For residents of the sleepy county of Xiong in smoggy Hebei province, Saturday’s announcement by China’s state news agency that it would become the centre of a new special economic zone, handpicked by President Xi Jinping, was a bolt out of the blue.
Xiongxian rocketed overnight from a forgotten backwater spot on China’s economic map to the darling of mainland investors after Xinhua said the Xiongan New Area, covering three rural counties – Xiong, Rongcheng and Anxin – would be as important for China in the future as Shenzhen in the 1980s and Shanghai Pudong in the 1990s.
....Luxury vehicles with Beijing or Tianjin number plates filled the dusty streets of Xiongxian, causing traffic jams at main intersections and parking beside small noodle shops and donkey burger stalls.
At a restaurant selling a bowl of noodles for eight yuan, the boss said business had boomed after the government’s announcement. “Many of my new customers came from Beijing, trying to speculate in property here,” he said.
Straits Times: Xiongan is China's new special economic zone
The removal of non-capital functions 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.
With that strategy, the authorities intend to transform the region into a new growth pole as China's economy slows.
The decision to set up the Xiongan New Area is a key stroke in solving urban woes and creating new growth, said a commentary carried by the website of the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party.
The move will also explore a new model of optimised development in densely populated areas and restructure the urban layout in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, according to the circular.
The Xiongan New Area is 100 sq km in area now but will eventually be expanded to 2,000 sq km.