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China to create Xiongan New Area in Hebei

Aerial photo taken on April 1, 2017 shows Xiongxian County. Photo: Xinhua 

China announced Saturday it would establish the Xiongan New Area in Hebei Province, as part of measures to advance the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

This is a further new area of national significance after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area, according to a circular issued by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council.

The move is a "major historic and strategic choice made by the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core," said the circular, which described the decision as "a strategy crucial for a millennium to come."

The New Area, about 100 km southwest of downtown Beijing, will span three counties that sit at the center of the triangular area formed by Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei's provincial capital Shijiazhuang.

The move will help phase out functions from Beijing that are not related to the capital, explore a new model of optimized development in densely-populated areas, and restructure the urban layout in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, according to the circular.

The New Area will cover around 100 square km initially and will be expanded to 200 square km in the mid-term and about 2,000 square km in the long-term.

President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, has said priority should be given to developing an area to pool non-capital functions that will be shifted from Beijing.

He has ordered that a modern urban district should be built at a suitable location in Hebei, guided by new development concepts.

During an inspection tour to Hebei on Feb. 23, Xi called for "world vision, international standards, Chinese characteristics and high goals" in the planning and construction of the area.

He called for efforts to build Xiongan into "a demonstration area for innovative development."

The area should prioritize ecological protection, improve people's well-being as well as protect and carry forward Chinese traditional culture, he said.

The Xiongan New Area covers the counties of Xiongxian, Rongcheng and Anxin, and is home to Baiyangdian, northern China's largest freshwater wetland.

The area features geological advantages, convenient transportation, an excellent ecological environment, ample resources and lots of room for development, according to the circular.

Saturday's announcement was the latest step in China's efforts to cure severe "urban ills," such as traffic congestion and air pollution in Beijing by curbing the capital's population growth and moving certain non-essential facilities, including manufacturing and logistics, to nearby regions.

A number of wholesale markets in the city's central areas have been shut down or relocated, and some of Beijing's city administration is planned to be moved out of the city center to the eastern suburbs in Tongzhou.

The removal of functions not related to the capital from Beijing is part of a greater strategy to integrate the development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei for a better economic structure, cleaner environment and improved public services.

Authorities intend to transform the region into a new growth pole as China's economy slows.

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