Officials trade places to advance integration plan
Updated: 2016-07-06 14:52
SHIJIAZHUANG - When Lyu Zhenqian arrived in Chengde last year to fill a high-ranking government post, he knew little about the northern city that was once a summer resort for China's emperors.
"Before I came, my knowledge of Chengde was no better than that of an average tourist," said Lyu, 34, who has worked in government for a decade and was previously a policy researcher in Beijing's Fengtai District.
He was among 200 officials from Beijing and neighboring Hebei Province asked to swap jobs for a year, often leaving their families behind, as part of the efforts to advance regional integration.
Last July, Hebei and Beijing each sent 100 people as part of the government switch-up to help officials understand other cities across the sprawling region. The program will continue until 2020, with 200 civil servants trading places every year. Officials from nearby Tianjin Municipality are also expected to join the program.
The officials are assigned posts in another city based on their expertise, and in some cases, jobs are created for them. The exchanges last at least a year, and participating officials can apply for extensions.
BRIDGING THE MEGALOPOLIS
China rolled out the integration plan for Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei in 2015to address urban problems such as traffic and air pollution and seek balanced development of the region.
Under the plan, Beijing will act as the political and administrative center, while Tianjin will be a hub for R&D and shipping and Hebei will serve as an industrial zone and ecological buffer area.
Zhang Gui, an expert on Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei integration at Hebei University of Technology, said officials who participated in the first year of the exchange have been enthusiastic about the program.
"The officials have served as bridges, connecting different departments and industries and improving cooperation," said Zhang.
"Many program participants said they have a deeper understanding of what needs to be done to achieve integration," he said.
"Changing posts has helped officials see the bigger picture and reach beyond city divides," said Zhang.
As deputy director of Chengde's development and reform department, Lyu Zhenqian has spent a lot of time visiting the 11 districts and counties under the city's jurisdiction.
According to the regional integration plan, Chengde, located a three-hour drive northeast of Beijing, will play an important role in water conservation for the urban cluster. The city's Chaohe River supplies water to the Miyun Reservoir, Beijing's largest water source.
Lyu helped Chengde secure more than 22 million yuan (3.29 million U.S. dollars) from Beijing's water resources fund, about four million more than the year before. The money will be used to fund irrigation facilities, village landfills and reforestation programs in Chengde.
Lyu has also helped the city develop industry, such as agricultural processing, to create jobs without damaging the environment.
"I came to realize that though Beijing is the capital, it should not siphon away all the resources and stand on its own if it wants clean air, clean water and a well-functioning metropolis," he said.
Liang Zhonglin, vice mayor of Zhuozhou, a small city in Hebei, has been enjoying his new gig in Beijing's Zhongguancun, often called "China's Silicon Valley." As a human resources official on the Zhongguancun Management Committee, he has gotten to know some of China's most talented tech experts.
"Zhongguancun is a well of innovation, but many of its creations are taken to cities in the Yangtze River Delta, or further down south to the Pearl River Delta, which have better industrial infrastructure to turn ideas into products," he said.
"Hebei needs to increase its appeal to innovators," he said.
In January, Zhuozhou and Zhongguancun signed an agreement to support entrepreneurship.
Changes have already been happening in Zhuozhou and further east. Caofeidian District, an industrial zone near the Bohai Sea, is expanding quickly with new companies, hospitals and schools.
Shui Yong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Investment Promotion Bureau, has been assigned to serve as vice mayor of Tangshan City and chief coordinator for Caofeidian District as part of the exchange.
In 2015, Caofeidian signed 75 deals with Beijing and Tianjin, with total investment of more than 245 billion yuan, he said. Construction has also started on a new campus of Jingshan School, one of Beijing's best middle schools.
"The integration plan is not new. It was first talked about 20 years ago, but it was never real like it is now," said Wang Yukai, professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance.
"The three regions differ in their stages of development. Integrating them is a tough job, but clearly, people are making a difference," he said.
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