In April this year, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council jointly announced a plan to establish the Xiongan New Area, a designated special economic region in the northern Hebei province. The new city will be located about hundred kilometers southwest of central Beijing and span three counties of Xiongxian, Rongcheng and Anxin in Baoding prefecture. The rationale for Xiongan as outlined in the joint announcement is two-fold. The first is to transfer those economic sectors and institutions having non-capital functions out of Beijing. The second is to coordinate the economic development of Beijing-Tianjing-Hebei regions and thus creating a new growth pole region in northern China. The Xiongan is advertised as an antidote for not only the urban crises of Beijing but also for regional inequalities between the prosperous southeastern provinces and underdeveloped northern China.
China’s central leadership seems to have attached great significance to the Xiongan new city plan. The decision itself is termed as a “major historic choice” and a “strategy crucial for the millennium to come”. Planning Xiongan has already become an enterprise in epic proportions with urban designers, leaders of the state-owned companies, provincial CPC lobbies, financiers and local government bureaucracies struggling to find coordination and synergy. It is certain that yet another round of largescale demolitions, relocations, and disruptions of local economic and social life will be unfolding around the quiet Baiyangdian lake where the majestic rise of Xiongan is planned. But the question then is whether the new city will be another urban clone of Shenzhen or Shanghai Pudong?; or will it ever be able to induce economic energies in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region which can later diffuse to larger northern China plains?; or above all, what kind of spatial legacies Xiongan will leave for the future generations which is all set to bear the indelible mark of the Xi Jinping era?
About the Speaker
T G Suresh is currently an Associate Professor in the Centre for Political Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University. His publications and conference papers on China covers a broad range of concerns including nationalism, the political economy of reforms in Sichuan province, labour and building production in Shanghai and Delhi and the new urban labour regime in China. His current research focuses on how new forms of social labour are getting shaped at the intersections of urban spatial practices and global economic flows in Delhi and Shanghai.
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