Beijing unveils sub-center blueprint with focus on coordinated development

Beijing plans to build a sub-center in Tongzhou.

Beijing has released a draft plan for the development of its sub-center, a latest move aimed at combating a rise in urban diseases and promoting the coordinated development of the Chinese capital, Tianjin and Hebei province.

The draft plan comes after the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, the country's cabinet, approved a general development plan for Beijing (2016-2035) last autumn, which stipulates that the sub-center, located in Tongzhou district, will be built into a world-class, livable and eco-friendly urban area that will accommodate numerous local administrative agencies and business facilities in anticipation of relocating the non-capital functions in Beijing's central area.

Population cap

Driven by fears that the blueprint for the sub-center would lead to a massive influx of people and accordingly push up the local home prices and house rents, the draft plan caps the permanent population of Tongzhou district at 1.3 million by 2035.

According to the latest census data published by the Tongzhou district government in February last year, the permanent population in the sub-center was 860,000, which means that the region is expected to house an additional 400,000-500,000 permanent residents by 2035 from Beijing's other districts.

Over the recent years, overpopulation has emerged as one of the biggest urban ills that perplex Beijing, the most desirable destination for the country's billions of migrant workers due to better paying jobs. In efforts to control the rapid population growth, the Beijing municipal government announced last year the decision to limit the city's population to 23 million by 2020 in an aggressive document, which was described by some critics as "unfair" and "discriminatory" to migrant workers. Beijing has also introduced a high-threshold points-based residency application system to attract high-end talents and close the door to the so-called low-end workers.

Moreover, the establishment of the Xiongan New Area, a new economic zone situated in Hebei province, would also be magnetic to residents in crowded Beijing. The Xiongan New Area and Tongzhou district are the two main areas that the Chinese government will use to solve the urban diseases of Beijing, which is now positioned as China's political, cultural, international communication and scientific innovation center.

Human-oriented blocks

By virtue of a well-planned transportation network of waterways and roads, the sub-center will be divided into 36 blocks, with each block being equipped with a central service zone called "homeland center" where major public service facilities will be located in order to meet the public demands for commerce, employment, education, healthcare, entertainment and so on, according to the layout plan. Residents in each block can only take a 15-minute walk to reach the "homeland center".

The sub-center will zoom in on building an advanced, green urban transportation system, which will help reduce resident's dependence on private cars.

The sub-center will adopt strict environmental protection regulations aimed at improving air and water quality, which will ensure that green and renewable energy account for 20 percent of the total energy consumption by 2035.

In recent years, the Beijing municipal government has taken pains to increase the number of days with blue skies by means of a massive project, which ordered residents to use natural gas to displace coal for heating during the winter days. The project indeed worked well as reflected in more days with blue skies, but also incurred complaints from the people in the city's remote areas suffering from natural gas deficiency, who were forced to endure a cold winter.

In addition, the degree of afforestation will be strengthened, with per capita green area expected to reach 30 square meters, according to the layout plan.

Coordinated development

The layout plan also provides for the coordinated development of Tongzhou district and the Beisanxian area in Langfang, a city of Hebei province, as an exemplary project for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei coordinated development strategy.

On the one hand, the Beisanxian area, which is adjacent to Tongzhou district, will be a relocation site for the non-capital functions of Beijing; on the other hand, the development of the sub-center will help upgrade the industries of the Beisanxian area, which falls short of public infrastructure and is less attractive to talented people.

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