Facilitating everyday cross-border monetary transactions and the potential of digitization in the Greater Bay Area

Grant Data
Project Title
Facilitating everyday cross-border monetary transactions and the potential of digitization in the Greater Bay Area
Principal Investigator
Dr McDonald, Tom   (Principal investigator)
Professor Horst Heather   (Co-Investigator)
Start Date
Completion Date
Conference Title
Presentation Title
everyday cross-border monetary transactions, digitization, Greater Bay Area
Others - relating to Social Sciences
Humanities & Social Sciences (H)
Strategic Public Policy Research (SPPR) Funding Scheme
HKU Project Code
Grant Type
Public Policy Research Funding Scheme
Funding Year
Following the return of sovereignty of Hong Kong from Britain to China, the average number of daily cross-boundary passenger trips between Hong Kong and Mainland China has seen a marked increase, from 284,600 trips in 1999 to 648,800 trips in 2015. This growth has been facilitated by expanded border control point infrastructure facilitating speedier crossings, along with the general easing of documentation requirements for cross-border travelers. It has become increasingly common for individuals to regularly commute across the border for work, study or leisure. Despite the increased ease of travel between the two regions, individuals whose lives traverse the border face challenges in managing their money, having to navigate currencies and financial institutions distinct to each locale, along with Mainland China’s tightening capital outflow and foreign exchange controls. Individuals often must resort to developing their own monetary repertoires in order to manage financial lives that span the two regions. Strategies such as carrying cash across the boundary on one’s person, or using money changers (money service operators) to convert currency or send remittances carry inherent risks. At the same time, the success of digital payment systems in Mainland China has emboldened Chinese technology firms to expand their platforms into the Hong Kong market. Despite the cross-border nature of these platforms, differing financial and data regulations mean many companies have developed distinct localized versions for Hong Kong that retain an effective ‘online border’, which may impede convenient monetary flows between users from different regions. This research project will document the everyday monetary behaviors that cross-border individuals develop as they negotiate the boundary in the course of their lives. The effectiveness of existing banking and digital payment services used by participants for helping to facilitate these cross-border transactions will be assessed. By documenting the difficulties and anxieties individuals may face in managing their money as they traverse the border, along with their social imaginaries regarding the potentials of future digital technologies for reworking their own cross-border monetary flows, this project will deliver recommendations for how public policy can support the growth of innovative technology for economic development and improve the economic relationship between Hong Kong and Mainland China as experienced in ordinary citizens’ lives. At a more conceptual level, this project will also use participants’ quotidian economic practices to shed light upon what the border means to those who live with it.