During my most recent trip to Beijing I was fascinated by a visit to the City Planning Department and their ambitious plans for urban rejuvenation, not only for Beijing City but the surrounding Province, Hebei.
President Xi has decided to make Beijing a true global capital and centre of Chinese culture and the surrounding province, HeBei and Port City of Tianjin (know nicknames JingJinJi) a mega-region with a population of over 130 million. The region will be able to compete with JiangZheHu (Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang) and Perl River Delta.
JingJinJi will be linked by a massive $36 Billion (USD) rail network which will bring the important political, economic, technology and manufacturing hubs all within an hour commute from one another.
The three partners of Jing-Jin-Ji each bring its own valuable component, Beijing offers a huge variety of jobs, including in the country’s giant government apparatus and the many corporate headquarters that have flocked to China’s capital. It’s also an intellectual centre with many of China’s top universities, and a great deal of talent in engineering and the sciences. Tianjin is a major port city through which a considerable share of the products made in northern China is shipped abroad.
Tanjing is also a commercial hub in its own right, Tianjing’s Binhai Zone is one of China’s most prominent economic development areas, containing not only the massive Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA) and the Port of Tianjin, but also the $30 billion Yujiapu business district, which is modelled off of Manhattan and is vying to become the financial heart of China’s northeast.
The third component of JingJinJi is Hebei Province, providing bedroom communities with large commuter populations, and industrial hotbeds with dense concentrations of steel, iron and concrete factories. Hebei’s industrial base will be modernised, with many of the heavy industry either being shut down or relocated. Policies to attract high-tech manufacturing and modern agri-tech businesses are being enacted.
There will still be significant amounts of green space and rural areas within these city clusters. Hebei is currently the province with the country’s worst air quality. In 2017 the government started a campaign to improve air and water quality including shutting down hundreds of factories, reforestation and rejuvenation efforts of lakes and rivers.
Beijing is also going to undergo a massive change. In 2017 the central government released the Beijing Development Strategy, a 60,000-word plan. Beijing is to be “downsized” and its population capped at 23 million people as the government tries to turn China’s sprawling, overcrowded capital into a liveable, international city with cleaner air.
People who have been priced out of the Beijing’s house market will be able to move to satellite cities which will be well served by public services as well as enjoy efficient transport links with Beijing.
The government promises air quality in the city – which is often shrouded in smog – will “reach advanced international standards by 2050”. The cities historical and cultural sights, especially those which sit within Beijing’s second ring road are to be preserved and restored. The government also wants to “upgrade the capital city function” of Beijing to make it better equipped to host state-level events.
The coming decades will see massive changes in and around Beijing, it will be truly an existing time to live there.