China’s plan for the Xiongan New Area, a new city development cluster near Beijing, has captured most of the market and media attention in recent days.
While the initiative is defintely impressive, we shouldn’t forget that there are two other similar projects — in eastern and southern China — that have been launched recently and assume a lot of significance: the Jiaxing New Area and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Big Bay Area.
Overall, the three new development zones represent President Xi Jinping’s response to the nation’s slowing economic growth. Xi intends to build super city clusters in north, east and south China, copying major US city clusters in Greater New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco Bay Area.
The Xiongan New Area was unveiled on April 1, and the Jiaxing New Area was announced on April 4. The design of both the new development zones is being overseen directly by Xi.
Xi proposed Jiaxing to become a gateway to Shanghai when he was the party chief of Zhejiang province back in 2003. The Jiaxing New Area is intended to enhance Zhejiang’s geographic advantage, better connect it with Shanghai and facilitate the integration of cities in the Yangtze River Delta.
In the mean time, Chinese officials have designed a similar city cluster in southern China, namely the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Big Bay Area.
On March 31, the central government highlighted the Bay Area initiative as it approved the appointment of Carrie Lam as Hong Kong’s next chief executive.
Beijing said it hopes Lam can “facilitate the development of Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Big Bay Area, and give full play to Hong Kong’s unique strength and lift its status and functions in China’s economic growth and opening up.”
The Big Bay Area will connect nine cities in Guangdong, namely Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Huizhou, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing, together with Hong Kong and Macau to become a super city cluster that is similar to San Francisco Bay Area.
It’s believed that China intends to test new economic and social development models with these new city clusters.
The objective is to tackle urban woes including overcrowding, heavy pollution and congestion. At the same time, the less developed areas within these clusters could benefit from closer integration.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 6
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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