‘Thin’ Regional Identities: Economic Instrumentality or Pathway to Thickness? The Case of the Pearl River Delta

Haiyan Lu*, Erik Braun, Martin de Jong, Yun Song, Miaoxi Zhao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Against the background of regional development, this article analyses the rise and fall of ‘thin identities’, which tend to be utilitarian and deployed to promote regional development. We focus on two constructed regional identities in the Greater Pearl River Delta (GPRD) in China: Pearl River Delta (PRD) and Guangdong‐Hong Kong‐Macau Greater Bay Area (GBA). We analyse the adoption of these identities through news items published in newspapers in both China's Mainland and Hong Kong. The results show that both economic and political events influence the adoption of thin identities, first PRD and then GBA. In the content analysis of news items, we investigate the pathways to their adoption and possible evolution towards thickness (broader social and cultural embeddedness) by distinguishing economic, political, social, and cultural topics. The wish of policymakers to adopt new thin identities, however, does affect the credibility of existing thick ones, a point deserving of serious consideration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)94-116
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: 28 December 2022.


  • Thin regional identity
  • Thick regional identity
  • Pearl River Delta
  • Greater Bay Area
  • Media

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