China's 'city of the future' will inspire world

Xinhua
By the middle of the century, Xiongan will become a significant part of the world-class Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei city cluster, effectively performing Beijing's non-capital functions.
Xinhua

About 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing, a new city being built from scratch will be an example of the country’s reform and opening-up, and inspire the world at large in decades to come.

China has published the master development plan for Xiongan New Area in Hebei Province, a new region of “national significance” following the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and Shanghai Pudong New Area.

With high-tech industry and modern services, the new area is designed to become a zone for innovation, a digital city synchronized with a brick-and-mortar one, and a livable and business-friendly area.

Policymakers are eyeing Xiongan to be “a model city in the history of human development” by the middle of the century.

Xiongan was born to be a city of green areas, a city of the people and a city of the future. “There are no other metropolises where vegetation and water cover 70 percent of the total area as planned in Xiongan,” said Wu Hequan, an expert on Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integration and member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Its residents will be able to have access to parks in only a few minutes’ walk, a close-to-nature life that allows harmonious interactions with the environment. The new area aims to be pedestrian-friendly with a goal that 90 percent of local transport means will be buses, bikes and walking, and daily necessities will be within a 15 minutes’ walk from homes and workplaces.

Xiongan will be a modern city characterized by beautiful, safe and comfortable shared urban public spaces rather than a jungle of concrete and glass, according to Zhu Ziyu, chief planner at the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design. Ubiquitous connections between smart transportation and utilities and the “city brain” will allow city management to be automated and infrastructure to self-adjust.

Going digital-physical

A digital version of the city will be built simultaneously with the physical one. “The digital-physical city system allows decisions to be tested in a simulated Xiongan before being implemented in the city,” said CAUPD President Yang Baojun. “Xiongan will serve as a model for smart city development.”

The official plan described the creation of Xiongan as “a strategy that will have lasting importance for the millennium to come, and a significant national event.”

A year ago, China announced the decision to establish the new area, spanning three counties in Hebei.

By the middle of the century, Xiongan will become a significant part of the world-class Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei city cluster, effectively performing Beijing’s non-capital functions and providing a Chinese solution to “big city malaise.”

The significance of the new area goes beyond curbing urban sprawl and bridging growth disparities.

Analysts say it will also serve as a demonstration zone for the country’s high-quality development.

“Xiongan’s significance does not lie in how much GDP it produces, but its pioneering role in promoting reform and innovation and attracting talent, as Shenzhen did in the early years of reform and opening-up,” said CAUPD expert Yin Huiliang.

The development plan says the new area aims to be at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, invite top-level tech industries, and push for coordinated development of the real economy, technological innovation, finance and human resources.

High hopes

Xiongan has signed strategic cooperation agreements with Chinese Internet giants such as Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu, and more than 100 high-end high-tech companies are expected to operate there. Policymakers will target major industries including information technology, modern bioscience and biotechnology, new materials, high-end modern services, and green agriculture, in contrast to the area’s previous role as manufacturing base for packaging, clothing, shoes and stuffed toys.

Xiongan will be a replicable modern city located inland, neither near the coastline nor on the country’s borders, Wu with the CAE said.

China has pinned high hopes on the landmark new area becoming a new door to the world, offering fresh opportunities for overseas investors and helping the country further integrate into the global economy. Xiongan will serve as the center of a planned China (Hebei) Pilot Free Trade Zone, according to the plan. Restrictions on foreign investment will be dramatically lifted or eased, with a negative list fully implemented and all businesses granted equal treatment.

Intergovernmental cooperation will be pushed forward and a comprehensive bonded zone will be developed.

Xiongan is China’s latest effort to open wider in the year 2018 that marks the 40th anniversary of the country’s reform and opening-up policy.

China has unveiled a number of landmark measures to be taken this year to significantly broaden market access, from lowering import tariffs for vehicles and removing caps on foreign holdings to opening up the financial sector.

Earlier this month, China announced that the island of Hainan will become a pilot free trade zone and gradually a free trade port, which represents the highest level of opening-up. As the world’s second largest economy contributing one-third of global growth, China is walking the talk of opening-up and moving forward at its own pace, analysts say.

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