Thirty-five years after China's reform mastermind Deng Xiaoping identified several coastal cities in southern China as economic front lines, President Xi Jinping produced his vision for another integrated sphere in the north on Wednesday.
Xi, head of the leading group for overall reform, called for integrated and coordinated development of Beijing and the two neighboring provincial areas during a symposium after listening to work reports delivered by officials from Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province.
Under the grand vision, the three regions will build a trilateral economic sphere in the Bohai Bay area — an economic hub that may one day parallel the metropolises around the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta, which are now the most developed areas in China.
The coordination of development among the three areas focuses on optimizing the industrial layout and improving the allocation of the resources, according to a statement released after the symposium.
Among other matters, the three areas will promote logistics, industrial complementation and environmental protection.
The three areas have previously announced collaborated efforts to fight smog.
Tianjin, a port city with a population of 14 million, is linked to Beijing by several highways and a high-speed railway.
Hebei, a traditional industrial and transportation hub surrounding both Beijing and Tianjin, is also planning to build a high-speed railway that will reduce travel time to the capital to one hour.
A bilateral coordination group has since been set up between Tianjin and Hebei, with a vice-governor and a vice-mayor in charge, to "break institutional barriers" and "carry out exchanges in a smooth and timely manner".
The move indicates that Tianjin and Hebei will be responsible for transferring part of the industries from Beijing to their territory, and more knowledge-driven companies may turn to Tianjin and Hebei for industrialization due to the high cost of land and labor in the capital.
"The three places have to first figure out their role in the economic sphere before making any development plans," said Zhang Keyun, a Renmin University of China regional economy professor.
"Hebei may not be suitable to accommodate both high-tech and labor-intensive industries as its economy and research capability is the weakest of the three," he said. "But on the other hand, Beijing should fund Hebei for the sacrifice it is making by closing steel plants to reduce air pollution."
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