Housing and reform are economic priorities
Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong is “fully confident” about the city’s economic growth.
After the conclusion of the Shanghai People’s Congress, he highlighted deepening free trade zone reform and encouraging rental of homes as government priorities.
Ying said heartening signs have taken place in Shanghai’s high-quality development.
“We are fully confident about Shanghai’s economic growth,” Ying said at a press conference. “But what concentrated minds most is the high-quality development, higher living standards of the people, stability, better structure, and sustainability behind GDP growth.”
He added that Shanghai will expand functions of free trade accounts that are used to make financial operations in the FTZ. So far, 70,000 such accounts have been opened with total fundraising topping 1.1 trillion yuan (US$174 billion).
The accounts will be used under more conditions with wider functions to deepen reforms in the zone, Ying said.
According to a central government blueprint, Shanghai will also explore the construction of a free trade port as an upgraded version of the FTZ.
Ying said adjustment on housing market will be essential and the government will transform some residential housing into rental homes.
He said Shanghai will accelerate the establishment of a housing system that encourages both rental and home ownership.
The mayor also singled out the newly created 45-kilometer-long space along the Huangpu River as an example of what can be achieved by joint efforts made by society.
Today the walkway is linked up and open to the public, giving a common waterfront area for sightseeing and relaxation, the mayor said.
But the government isn’t resting on its laurels, he added. This year, efforts will be made to improve the function and quality of the waterfront area.
“We will, for instance, upgrade the landscape lighting along the banks of the Huangpu River and consolidate all the tourism resources of the river so as to turn it into a world-class attraction,” Ying said.
“We also understand that many people hope the waterfront area of Suzhou Creek can be fully connected as well. This is also what we want to do.”
This year, he added, “we are going to launch the fourth phase of the comprehensive treatment of Suzhou Creek, of which an important task is to link up the waterfront area of this creek.”
He pledged to enhance the reservation of the waterfront area while proceeding with the creek’s linking-up project step by step.
With regard to local black and stinking waterways, Ying said that last year, 1,864 such waterways had been treated, affecting a total length of 1,756 kilometers.
And with the system of river chiefs now installed, every river in Shanghai is being taken care of properly.
“As we all know, water quality is not only about the environment but also about people’s living standards and quality of life. In 2018, our goal is to make sure that all black and stinky small to medium-sized waterways will disappear and the water environment here in Shanghai can continue to improve.”
Battle to boost air quality
In response to a question about the city’s air quality, Ying said that last year air quality continued to improve and Shanghai had more days with crystal blue skies.
The average concentration of the hazardous to health PM2.5 particles last year was 39 micrograms per cubic meter, 13.3 percent lower than the 45 micrograms in 2016 and 37.1 percent lower than the 62 figure in 2013.
“To improve the air quality is a sustained battle and our efforts will not be relaxed. This year we are going to launch a new round of three-year action plan for cleaning air and continue to deepen the environment treatment effort within the Yangtze River Delta region,” Ying said.
As a megacity facing the huge challenge of waste treatment, Shanghai should look to its ban on fireworks to resolve the issue, the mayor said.
Strong resolve and determination lay behind the successful fireworks reform in 2016, Ying pointed out. And that is what’s needed now.
The resolution for environmental treatment lies in reducing the source of the wastes and then to sort them into appropriate categories. At the end of the treatment process, they should be harmlessly disposed of, and meanwhile the capability of resource utilization should be improved.
The public should be encouraged to work together to reduce waste at source, Ying said.
The mayor’s aim is to have waste sorting resolved within five years.
He also spoke about improving nursery care for toddlers because this is crucial for their health. The mayor said this is a key priority for all parents.
“After I heard about the Ctrip incident (when some children in the travel company’s nursery were maltreated last year), my heart was really wrenched, and this is the last thing we want to see,” said Ying.
For the time being, the nursery care service in Shanghai, though in urgent demand, remains in short supply, he said. To solve this challenge, the government, society and families all have to play their different roles and responsibilities.
On the government’s part, he said, it should set more powerful policies on children’s nursery care and step up the oversight process.
Meanwhile, society and families also have their roles to play. For instance, companies and individuals should play a bigger role to provide good public services for nursery care.
“We’ll also encourage the private sector to build more high-quality nursery institutions so that our children can grow up in a more caring and professional environment.”
Key science initiative
Developing and building a comprehensive national science and technology center in Zhangjiang is a key initiative for Shanghai, said Ying.
The center is going to be “a highland for national technological innovation” and a core concept of Shanghai’s IST (innovation in science and technology) construction, he said.
“We must speed up the construction and development of Big Science facilities, build more high-level research institutes and make efforts to develop the Zhangjiang Science City.”
The government will start to build the hard XFEL (X-ray Free Electron Laser) facility in the Zhangjiang Science City — a plan that has already been approved by the State Council.
The government will also accelerate the construction and development of existing projects such as the second phase of Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility, the ultra-intense and ultra-short laser facility, soft XFEL, live cell image platform, as well as specialized medical facilities.
“As for the Zhangjiang Science City, its designed land area is 94 square kilometers. In 2017, we already started 37 projects within the science city and a number of new projects will be started this year,” Ying said.
“Our purpose is to make the Zhangjiang Science City a place that is oriented to world’s most cutting-edge technologies,” the mayor added.