Two cities in Hebei province are preparing to be fashioned into Beijing's satellite cities, to ease the burden on the capital, although the central government has not confirmed the plan.
Hebei's provincial government and party committee issued city planning directives on Tuesday for Langfang and Baoding, both south of Beijing, to strengthen their administration and infrastructure to meet the standards of a satellite city, Xinhua reported yesterday.
The directives suggested Baoding, which has an area of 2.1 million hectares and a population of 10.17 million, should host some branches of Beijing's administrative departments, hospitals, and higher education and research institutes, to co-ordinate the development of the Jing-Jin-Ji region.
Jing-Jin-Ji is Chinese shorthand for Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei.
Meanwhile, Langfang, a medium-sized city located between Beijing and Tianjin, will focus on the development of service and technology industries.
Baoding would be designated a "deputy" seat of power of Beijing, mainland financial magazine Caijing reported earlier this month.
The National Development and Reform Commission, which is in charge of co-ordinating Jing-Jin-Ji development, has denied such plans. Yet money has started to flow into Baoding, sending property prices and local companies' stock prices higher.
Baoding, described as the "south gate of Beijing" on its official website, has seen its standing rise and wane over the decades. It has 3,000 years of history, and housed the central command of the capital's defence forces in Ming dynasty times and the headquarters of the former Zhili province during the Qing dynasty.
When the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, Baoding was named the capital of Hebei. It lost the title in 1958 to the more industrialised Tianjin, and then Shijiazhuang.
Both national and provincial development and urban planning departments said they had not received orders to move any Beijing-based institutions to Baoding.
"We are working towards the goal step by step. But we have not yet received any detailed schedule or plan," a staff member of Baoding municipal development and reform commission said.
Wang Jinying, dean of Hebei University's School of Economics, said it would be difficult to implement the plan.
"It seems that the plan is just Hebei's own wishful thinking. No institute based in Beijing would be willing to leave the city that has the country's best resources," Wang said.