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World's longest sea bridge to open after 9 years of construction

GUY DAVIES

World's longest sea bridge to open after 9 years of construction originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

Chinese officials are set to unveil the world’s longest sea bridge this week after nine years of construction work, advancing the country's interest in connecting three major regions.

Around 26 miles, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge consists of a main bridge over Chinese mainland waters, with attached border checkpoints and roads connecting the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Zhuhai City in Guangdong, China, and the Macao Special Administrative Region.

PHOTO: Members of the media take pictures on the Hong Kong side of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, Oct. 19, 2018, days before its opening ceremony. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

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The bridge will include 22 miles of a three-lane highway from northern Lantau to the Western Shore of the Pearl River Estuary, and a 4.1 mile tunnel between two artificial islands along the way to prevent the disruption to sea traffic. The bridge is lined with towers topped by dolphins, Chinese Knots and ship sails to symbolize the three different regions, according to the South China Morning Post.

The total cost of the project is $20 billion, according to The Guardian newspaper.

PHOTO: A section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HKZMB) is seen from Lantau island in Hong Kong, Oct. 7, 2018. (AFP/Getty Images)

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will bring the Chinese mainland economic hub of the West Bank of the Pearl River Delta to within a 3-hour drive of Hong Kong.

PHOTO: Aerial view of Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, June 11, 2018, in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province of China. (VCG via Getty Images)

Steve Tsang, the Director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, said the bridge is part of a larger Chinese investment strategy. “This is part of the ‘Greater Bay Area’ Project, which includes Hong Kong and Macau with the development of the Pearl River bay area,” he told ABC News. “It is about making Hong Kong an integral part of what is supposed to be a new dynamic economic and innovative engine of China.”

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PHOTO: President Xi Jinping (C) is briefed by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Mr Frank Chan Fan (R) on the Hong Kong section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge (HZMB) during his inspection of the HZMB Hong Kong Link Road, July 1, 2018. (The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region)

Chinese President Xi Jingping visited the bridge in July of last year, and is expected to attend the opening ceremony on Tuesday.

“Xi Jinping's visit to the region also reinforces Hong Kong's role in the cross-border economy approach that China is developing,” said Dr. Winnie King, a specialist in Chinese international political economy at the University of Bristol. “There's a clear symbolic value of being the world's longest bridge re[garding] nationalism and state-building.”

PHOTO: The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is lit up in Hong Kong, Oct. 21, 2018. The bridge, the world's longest cross-sea project, which has a total length of 34 miles, will have opening ceremony in Zhuhai on Oct. 23. (Vincent Yu/AP)

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PHOTO: A map showing the route of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, May 17, 2017. (Reuters)

But the reasons behind the investment may not be purely economic, as the bridge will bring Hong Kong, which has a separate system of governance, closer into Beijing’s sphere of influence.

“By making Hong Kong an integral part of the Greater Bay area, it will bring Hong Kong closer to mainland China, notwithstanding the official commitment for the ‘one country, two systems’ model,” said Tsang. “The more Hong Kong is integrated into mainland China, the less is there a case for it to be given very special treatment.”