A future capital city
By Matteo Giovannini  ·  2023-05-29  ·   Source: NO.22 JUNE 1, 2023

In the eyes of the rest of the world, China is on the way to regaining its place at the center of the global stage and this scenario requires Chinese leaders to have the ambition to think that the future capital city of the world must be located in China.

In this context it is natural to understand the reasons for the genesis of Jing-Jin-Ji, a city cluster incorporating Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province, which surrounds them and was called "Ji" in ancient times. As a key strategy initiated in 2014, its core objective is to create one of the most advanced urban regions in the world, able to attract a constant flow of investment, tourists and talent.

Today what is the biggest urbanized megalopolis region in north China generates a GDP of $1.5 trillion, equivalent to that of Mexico, and occupies an area about twice the size of the Republic of Korea.

A recent tour of Hebei by Chinese President Xi Jinping, visiting Xiongan New Area and a computer chip research institute in the province's capital city Shijiazhuang, refocused the spotlight on the advancement of the Jing-Jin-Ji plan and on the importance of innovation-driven development.

There is no question that the visible success of the Jing-Jin-Ji integration plan over the last nine years can be attributed to the comparative advantages of different areas in the region that complement each other, avoiding any form of duplication, and maximizing synergies and the overall level of efficiency.

Through the combination of Beijing as the national political, economic, cultural and educational center, Tianjin as a gateway to the Bohai Sea and largest port city in north China, and Xiongan New Area as a demonstration zone of innovation-driven development, Jing-Jin-Ji has been able to showcase that a strong core city can flourish when satellite cities are economically strong and sufficiently integrated to support the whole cluster.

Clearly, this would not have been possible without the impressive achievements reached by Chinese engineers in the development and integration of physical infrastructure such as the construction of a state-of-the-art network of high-speed railways that has slashed travel times within the cluster by more than half.

The resulting decentralization of activities to the areas surrounding Beijing has brought tangible economic benefits to the new megalopolis, which covers a metropolitan area six times bigger than New York City and 25 times that of London, granting new lifeblood to the entire economy of north China and serving as a laboratory for the study of new phenomena in the field of urbanization.

Technological advancement has always been central in the government's agenda for a coordinated regional development and Xiongan New Area is a great example of good planning in the use of resources.

China's city of the future is now a test center for innovation based on a cutting-edge urban development model that places sustainability at its core as a way to drive economic growth while guaranteeing environmental protection and improving the living conditions of residents.

Such a futuristic ecosystem can not only offer a superior and more organized quality of life for its urban residents but also provide the government with a unique opportunity to implement integrated architectures that increase the level of interaction with citizens.

In this sense, the proliferation of digital technologies within smart cities and city clusters, such as the Jing-Jin-Ji region, presents a rare chance for authorities to study the viability of e-government solutions that can streamline the completion of public services with cooperation and coordination among regional governments favoring an efficient circulation and reallocation of technical knowledge and talent.

What is certain is that the distinguishing features of Beijing's stable banking industry and vibrant tech ecosystem, Tianjin's indispensable port for foreign trade and outstanding research and development talent, and Hebei's geographic advantage and strong industrial foundation, to name a few, remain indispensable components in the attempt to raise the status of a capital city into a truly global megalopolis with almost no equals in the rest of the world.

The author is a finance professional at the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in Beijing and a member of the China Task Force at the Italian Ministry of Economic Development 

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson 

Comments to dingying@cicgamericas.com 

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