Xiongan County: Dream and anxiety
When Chen Quanshui got the news about Xiongan, he negotiated a good bargain for his newly established factory in Xiong County.

On the second day, at a local hotel, Chen searched all the related news through his cell phone and read it repeatedly, wondering what changes the news may bring to him. Finally, he decided to go home immediately.

On April 2, the second day of Qingming holiday, Chen embarked on his way home. “There was traffic jam when the expressway exit was still 10 kilometers away,” Chen told Sino-US.com, noting the exit of Rongcheng-Wuhai Expressway is the only way for travelers from Tianjin and Beijing to go to Baiyang Lake, the famous scenic spot of Xiongan. “I had never seen so many cars rushing into the place from Beijing and Tianjin, and at the moment, I was thinking of selling my factory and buying properties at home,” he said. 

One of the slogans on Daqing-Guangzhou Highway, which reads “Strictly crack down on illegal announcement and spreading property information.” Photo: Zhang Han/Sino-US.com
 
Chen’s plastics processing factory is situated in the southern suburbs of Xiong County. Lustrous green wheat has climbed up the newly built plant’s slope roof. According to the owner, his two machines that cost over a million yuan had just been put into production after the Spring Festival. One month later, he had to suspend his operation because of the annual ‘two sessions’ in Beijing. 
 
Now, half a month after he restarted production, he is notified to suspend production again. Chen said his factory has not invaded or occupied any farmland.  
 
The Xiongan new district covers three counties, Xiong County, Rongcheng and Anxin, where plastics, clothing and shoes manufacturing are pillar industries, respectively. 
 
Xiong County boasts the highest GDP among the three, with over 10 billion yuan in 2016. However, behind the good performance is the highest level of pollutant discharge. When the news about the new district broke, media began to target the local plastics manufacturing industry. Analysts believe such low-end manufacturing would not be allowed in the new special area. 
 
Official data showsthat by the year 2013, there were over 2,700 plastics processing plants in Xiong County like the one owned by Chen. The number has increased to nearly 4,000 at present, with employees accounting for almost half of the local population. Small workshops have already been shut down over the past half month, while big factories in the neighborhood of the county are still under operation. 
 
The announcement about the Xiongan new district is definitely good news for the local people. At least, the people don’t need to wear masks to prevent plastic powder anymore, while some prominent state-owned companies have agreed to move into the special zone. 
 
Chen Quanshui, like all the other local people, was overjoyed with his unexpected luck at the beginning. Now, he is getting a little bit anxious as he is temporarilyout of work.  
 
Ten days after the news broke, Sino-US.com reporter had driven to the Xiong County. Although the air in Beijing was moderately polluted, the county, which is over 100 kilometers away from Beijing, had much better air quality that day. It is reported that measures to control local air pollution have been underway. 
 
Along the Rongcheng-Wuhai Expressway, there are over a hundred 10-meter-high billboards leading into Xiong County. All of them featured advertisements of plastics packaging products. The local producers reportedly occupiedover 90 percent of the market share in the north of the Yangtze River. 
 
Now, all these advertisements about plastics packages have been removed, leaving billboards with nothing but a cell phone of the billboard agent. Sino-US.com reporter called one of the numbers and was told most of the plastics plants were closed at the end of last year.   
 
Driving into Xiong County, many promotional banners had been put up by the local government’s publicity department to crack down on activities promoting property purchases.  
 
The Qingming holiday period made Xiong County the top destination for Chinese home buyers. When Chen came back from Tianjin, he saw dozens of people by the side of the expressway exit handing out property promotion flyers.That’s when the factory owner made up his mind to sell his business to buy apartments. 
 
On the second day of the holiday, the local government began to take action. Besides the banners, new policies came out and all property transactions were stopped. It was reported by the Hebei Daily on April 2 that the local housing bureau shut down 15 real estate sales center and 17 realtors. 
 
Following the red promotional banners one could be led to the local county government, which is a magnificent 9-floor office building. Now, the policy prohibiting new property transactions has been in place for 10 days, and most anxious home buyers have left. Instead, some travelers from within the Hebei province gathered in front of the building to take photos at the site that may accommodate central government’s departments in the future.  
 
Government building of Xiong county, the most magnificent one among the three government buildings in the Xiongan New Area. Former Party Secretary of Xiong county was put under investigation just a few days before the announcement of the Xiongan New Area. Photo: Zhang Han/Sino-US.com
 
The Xiong County is the biggest one among the three covered by the Xiongan new district, which is constituted by two north-south main streets and four west-east side streets and multiple footpaths. Almost all roadside stores deal with plastics packaging business. 
 
There usedto be one residential building for sale on each of the main streets, but the sales offices of both buildings are now shut down.
 
To the east side of the local government compound, there is Jiangtai road, which is lined by stores selling decoration and construction material. But the brisk business activity on the street no longer exists. 
 
Chen Guangliang has sold ceramic tiles here for 10 years, while he is worried about the business now. “No one is selling houses these days, so it’s natural that few would come to purchase decoration material,” he told Sino-US.com. 
 
When asked if it’s true that there is no home for sale any more, he responded, “Nobodydares to sell houses, because those who did were caught by the police several days ago.”
 
A strategy hailed as a millennium project just unexpectedly fell from the sky onto the local people. Although outlanders are jealous, Liu Wei, a local resident,said it would not be a life he would yearn for. “Big cities are for those who are assiduous and ambitious; I prefer more relaxed life in a small city where a 10-minute bicycle ride could lead to cornfield. 
 
Liu is now running the only bar in Xiong County, which is situated by the side of the local government compound. He started the business eight years ago and till now, he barely makes any money. “I’m just doing something I like,” he said. 
 
He was born in the neighboring countryside of the county. In 1997, when he finished middle high school, he left for Beijing to make a living. “I worked as a bartender and sales person and then, I got to know a rock and roll musician and learned how to sing and play guitar from him,” he said. 
 
In 2009, Liu abandoned his migrant life and came back to his hometown. He rented the 100 square meter area for 20,000 yuan per month from a friend and began his business. “I just wanted to have a place to stage my performance,” he said. 
The news about Xiongan new district failed to bring him any excitement, although he admitted that more people are frequenting his bar to party now. 
 
Liu was dragged into a Wechat group of over 100 people with entrepreneurship as its topic. “They all plan the future and talk about how to cash in on the opportunity and spread inspirational stories to encourage each other,” he said.  
 
Liu doesn’t think he would have any plan for the future. “The city would gain rapid development that’s for sure, but they are for those who are capable or endowed with financial means, not for me who rents a place to do business,” he said. If property prices would shoot up in the near future, Liu said he would sell his only property in the country and leave with the money. 
 

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