urrounding Baiyangdian, a rare stretch of wetland spanning 366 square kilometers in the wilds of China’s relatively dry northern plains, will arise a new city that will shoulder the country’s hopes for future development. The Xiongan New Area, China’s latest urban experiment and an agglomeration of three counties 100 kilometers from Beijing, is designed to share the capital’s growing population burden, boost integrated development in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, and nurture new possibilities for the country’s urban development.
The central government has commissioned a study, spanning four comprehensive urban designs and 54 individual research projects, to turn Xiongan into a green, smart and inhabitable city by 2030. It is expected to encompass 100 square kilometers in its early stages and 200 in the mid-term, eventually growing to 2,000 in the long run.
Designed to be low-carbon, Xiongan will derive its energy primarily from wind and water. Scientists are also considering an intelligent platform to monitor the air, water and ecological systems of Baiyangdian. It is said that a 5G network will cover the whole of Xiongan by 2020, when the technology is expected to become available for commercial use in China.
The government also hopes the construction of Xiongan will provide a solution to the urban ills such as traffic congestion that plagues Beijing today. Unlike the capital, Xiongan is designed to be multi-centered and to have most of its traffic networks built underground to make room for green space and the movement of pedestrians.
There’s also the promise of better public services to make Xiongan more inhabitable. The central government has encouraged public policy innovation in the area, and research has begun into finance, housing, human resources and many other types of public services to make this a reality. Xiongan is also expected to share some of Beijing’s educational and medical resources, with a number of top-ranking schools and hospitals making moves to open branches in the area.
Despite all the support and investment, experts say Xiongan still lacks the sort of advantages that fostered the miraculous growth of the city of Shenzhen and Shanghai’s Pudong, arguably China’s most successful national-level new districts, which owed their development to national economic reforms that began in the 1980s, and to their proximity to the coast.
Experts say institutional innovation will be the only way for Xiongan to achieve significant growth. The Xiongan government claims it will avoid relying on real estate for economic growth, as the practice has locked many out of the housing market and weakened China’s economic momentum.
Technical innovation and industrial advancement are expected to serve as the other two pillars of Xiongan’s economic vitality. The new area is expected to build strength in certain sectors, particularly in artificial intelligence and big data. Beijing and Xiongan will play complementary roles in technological innovation, with the former focusing on basic research and the latter on the commercialization of research findings.