Those who follow China’s progress know that once an idea is mooted by the government there is very little stopping it from becoming a reality – no matter how large or small the endeavour may seem.
Well this is big, very big.
China has recently decided to build a new metropolitan zone in Hebei Province as part of its broader plan to coordinate development of the area near Beijing and Tianjin.
Dubbed the Xiongan project, the gigantic development is said to be the brainchild of President Xi Jinping who has referred to the project as “another new area of national significance after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area.”
This follows in the tradition of past “core” leaders of the country as the now established Shenzhen and Pudong developments regions were initiated by former head of states Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, respectively.
The local Xinhua newspaper reported that a government circular touted the development to be “a major historic and strategic choice made by the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core”.
A separate report by the Nikkei Asian Review suggests that timing of the move indicates that President Xi could be looking to consolidate power ahead of the party congress later this year, when many senior leadership positions will be reshuffled.
The Xiongan “new area” is roughly 100km southwest of Beijing and 100km west of Tianjin. The initial stage of development involves some 100sq km, with plans to eventually expand to over 2,000sq km. The Xinhua report said that “some non-capital functions” from Beijing would be transferred to the new area, however, no timetable has been given for the completion of the project.
Among the proposals being considered for the city’s “unique value” is the suggestion that it should focus on research and development activities to create a city known for innovation, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Another plan involves moving numerous state-owned enterprises. These steps aim to alleviate the crunch on Beijing and reconfigure the urban layout of the triangular area bounded by the capital, Tianjin and the new city.
The vice governor of Hebei Province, Yuan Tongli, has reportedly been tapped to oversee construction of the Xiongan zone. He previously led a redevelopment project in Tianjin.
Meanwhile, other Chinese media houses report that real estate prices in the area have doubled or tripled in the past few years, raising the spectre of illicit transactions based on inside information. Home sales have been suspended, and a ban has been imposed on shipping construction materials.