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Planning for Hebei new area is on fast track

By ZHANG ZHIHAO | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-04-05 04:18

The central government and local authorities will accelerate planning for the Xiongan New Area, the country's top economic planner said on Tuesday.

In addition, those governments will provide policy and financial support for key projects and budgeting, said He Lifeng, minister of the National Development and Reform Commission.

A master blueprint of the new area, overall and detailed blueprints of the initial area and a plan on ecological conservation of the Baiyangdian region, are among the first plans to be mapped out, He told Xinhua News Agency.

The commission will guide the Hebei provincial government and authorities as they draft these plans to ensure they meet the high standards of quality needed for the project, He said.

"Apart from having world-class urban planning, the architecture in the new area will also showcase Chinese cultural characteristics," He said.

"We'll also give support to major transportation, ecology, water conservation, energy and public service projects in the new area," he said.

The central leadership announced on Saturday a historic decision to establish the Xiongan New Area in Hebei province as part of measures to advance the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. The new area, similar to the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area, is of national significance and "crucial for the millennium to come", according to an official circular.

The area includes Xiongxian, Rongcheng and Anxin counties and their surrounding areas. It will eventually expand from the initial 100 to 2,000 square kilometers.

He said the site of the new area was carefully chosen, "based on practicality, and after rounds of comparison and rigorous research by experts".

The new zone has convenient transportation options; Beijing, Tianjin and Shijiazhuang are all within a half-hour's commute, He said. The zone is ecologically healthy and has a relatively strong environmental capacity as it is home to Baiyangdian Lake, northern China's largest freshwater lake.

The relatively less-developed economy in the region also offers developers plenty of room, He said.

He said the new zone will also take over many of Beijing's noncapital functions, thus becoming the other wing that complements Beijing's Tongzhou district, which has been designated as a subcenter of Beijing municipality.

Beijing's population has reached more than 21 million, creating urban problems such as traffic congestion and overburdened public resources. The root of these issues lies in the capital taking on too many noncapital functions, He said.

A development plan for Beijing has made clear it will be the center of politics, culture, international exchange, technology and innovation — the core functions of the capital.

He said another major task of the Xiongan area is to promote Hebei's economic and social development and help develop the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region into a world-class metropolitan area.

The new area, along with Zhangjiakou — where the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held — will become two driving forces for Hebei's development, He said.

People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, said in an opinion piece posted on its WeChat social media account that the intention in building the new area is not to relocate the capital or to build another capital subcenter.

"It's to accommodate urban functions distributed from Beijing ... including administrative and public agencies, company headquarters, financial institutions, colleges and scientific research centers that are not related to the core function of the capital," it said.

Xu Kuangdi, head of the expert advisory committee on the collaborative development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, suggested that the construction of Xiongan New Area should focus on technological and innovative industries, and the region should attract high-end innovative talent and resources.

Supporting policies have to adapt to local conditions, he said.

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