China opened the world’s longest bridge across the sea that links Hong Kong to the mainland, managing a feat of engineering that carries immense economic and political significance.
Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke at the ceremony in the city of Zhuhai to open the 34-mile-long bridge. This bridge links the semi-autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macau. The $20 billion bridge took about 10 years to build while facing some major delays and cost overruns. It also includes an undersea tunnel which will allow ships to pass through the Pearl River Delta, considered the heart of China’s crucial manufacturing sector.
Opening this bridge will help in traveling from Hong Kong to China in just 30 minutes as it avoids traveling across the delta. China hopes that this will bind the region together as a means of future economic growth. Heavily regulated traffic system will be initiated soon, using permits issued under a quota system on Wednesday.
The bridge carries a major political significance for Xi’s administration after they have rejected calls for political liberalization in Hong Kong. This led to many fearing that Beijing will clamp down further on civil liberties before the end of the “one country, two systems” arrangement in 2047.
The bridge’s opening comes after a month of the inauguration of a new high-speed rail link from Hong Kong to mainland China. The rail link runs along a different, shorter route. Although, the train link has also raised concerns about Beijing’s growing influence because mainland Chinese law applies within that part of the lines in Hong Kong terminus.
Claudia Mo, a Hong Kong democratic politician, says that the new bridge’s political significance outweighs its practical usefulness. Mo was stated as saying that the bridge is not really necessary since Hong Kong is already connected to China in every way. She compared the bridge to an Umbilical Cord and said that it is a political icon to remind Hong Kong people that they are connected to the motherland.