China’s plan to develop Xiong’an New Area, national project of millennial significance, demonstrates historical foresight

By Zhou Zhou, People’s Daily

Boasting a civilization spanning more than 5,000 years, China has a lot of cities which are more than a thousand years old. According to incomplete statistics, 30 cities in China were built over 2,000 years ago, and 142 cities in the country have been officially designated as national historical and cultural cities.

Xi’an city in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, which will play host to the forthcoming China-Central Asia Summit, is one of the country’s national historical and cultural cities.

Built in the 12th century BC, Xi’an served as the capital for 13 dynasties in Chinese history, including the Zhou Dynasty, Qin Dynaty, Han Dynasty, and Tang Dynasty. As the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, the economic and cultural center in Asia has drawn worldwide attention because of its prosperity. 

Today, Xi’an is an important hub of northwestern China and a key stop along the New Eurasian Land Bridge. It plays an increasingly great role in the construction of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), continuously showing new vitality. 

The history of cities represents the evolution of human civilization, a truth that holds universally without exception. Then can a country design and build a “city of future” whose creation will have lasting importance for the millennium to come in the 21st century? 

Impossible as it sounds, the miracle is happening in Xiong’an New Area, north China’s Hebei Province.

Six years ago, China announced its plan to establish Xiong’an New Area in a bid to relieve Beijing of functions nonessential to its role as the capital and drive the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

Adhering to the ideas of “global vision, international standards, distinctive Chinese features, and future-oriented goals” in the construction of the new area, the country has been determined to develop it into a demonstration zone of innovation-driven development.

Xiong’an has caught the attention of global media since its establishment.

Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao pointed out that the new area will shoulder the strategic mission of restarting the era of reform and searching for a path to national transformation.

British daily business newspaper Financial Times said that Xiong’an New Area is set to become a bright spot in northern China.

China has established the Xiong’an New Area to concentrate on the relocation of non-capital functions from Beijing, further promoting the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and bridging the economic gap between the capital and its surrounding areas, said an article on the website of the Associated Press.

Xiong’an New Area may provide an alternative development model and is expected to become a high-tech hub and a laboratory for intelligent city planning, according to an article on the website of The Diplomat magazine based in Japan.

Quoting an official statement by China as saying that the development of Xiong’an New Area is a “strategy crucial for the next millennium,” an article on the website of British weekly newspaper The Economist added, “It would be unwise to bet all on Xiongan’s rise. Over the years China has tried to build numerous new cities, several of which have been costly failures.”

It’s assumed that it must take a long time for Xiong’an New Area to finally take shape, since its development is considered a national project of millennial significance. This is probably why discussions about Xiong’an have tapered off after a period when it was a hot topic worldwide. 

In the more than two years after China officially announced its plan to establish Xiong’an New Area, nothing significant was built in the area except for some basic projects and temporary structures designed to ensure necessary operations.

However, a grand blueprint for the new area was being created step by step.

More than 1,000 experts and over 200 teams from home and abroad as well as more than 2,500 professional and technical personnel have participated in the formulation of the master plan for Xiong’an New Area.   

To the surprise of the outside world, the “city of future” has experienced tremendous changes and begun to take shape within a mere six years. It has been transformed from ground zero to an emerging modern city with neatly aligned new buildings, flat and wide streets, and ubiquitous greenery.  

So far, the country has basically completed top-level design for the construction and development of Xiong’an, secured major progress in infrastructure construction, achieved initial results in relieving the non-capital functions of Beijing, made significant achievements in improving the ecological environment of the Baiyangdian Lake in the new area, witnessed positive progress in deepening reform and opening-up, gradually improved the conditions for gathering factors for industrial and innovation success, and promoted the relocation and resettlement of local residents in an orderly manner.  

The miraculous transformation Xiong’an has undergone has aroused hot discussions about it again, with many saying they have never before seen “a plan for a city be formulated this way”, “a city pay so much attention to the inheritance of excellent traditional culture,” “integrated construction and planning for a city that cover projects above and below ground as well as on online platforms,” “so great efforts made to improve the ecological environment of the Baiyangdian Lake,” and “a new city being built to take over Beijing’s non-capital functions.”

These remarks bear testimony to the historical foresight of the Chinese leadership.   

Over the past six years, new changes have taken place in Xiong’an every day, and major progress has been achieved in the construction of the new area every year. As a result, a high-level modern city is now sprouting up. The miracle of the construction of a Chinese city that is unfolding in Xiong’an has demonstrated that successful city planning of “millennial significance” requires not only a well-established civilization, but historical foresight, remarkable ability and wisdom of a country’s leadership. More importantly, the plan for the city will only work when the government of the country has the resolve to make persistent efforts one generation after another to implement it. 

Photo taken on Dec. 27, 2021 shows a train maintenance worker examining the external electronic display screen of a Fuxing bullet train. (Photo by Sun Lijun/People’s Daily Online)
Photo shows the scenery of newly upgraded Baiyangdian Lake scenic area in Xiong’an New Area, north China’s Hebei Province, June 20, 2021. (Photo by Jiao Yunpeng/People’s Daily Online)

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