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Easing Beijing's burden a long-term process

China Daily | Updated: 2017-12-19 08:31

Editor's note: Tongzhou, Beijing's new administrative sub-center, will receive its first batch of "newcomers" and officially start functioning on Dec 20. An estimated 400,000 people are expected to shift east of Beijing to Tongzhou. Two experts share their views with China Daily's Zhang Zhouxiang and Liu Jianna on what the administration's shift means for Tongzhou and Beijing. Excerpts follow:

Capital's population should be reduced

The aims of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integrated development is to shift the non-capital functions from and reduce the population density in urban Beijing, realize coordinated development of the region and better protect the environment. To fulfill this goal, Tongzhou, a district in the eastern part of Beijing municipality, was chosen as the new administrative sub-center of the capital.

But some people argue that Beijing's population density is far from optimum, and it has not fully utilized the human resources at its disposal and can still accommodate more people, because despite being larger than Tokyo in size, its population is smaller than the Japanese capital's.

Such people forget that in terms of water and land resources, Beijing is more strained than Tokyo owing to its relatively small per capita water resources. And in terms of plain area, Beijing's population density is 3,349 people per square kilometer, 733 more than Tokyo's.

Shifting the non-capital functions from and reducing the population density of Tokyo has for long been a priority for the Japanese capital city's government, and there is no reason for the Beijing local government not to do the same, perhaps with more urgency. But while doing so, the Beijing government should play a pro-active role in building the sub-center rather than leaving it entirely for the market forces to decide. The integration of cities or regions is a double-edged sword in which individuals and society, as well as the size of a place work together and against each other.

As the benefits and drawbacks of integration are partly delivered by non-price mechanisms, termed technological externalities by economists, the integration and layout of a city cannot be determined by market mechanisms alone - the active participation of the government is necessary.

Even in the United States, the government is involved in the management of cities in various ways. And given the continuous improvement of socialist market economy in China, the scope and mode of governments' involvement in the management of cities should be progressive and customized.

According to the Outline Plan of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Integrated Development, the population density of Beijing in 2030 should be less than what it was in 2014. But the process of reducing the population density may turn out be a bell curve, not a straight line, due to the low urbanization level in Beijing's outskirts and unbalanced regional development. Because of the influence of several factors, including the integration effect, Beijing's population will experience slow expansion at first and then gradually decline after 2020. In other words, reducing Beijing's population density will be a long-term process.

Yang Kaizhong, vice-president of Capital University of Economics and Business

Multi-pronged approach to cure 'urban diseases'

The administrative units of the central government and the Beijing municipal government are located within the Third Ring Road, putting enormous pressure on local transportation and population capacity. According to the Outline Plan of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Integrated Development, one of the main purposes of building Tongzhou as the administrative sub-center is to alleviate traffic congestion in Beijing's central area. And since a considerable number of service industry personnel are expected to follow the administrative units to Tongzhou, the load of traffic in the city center is expected to reduce.

Of course, Tongzhou's transportation capacity will be put to severe test, because most of the civil servants working for the Beijing municipal government have their households registered in the downtown area, meaning they are not eligible to buy a house in Tongzhou under the current policies and have to shuttle between Beijing and the new sub-center. So for a certain period of time Tongzhou will face some traffic problems.

But what exactly does the migration of 400,000 people mean for the transportation system of Tongzhou and how can the local government manage this problem deserve attention. Besides, considering the huge inflow of migrants, Tongzhou will be under pressure to accommodate more people than expected.

Therefore, the authorities must adopt a multi-pronged approach to deal with the many problems that the rapid urbanization and integration of mega-cities give rise to. In fact, building a sub-center is only one of the many measures the government should take to help ease the urbanization burden on Beijing. It should improve its management capacity to better govern Beijing, for which it must put to use the latest technologies including big data, artificial intelligence, shared economy and "Smart City".

Shen Chi, deputy director of China Center for Urban Development affiliated to the National Development and Reform Commission


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