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Xiongan: New city fundamentals

Mark Harrison | 05 May 2017 | Comments

Since the Chinese government announced on 1 April 2017 that it would create ‘Xiongan New Area”, the future metropolitan annex to Beijing has become the most talked-about place in China.

President Xi’s vision for Xiongan is to create a 2000 km2 national level new area with the same significance as Pudong and Shenzhen. The aim is also to create a model city with a clean environment, convenient transport links and high-tech industries to attract millions of people to work and live.

Pudong, the financial district of Shanghai, and Shenzhen, a former fishing village that has turned into a metropolis of Southern China, have obviously been very successful in many aspects. Naturally people will question whether the Xiongan New Area will be able to replicate the success of its peers.

Let’s bear in mind that the announcement is only a few weeks old. For a development of this scale, we are looking at 30 to 50 years before we can make a judgement if the development has succeeded or not.

Nonetheless, there are some fundamental considerations to bear in mind as the area moves forward.

Economic development

The success of an urban area of this scale is based primarily on its economic fundamentals. The coastal areas of Shenzhen and Pudong were well-located to access external markets at a time when China’s focus was on export-led economic development. As the focus is now changing to that of stimulating domestic demand, it may well be that a more inland location is more appropriate. However, as Hebei Province, where Xiongan New Area is located, has been relatively slow in terms of economic development, careful economic strategies to stimulate growth will be critical to the success of Xiongan New Area. While a leading role will obviously be played by State-owned Enterprises at least in the early stages, room for growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises will be essential for real job creation in the medium and long term.

Smart and green

Xiongan presents a significant opportunity to coalesce the latest thinking around ‘smart’ and ‘green’ approaches to urban development. To be successful, such aspects should be integrated fundamentally into the planning of the city whether it be in infrastructure, transport, city management and operations, education, security, healthcare, e-government services, or using the smart city and eco city ideas to promote economic development itself. With Hebei as one of China’s most polluted areas, an approach to sustainable, future-proofed development will obviously be critical to the success of the new area.

Livability

While jobs, a clean environment and a technologically advanced development will all play their role in attracting future residents, so too will be the creation of a livable city with a distinctive sense of place. As Xiongan eases the pressure on the capital city that is struggling to cope with a population of more than 20 million people, the Xiongan new area can also showcase approaches to livability exemplifying the highest standards of urban development in the 21st century.