After 10 years, 420,000 tons of steel, and at devastating costs in life and renminbi, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge has officially opened – and the announcement came from a strangely tight Chinese President Xi Jinping in the port city of Zhuhai ,
The opening ceremony itself was surrounded by the same brand-name confusion that has followed the mega-project since its inception in 2009, with the big day announced late last week.
In an unexpected and stunning account of brevity, Xi declared the longest crossing in the world – a 55-kilometer-long bridge and an underwater tunnel connecting Hong Kong, Macau and the Chinese port of Zhuhai with the mainland, a very abrupt two-second speech which, so to speak, was not what everyone expected.
With these accurate, though perhaps less than historical words, China's strongest leader since Mao Zedong captured the 700-strong audience including gathered media and dignitaries on the go:
"I quit the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is officially open. "
It was an exercise in absolute precision for a President who opened the Communist Party Congress in Beijing nearly a year ago with a granular three-hour and 23-minute mega-speech that turned his thoughts into a new one Era summarized in socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Instead, in an audience of senior officials, including Vice Premier Han Zheng and Hong Kong General Manager Carrie Lam, Xi said he would leave his piece in Zhuhai's strategically-located port, leaving the podium as electronic fireworks flickered on a TV set.
Reporters on the Ground including Bloomberg Bureau chief Fion Li were quick to express their surprise and disappointment.
Rhetorical festivals are a party tradition
Chinese leaders have a proud tradition of getting themselves involved as history demanded.
Deng Xiaoping, who was a short stature but a political juggernaut, made a career with pithy insights that are today quoted and re-evaluated by Chinese speakers worldwide.
And while Mao Zedong may have presided over some of the least poetic politics of the twentieth century, the Great Helmsman could turn a sentence when he had to make this brutal and blunt firecracker of 1957.
As Secretary-General of The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi has quickly and effectively focused the influence on his own sphere.
And the event looked tailor-made for a lengthy reflection on China's increasingly successful use of soft power, its sheer technical audacity and political genius to build a 55-kilometer crossing that continues to grow the security apparatus and authority of mainland China lets both on the semi-autonomous gambling enclave of Macau and on the financial center of Hong Kong.
But in the end, the president may decide to let the vast, emerging achievement speak for itself.
It's all part of the plan
The bridge is part of China's ambitious "Greater Bay Area Master Plan" to integrate Hong Kong, Macao and the nine largest cities of Guangdong Province to a 1.5 trillion tech science center to rival even Silicon Valley.
The 55-kilometer megastructure is a typically intimidating, awe-inspiring and slightly meaningless statement of state authority and universal purpose. It rises like a huge, disoriented concrete snake from the sun and moon bay in the harbor of Zhuhai and winds its way into the distance.
The air here is also very thick, with Southern Chinese moisture and the ubiquitous eerie gray-brown pollution that blows in blooms from heavy manufacturing out of the Pearl River Delta – the factory hall of the world – the bridge in all its glory will do the whole Be largely obscured over the year.
What it offers, however, is the direct access to both potentially stubborn semi-autonomous regions that bind the gambling enclave and city-state closer to the motherland's breasts. In fact, it may have been the fear of an ever-growing China that has tipped the president to such a rare and unexpected strength.
Commentators have quickly described the project as a white elephant, stating that the lightly-trafficked intersection can hardly be a convenience, but another secret extension of Beijing's expanding into the supposedly autonomous enclaves of Hong Kong and Macao.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is the second major infrastructure project to connect Hong Kong to mainland China in just a few weeks. It was opened in September – the first time that Chinese security services were stationed on and granted authority in Hong Kong territory.
Certainly there are fears in Hong Kong, as critics fear that the territory of the Special Administrative Region will increasingly be conquered by a strong mainland, while some local media suggest that cameras on the bridge are scrutinized by cameras physical condition and how tired a driver becomes.
The problems of territoriality may dominate the project in the coming years, the bulk of the bridge is considered mainland and Hong Kong's vehicles and drivers who are already affected by restricted access will travel under the laws of mainland China Transportation Department has warned.
"The Hong Kong government is always out of control and under the control of the Chinese government," Tanya Chan told AFP last week. Construction of the bridge began in 2009 and was completed two years ago.
According to the South China Morning Post, 10 workers died and 600 were injured in the construction of the typhoon-safe, two-lane six-lane highway bridge, which the government expects to carry 29,100 vehicles and 126,000 one-day passenger journeys by 2030.
But now the bridge is open to some traffic, including certain buses, freight and selected permit-holding passenger cars.
It is also a beautiful trip by ferry.