Plans announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping to better integrate cities around Beijing have rammed home a strategic move to hone the process of urbanization and ease expansion stress.
Beijing and neighboring Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province should coordinate in city planning, environmental protection, industry and market integration to build a functioning urban agglomeration, China's president said at a meeting on Thursday.
Local governments should abandon parochial mindsets and take a more sharing and cooperative approach, Xi urged.
Meanwhile, the meeting highlighted ecological cooperation for the bloc by planting shelter forests, preserving water and tapping clean energy, given that the three regions are often hit by heavy smog.
The policy is designed to explore new urbanization models as Beijing is burdened with multiple urban diseases caused by excessive migration into the city.
People across the country flood to the resource-intensive capital to seek better education, medical care and jobs.
The idea of a regional cooperative bloc isn't a new one for China. The Shanghai-centered Yangtze River Delta and the Guangzhou-centered Pearl River Delta have both steered a mutual economic boom for their cities thanks to coordinated industrial and commercial partnerships.
The Beijing-centered urban circle boasts a combined GDP of over 6 trillion yuan (0.98 trillion U.S. dollars) and a total population above one hundred million.
To ease population pressure and boost mutual growth, development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei metropolitan area was included in China's national development plan in 2011. Infrastructure building has accelerated since then, with new property projects being established around Beijing at ever-increasing pace.
However, the scheme has made limited progress. Lack of industrial and infrastructure support has left many regions around Beijing as "sleeping cities," from which people shuttle to Beijing for work and fun during the day and return just for rest at night.
The main problem lies in the cities' unwillingness to give up vested interests and current administrative and fiscal hurdles, said Liu Fuyuan, a former senior consultant with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
"With a top-down policy push, regional integration depends more on close industrial partnerships and resource arrangement through the balance of government policies and market forces," Liu said, arguing that the market should play the decisive role in rearranging industrial communities and that the government should take care of supporting services.
In the future, Beijing should stick to its leading role in politics, culture, international exchanges and scientific innovation, President Xi said.
"According to these comments, Beijing is likely to relocate much of its financial, manufacturing and some of its service sectors to other cities," predicted Yi Peng, an urban development researcher.
The capital has already begun to move some small commodity markets like wholesale clothes malls, which once attracted tens of thousands of migrant workers to do business, to Hebei Province.
The integration push will spur economic growth through infrastructure development, especially for Hebei Province, by enriching Tianjin's industrial pattern, and by easing Beijing's urban diseases, Yi said.
Shares related to property developers operating around Beijing surged on Friday over the possible infrastructure boom brought by the integration drive.
Abundant business opportunities will be created, and infrastructure, transportation, real estate and social security sectors should see a boost with the further integration of the metropolitan region, Yi added.
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