improved corporate synergies and a freer flow of talent.

“In addition, a majority of business executives highlight that trade and logistics, financial services and R&D in innovative technologies are most likely to benefit from the initiative,” said the report.

Work is already underway on some important physical infrastructure that will help to make travel around the area simpler. The US$1.4 billion Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge will connect three

The Hong Kong-Macau-Zuhai bridge

The Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge

of the bay area cities when it opens later this year. Meanwhile, the US$5 billion Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong express rail link will connect Hong Kong to the two biggest cities in Guangdong.

For its part, the KWM International Centre will focus on providing an integrated offering to the firm’s Chinese and international clients in areas such as Belt and Road projects, cross-border investments, high-end financial services, private equity and venture capital investments, working with unicorns, capital markets, intellectual property protection and cross-border dispute resolution.

According to Wang Ling, the establishment of the centre is intended to seize the opportunities presented by the construction of the Greater Bay Area and the development of the Hainan Free Trade Port, and which should serve as an important growth pole for the firm’s future development.

The second Shenzhen In-House Congress will be held on July 5, where members of the In-House Community will discuss the Belt and Road initiative, development of the Greater Bay Area and other topics. Please register here if you are interested in attending.

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