Top-level design urged for integrating Beijing with neighbors

 

 

Graphic by Xu Jun

 

 

 

Top-level design

urged for integrating

Beijing with neighbors

 

 

 

By Li Laifang, Lü Qiuping, Li Kun, Wang Min and Zhao Renwei

 

 

China’s top economic planner is studying a high-level cooperation scheme for Beijing and its neighbors to promote regional integrated development, according to an official.

Top-level design, which is being jointly considered by local authorities, should combine land use, urban construction and economic and social development plans, said Zhang Zhiqiang, head of the Development and Reform Commission of Tianjin Municipality on Friday of March 28.

Hebei Province, which neighbors Beijing and Tianjin, took the lead in unveiling two guidelines last week, which offered a clue to different roles of major cities in Hebei in regional development. Beijing and Tianjin have not yet announced any such plans.

The province will enlarge the size of Baoding to accommodate administrative organs, colleges and universities, research institutions, medical and nursing services, which will be transferred from Beijing, according to the documents.

Langfang, another Hebei city, will boost its service sector to serve as an ecological and recreational zone for the capital, according to the documents.

Hebei’s plans came after Chinese President Xi Jinping called for coordinated development of the region around Beijing in late February.

Xi said urban layout and structure needs to be optimized and division of city functions enhanced when building the economic zone surrounding Beijing, adding that optimizing industrial distribution and overall planning for resources should be focused on.

Hebei is the leading choice for some functional and industrial transfers of Beijing and Tianjin and the plans are provincial-level designs, said Zhou Benshun, governor of Hebei.

Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei have a total population of 120 million. Beijing alone has 21 million and faces problems such as air pollution, traffic congestion and overcrowding.

Officials and experts say regional coordinated development is the only effective way for Beijing to solve its problems.

Closer cooperation among the three is under way. For example, they have a mechanism for joint prevention and control of air pollution. Construction of a new airport in Beijing will begin this year on the capital’s outskirts neighboring Langfang.

However, the regional integration faces challenges in aspects like unbalanced industrial distribution and environmental pressures.

Beijing, Hebei and Tianjin reported the heaviest air pollution last year in the country, according to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Hebei boasts several of the most polluted cities such as its capital Shijiazhuang and Xingtai due to heavy industries like iron and steel. It plans to cut iron production capacity by 28 million tonnes and steel production capacity by 40 million tonnes by 2017.

“We must have a clear idea of the environment capacities of the three places so that we know what kind of industries and how much Hebei can take from Beijing or Tianjin,” said Wu Yiqing, vice president of Hebei University of Economics and Business.

If the environment does not improve by 2017, steel capacities in Hebei may be further cut, said Wu.

The region has big food demand but Hebei’s agriculture is at an initial phase of modernization, said Zhou.

“To push forward coordinated development is undoubtedly the right direction, but the process will not be smooth given the risks and challenges,” said Wu.

Short, medium and long-term timetables should be formulated on the basis of consensus and coordination be strengthened to handle new problems in the process, he added.

To remove administrative barriers and push regional coordinated development will be one of the key reform tasks for Beijing this year, said Wang Anshun, mayor of the city.

Unified top-level design should be made for the integration of infrastructure, industries and market in the region, said Wang during the China Development Forum held on March 23-24 in Beijing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW POST   updated on March 30, 2014

 

 

“Auxiliary capital” talk

inflates housing bubble

 

 

By Cao Gauochang, Kong Xiangxin and Li Baojie

 

Housing prices in the unremarkable city of Baoding in north China’s Hebei Province surged over the past week on rumors that the city would become an “auxiliary national capital”.

The market chatter began on March 19 when Caijing magazine reported that Baoding was the leading candidate to become an auxiliary capital.

The provincial government of Hebei, which neighbors Beijing and Tianjin, made no mention of the idea in two guidelines last week, but did suggested different development roles for major Hebei cities. Beijing and Tianjin have not yet announced any such plans.

The guidelines describe enlarging Baoding to accommodate administrative offices, colleges and universities, research institutions, medical and nursing services, which, according to the documents, will be transferred from Beijing.

Hebei’s plans came after Chinese President Xi Jinping called for coordinated development of the region around Beijing in late February.

Investors from many parts of the country have rushed to snap up properties in Baoding, 150 km south of Beijing, driving up property prices by some 10 percent in just a week. Baoding is a city accustomed to a somewhat lackluster real estate market.

“Our residential project has been on the market for three years and sales have been slow, but there was a dramatic increase in customers last week,” said Hao, a property consultant in “Lijing Lanwan”, a new residential development of Baoding.

“We sold 50 apartments over the weekend, equivalent to our total sales in the last two months,” she said.

Li, saleswoman for another new Baoding residential project, told Xinhua that their sales hit new records last week. High-rise apartments were selling at 7,200 yuan per square meter (just over 100 U.S. dollars per square foot), 1,000 yuan up on three months ago.

“We will put the price up by another 300 yuan soon. You should make a quick decision before the price goes even higher,” said Li.

“Many projects used to sell 10 apartments a week, now sales have risen several fold… Property developers are taking the opportunity to clear huge inventories built up over years,” said an official at Baoding housing and urban-rural development bureau who declined to be named.

Locals, however, are not all pleased by the upsurge in prices. Housing is becoming unaffordable in the low-income city, and people are worried about knock-on effects in prices of other goods and a negative impact on the lives of current city residents. ,

“Home prices in Baoding have been stable and we planned to buy an apartment next year, but we are making the purchase ahead of schedule,” said local woman Zhang. “If we wait another year, it could be unaffordable.”

Zhu Zhongyi, vice president of the China Real Estate Association, believes that as Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei become more integrated, the capital will transfer functions to nearby cities, but it will take time for detailed measures to be drawn up and carried out.

Without the support of industry, blind investment creates the risk of ghost cities, Zhu warned.

Yi Peng, head of urbanization research at the International Finance Forum, said the integration of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei is not a new concept and little progress had been made.

“The localities should announce detailed measures rather than merely hype the concept,” said Yi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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