After the Chinese government revealed its Xiongan New Area plan, many started thinking about another megalopolis in the making.
But as more details came out during the Easter holiday, Xiongan’s future looks nothing like that at all.
Though the Xiongan New Area will cover an area of 2,000 square meters when completely built – a size close to that of Shenzhen or double the area of Hong Kong – officials said the city would only accommodate 2 million to 2.5 million people.
That represents only a tenth of Shenzhen’s population, or the population of a small county.
According to the plan, a major transportation network and basic infrastructure should be in place in Xiongan by 2020.
The area will be well connected to Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei and construction of the core area will be completed by 2022.
By 2030, a green city with all the modern amenities will have been built, projecting great competitive advantage and influence while demonstrating harmony between man and nature, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Currently, China has 217 cities with population below 2.5 million.
So what makes Xiongan unique and important?
The new area will have three main features. First, the city will be dominated by public housing with a small private real estate market.
Second, President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stressed that the new city will strictly adhere to the principles of green economy and environmental protection.
Last but not least, cities with such small population usually function as satellite cities near large metropolises, to where residents would commute to work.
However, Xiongan will build its own industries to provide job opportunities to locals. It will also have its own educational facilities where residents can pursue academic degrees instead of having to enrol in schools and universities in Beijing or Tianjin.
These features are designed to tackle China’s main challenges, such as the housing bubble, environmental degradation and regional disparities.
When authorities called Xiongan “a millennium strategy”, they meant it would be a testing ground for new economic and social models.
If successful, Xiongan will serve as a role model for other parts of China to copy.
It is an experiment in innovative systems based on socialist thinking. In Xiongan, for example, public housing will play a dominant role and the local government will harness new technologies such as big data for central planning.
Xiongan will show how socialism operates in building a unique, modern metropolis that is free of the problems encountered by most capitalist communities.
This is perhaps why Xiongan is often seen as a legacy project of President Xi, an ambitious and powerful leader with strong beliefs rooted in socialism.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 18
Translation by Julie Zhu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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