Beijing struggles with chronic traffic congestion, choking pollution and a housing shortage. At the same time, the capital is looking to enhance its role as China’s leading first tier city and economic powerhouse. To accomplish this, the municipal government is both expanding the existing CBDs, and further developing the outlying suburbs. Even nearby cities and provinces will be integrated into a super city cluster around the capital over the next ten years.
Beijing’s municipal government is already planning to move its offices by 2017 to the Tongzhou district, a suburban area 20 km east of the city centre, making Tongzhou the city’s “sub-administrative centre”. Expectations are high, as the district is already undergoing rapid development, with house prices accelerating. This has transformed the development landscape in Beijing. More developers have now chosen Tongzhou to develop land plots to be closer to the new government offices.
This is just part of a larger regional plan, as the Central Government is also developing the “Jing-Jin-Ji” economic megalopolis, which integrates Beijing (‘Jing’), Tianjin (‘Jin’) City and Hebei Province (‘Ji’); three northern Chinese regions with a combined population of more than 100 million. Beijing will start to relocate facilities that are unrelated to its “capital functions”, such as some factories, hospitals and universities, from the city centre to the Jing-Jin-Ji cluster. Tianjin and Hebei will therefore benefit from jobs and businesses transferred from Beijing.
City clustering is an on-going urbanisation trend in China. It bundles cities around a strong urban centre with advanced rail and road networks and utilises the comparative advantage of each city to forge a strong financial and manufacturing hub. Following the success of the Pearl River Delta, clustered around Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and the Yangtze River Delta around Shanghai, the Jing-Jin-Ji region is set to become China’s third largest super-city cluster. It will cover a vast region of northern China roughly the size of U.K., France and Germany put together.
The various benefits of businesses moving from central Beijing to the Tongzhou district include more space, and less congestion and pollution. Since the release of the Government’s strategy paper on Jing-Jin-Ji in May, the trickle of removal trucks heading towards the eastern suburbs of Beijing has become a torrent of businesses, funds and services, which will propel China to a momentous new phase of economic and urban development.