Beijing closer to Tianjin, Hebei in year three

By Xuan Xiaowei
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China Daily, March 1, 2017
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During President Xi Jinping's two-day inspection tour last week, when he visited the construction site of the capital's new airport in southern Beijing and the administrative sub-center Tongzhou district, he urged officials to improve urban planning, in order to build a "harmonious, world-class capital city" that better serves its residents.

First proposed in 2014, the country's grand plan to integrate and synergistically develop Beijing and Tianjin municipalities and neighboring Hebei province enters the third year when Xi's vision will move closer to its realization.

On the "top-design" mechanism, the Leading Group Office of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Coordinated Development has been set up to lead the reform along with relevant departments under some ministries of the State Council, China's cabinet, while the heads of the three areas also hold office at local branches.

In April 2015, the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee approved a guideline for the coordinated development of the region, under which the three areas have their own roles to play. Beijing will become the national center of political, cultural and international exchanges as well as a technological innovation center, Tianjin a national research and development base for advanced manufacturing industry, and Hebei a key national base for trade and logistics and an experimental zone for industrial transformation.

Breakthroughs have also been made in transport integration, environmental protection, industrial upgrading. According to the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning body, an inter-city rail network, to be completed in 2020, is expected to keep the commuting time across major cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei zone under an hour.

Besides, environmental protection authorities of the three areas have signed a cooperative agreement, which includes joint legislation, supervision and freer exchange of information. And more than 370 wholesale markets, along with a number of manufacturing units, schools and hospitals, have been shifted from Beijing to the suburbs and neighboring cities. The integration of educational, medical and cultural resources, too, has seen some progress, as branches of universities and hospitals in Beijing and Tianjin are being set up in Hebei.

The coordinated development is not without problems, though. Its implementation mostly depends on administrative orders, and non-official forces are not so motivated to pitch in. Much of the attention may rightly be focused on completing the key transportation and industrial projects, but institutional reform to integrate public services also requires strong support.

The other problem is that Beijing's plan to control urban population may be not carried out smoothly, because relocating people from the capital to other places will only be possible when the development gap among the three areas narrow down further.

Market forces such as enterprises and other social organizations, big and small, are more than welcome to contribute to and benefit from the national strategy.

Free flow of resources and the rule of law are also needed to level the playing field for the three areas in terms of their capabilities to provide fundamental public services.

The author is a researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council.

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