This will be the super-city of 130 million inhabitants

Economic reform passes from urbanization in populous country in the world

Big City-breaking news-people re-el magazine

1 August 2015

Tags:live news, breaking news, latest news,


Every morning at 5:30 Liu Desheng meets dozens of other pensioners in the line for the express bus service that runs from the small town in the Hebei province of China to the central Beijing.

Despite that they wait they never board the bus. They stand and wait watching buses come and go always carrying 50 people from the queue which is continuously growing.

Around 6:30 reach their children. In addition, the queue has the shape of a snake and for someone to reach on the top takes about one hour waiting. Some are trying to circumvent the order and fights erupt. But pensioners like Liu spared their children from this test. When the next bus reaches, pensioners surrender their positions in the queue for their children who board first and ensure a seat for them for the journey of about 40 kilometers that can last up to three hours.

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“I can not do much more to contribute to my family,” Liu 62-year-old explains to the New York Times while his son greets him from the bus window. “It’s every day exhausting so if I can help him to rest a little, I will.”

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The commuting (and … this assistance) of the Liu family is  small but is very typical example of life in a big city.

For decades the Chinese government has sought to limit the size of Beijing with draconian regulations for accommodation, but now changing direction, moving into an ambitious transformation plan of the capital at the heart of a new big city … with 130 million inhabitants!

The planned super-city, metropolitan area with size about six times that of New York, aims to boost the economy of the Chinese north and be a testing ground for urban development of the future.

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“The super-city is the vanguard of economic reform,” said Liu Gang, professor at Nankai University of Tianjin and consultant of the local government in regional development. “It reflects the views of the leadership of the country on the need for integration, innovation and environmental protection.”

The area to be “born” linking Beijing with the economically powerful port of Tianjin and the hinterland of Hebei province, pushing areas that had not collaborated in the past to do so.

This month the government of Beijing announced its own part of the project, committing to transfer a large part of the services and bureaucracy, as well as factories and hospitals on the mainland, in a bid, among other things, create jobs in less developed parts.

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Jing-Jin-Ji, as this super-city under construction is called («Jing» from «Beijing», ie Beijing, «Jin» from Tianjin and «Ji» as is the traditional name of Hebei Province) will contribute to economic recovery the area to converge with the most prosperous economic zones in China.

But the new super-city aims to be different in scope and conception. It covers an area of ​​several thousand square kilometers, is almost the size of Kansas, and the population will be greater than one third of the US population. Unlike metropolitan areas grew normally, Jing-Jin-Ji will be a voluntary creation with pillar tremendous growth of high-speed railway that will bring the major cities within one hour of each other.

This will certainly happen when the projects are completed. Because until then many of the streets are years away from completion and for many Chinese the creation of tis city today means even longer travel to gridlocked highways.

Favored by the relatively lax regulations accommodation and the relatively low housing prices in Hebei province, many Chinese flock to suburbs like Yanjiao, which increased tenfold in ten years and has now 700,000 residents. It remains however a residence community of people who work and live in Beijing, essentially a forest of residential towers and restaurants with very few services.

Many believe that the problems of the movement will be solved if given time and money. The next three to five years is designed to operate underground railways and improved, and a new bridge over the river Chaobai to Beijing is under construction.

What worries many residents in Yanjiao are the hospitals and school failure.

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“Services are bad,” Zheng Linyun says working in sales company in Beijing, who needs to moved to and from his job  five hours a day. His 6-year-old son just went to school and has more than 65 children in his class. “All you see is more and more people to come here,” he adds.

A bright summer morning one can see more easily the good side of Yanjiao. Residential buildings with 25 floors rising on the horizon, some roads have trees arrays along and the atmosphere is certainly much cleaner than was in Beijing.

But the city has bus stations, has a cinema and has only two small parks. “The streets are flooded when it rains because there is insufficient rainwater pipes,” says Xia Zhiyan, 42-year-old, a worker at a printing company. “More are being built more and more apartments without providing even the basics.”

Even for very limited space requirements that can be outdoors in China, the main park of Yanjiao is hopelessly crowded. The skater fall on top of one another, cords tangle of kites in the sky and older who do calligraphy touch each other with their elbows.

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The lack of services is the tip of an iceberg of larger problems. Without property taxes, Chinese cities based on the sale of public spaces to have revenues. The municipalities are not allowed to keep other taxes collected locally because there are fears that it will be used by wrong way. The result is a community like that of Yanjiao has no way to pay for new schools, roads or adequate buses that pensioners should not have to stand in queue “holding position” in their children. To change all that requires reformatting the collection and distribution of taxes, which is not even on the table. Although the super city will join the rich Beijing with poor suburbs like Yanjiao, the “twin” cities will not share their revenues.

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Problems exist in infrastructure. Until recently, high-speed train network is not connected many major cities around Beijing and many roads are not joined together. The region 18 called “headless” highways, major roads that constructed on each of the three areas in association but one being coupled to the allo. One of these highway ends in the river bridge separating Yanjiao Beijing, which remains unfinished for years.

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Despite these issues, there are other factors to show that the plan is likely to be realized and the Jing-Jin-Ji become a reality. The first is the same Chinese President Xi Jinping, it belongs to the ambitious economic reform carried out in 2013 and that promote the integration of the region.

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The project plans to eliminate by 2020 the “headless” highways and construct underground network. According to the plan, each city will take its own role: Beijing will focus on culture and technology, Tianjin on construction. The role of Hebei remains undetermined although recently the government has published a list of small industries that will be transferred from the capital to smaller cities. Alongside Beijing conveys much of the administrative services of the suburb Tongzhou, ending the longstanding political establishment of government offices in the old imperial area.

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Fundamental will be the improvement of infrastructure, especially of high-speed railways. According to Professor Zhang Gui, Chinese manufacturers followed before a rule learned from the West: All the parts of an urban area should be within 60 miles of each other; the maximum a highway can be traveled in one hours drive. If the distance grows then the movements complicate significantly.

The high-speed trains, he adds, have changed this equation. Travel now 150-185 mph, allowing the urban fabric to expand. The new line between Beijing and Tianjin reduces traveling time from three hours to 37 minutes. In this train anymore crowded so people made the second line.

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Now high-speed trains run to and from smaller towns. Railway line linking this year Beijing and Tangshan. Another will join the Chinese capital to Zhangjiakou, turning the mountain town in the recreation area for the new configuration in the urban landscape and city candidate for the winter Olympic Games of 2022.

“The speed replaces the distance,” says Professor Zhang, «has radically expand the space in which one economic zone may extend”.

The historian Wang Jun engaged in the development of Beijing said that the creation of the new city exceeded requires a comprehensive reform of the functioning of local authorities, including the imposition of property taxes and allowing local governments to keep revenue from these taxes. Only then these cities can become something more than “feeders workers” of the capital.

“It is a huge project and is much more complex than the arrangement of roads and railways. But if successful, will change the overall picture of northern China, “he concludes.

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