Comrade Xi Jinping: the man behind China’s big plan to turn a backwater into a ‘dream city’
Xinhua report reveals how president put his stamp on decision to transform three Hebei counties
Overcrowding in today’s Beijing – in contrast to the tranquil capital of President Xi Jinping’s youth – was one of the factors behind an ambitious plan to transform a Hebei backwater into a new economic zone.
The glimpse into the decision making process behind the creation of the Xiongan New Area was one of several contained in a report released on Friday by Xinhua, the official news agency.
The Communist Party’s Central Committee announced on April 1 that Anxin, Rongcheng and Xiong counties – about 160km south of Beijing – would be home to a new district to rival special economic zones like Shenzhen.
The Xinhua report portrayed Xi as the mastermind of the scheme to create a “dream city” from scratch. Xi, who spent his childhood and early teens in a quiet and relaxed Beijing, was unhappy the capital had become crowded and noisy, and decided the solution was “to relocate some city functions [of Beijing] to Hebei and Tianjin”, the report said.
At the end of 2014, Xi told senior cadres that Beijing must reduce its “population density”, and in April 2015, he told the Politburo that a site had to be found in Hebei for a new city.
Unlike the builders of Brasilia in Brazil, Xi does not envisage a new capital but a satellite town to absorb some of Beijing’s institutions, schools, laboratories and corporate head offices.
One meeting after another was held to determine the site. Xi ultimately decided on the three counties on May 27 last year, the report said.
Xi said the decision to create the satellite city would resonate for the next millennium, putting it on par with the decision to make what is now Beijing the capital in 1153.
On a visit to Xiongan on February 23, stood in farmland and asked provincial officials about local conditions. “How is life for people here? What’s the population density? How many people will be relocated?” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.
Xi also visited Baiyang Lake, a rare wetland in dry northern China. “I have wanted to come here since I was a child,” he said.
Morgan Stanley forecasts the new area could lure as much as 2.4 trillion yuan (HK$2.7 trillion) in investment over the next decade, adding as much as 0.4 percentage point to economic growth every year, making it the largest infrastructure project in the history of modern China.
Dozens of state-owned enterprises, including the country’s aircraft carrier builder, have pledged to support to Xi’s plan and move some operations to the inland zone.
Political scientist Chen Daoyin, from Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said it was clear to all now that the new economic zone will be Xi’s personal project, noting that the State Council and the National People’s Congress were barely mentioned in the decisionmaking process.
“By creating Xiongan, Xi is trying to match his economic achievement with his political power,” Chen said.