China approves ambitious Xiongan New Area master plan

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An artist's impression of the Xiongan Civic Service Center, the first construction project in the massive Xiongan New Area development.

A new blueprint was released Friday for a massive development that, if successful, will be merged with Beijing and nearby Tianjin into a megalopolis unlike any place in the world, and it sounds every bit as ambitious as promised.

The vision at its core is to create a “new area” south of Beijing in Hebei province, which will serve as a testing ground for a new type of city fitted to industries of the future, while drawing residents away from the congested capital city.

The project also aims to further China’s goals of becoming greener, with a forest cover rate of 40%, Xinhua reported Friday.

“The region will be a model of high-quality development in China and the new engine in the construction of a modern economic system,” the “master plan” said, echoing what has already been revealed about the project.

“Universities, medical institutes, company headquarters, financial institutes and governmental departments that fit the development plan of Xiongan will be moved to the new region, and some low-end manufacturing and service sectors will be limited in Xiongan,” Xinhua said.

The project has generated interest from investors abroad, with speculation that it has the potential to be the next Pudong New Area or Shenzhen Special Economic Zone.

Charles Bowman, the Lord Mayor of the City of London talked about the potential for the project.

“We, the UK, through Canary Wharf, signed a memorandum earlier this year at the time when the prime minister was here. It’s a huge city and really focuses on modern technology and modern innovation and creativity that goes with it,” Bowman was quoted by Chinese state media as saying.

“Officials, business leaders and scholars from abroad have been visiting Xiongan and seeking business opportunities, especially in high-end industries such as artificial intelligence and green finance,” said Zhou Wenhai, a finance professor at Hebei University.

“Xiongan can offer them a stable political environment as well as access to an estimated local market of 100 million people in the Beijing-Tianjing-Hebei Triangle region. They can even move beyond that and reach the rest of China and the rest of the world,” he said.

The reference to “stable political environment” underscores what has been described as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dream of creating a China that resembles Singapore, starting with the transformation of Beijing. The Xiongan New Area’s role in alleviating congestion and improving the quality of life among Beijing residents, a portion of whom would ideally relocate to Xiongan, is key to the realization of Xi’s vision. In other words, Beijing is likely to “spare no expense” on this massive experiment in centrally planned city creation.

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