Travelers will soon be able to use an E-card on a WeChat app to cross the border between the mainland China and Hong Kong. Photo:
The border between the mainland China and Hong Kong. Photo:

Two of China’s biggest companies are involved in major projects in the Greater Bay Area – a Chinese government scheme to link the cities of Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing into an integrated economic and business hub.

On the same day Chinese business giants Tencent proposed an “E-card” ID system in the Greater Bay Area and Alibaba said it wanted to build a logistic centre via its Cainiao Network that aims to dominate the cargo business in Hong Kong.

Both Pony Ma Huateng of Tencent and Jack Ma Yun of Alibaba were missing at press conferences to announce the new initiatives in Hong Kong, that drew the city’s most important officials to participate and support the projects.

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For Tencent, the latest move in the Greater Bay Area is an endorsement of its dominance in China. With one billion users of its WeChat multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app, Tencent aims to ease the pain for Hong Kong and Macau residents when they cross the border to mainland cities by using a new electronic pass system embedded in multiple travel documents.

Tencent said it was working with Chinese authorities to roll out the biometric data-based E-card scheme for mainland and Hong Kong citizens to link identity documents to their WeChat app and cross the border with simple code and face scans, Reuters reported.

The idea of easy movement in the Greater Bay Area was first initiated by Pony Ma at the National People’s Congress meeting last year. He proposed merging Hong Kong’s financial muscle with the manufacturing power of the Pearl River Delta led by Shenzhen, where Tencent is based. He said the move will secure the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and Macau.

The proposal came at a time when Beijing was orchestrating an innovation and technology center amid the Sino-American trade threats – and further helped to integrate the two former colonial cities of Hong Kong and Macau into mainland China.

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After linking WeChat’s “mini programs” which will allow users to link their travel documents, it is expected the system can also be used to set up bank accounts and check in to hotels.

For Alibaba, the aim is to build a logistics center using artificial intelligence next to Hong Kong International Airport. Alibaba led a consortium that includes China National Aviation Corporation and YTO Express to win a tender for US$1.5 billion.

The logistics center underscores Jack Ma’s ambition to invest more than 100 billion yuan, or US$15.6 billion, in a global logistics network that would complete deliveries in China within 24 hours, and within 72 hours to the rest of the world.

With the new logistics centre, it is hoped the delivery of the popular e-commerce portal Taobao will speed up, and more importantly enhance, the overall air delivery throughput to increase close to one quarter from the current 7.4 million TEUs.