BEIJING, May 22, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Standing in the middle of a massive construction site with a strong, gusty wind and constant construction noise in the background, Fu Xing, a mid-aged, bespectacled construction manager with a slight figure can barely be heard. Wearing his typical workman outfit – a white hard hat and a blue vest, Fu tries to explain what is being built and its national significance. But around him, nothing really stands out about the project, except for the sheer size of the site.
"This will be built into a national demonstration project for TOD," Fu says in a firm, proud tone, using the acronym for transit-oriented development, an emerging global trend in urban planning that optimizes the use of land and maximizes access to public transportation. "The large size of the complex construction is rare to see in China and even the world."
The project, an inter-city railway station and an international trade center, is one of the most important projects in Xiong’an New Area, in North China’s Hebei Province, about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing.
Xiong’an has been dubbed the "city of the future," the development of which is a national project of millennial significance. President Xi Jinping has been personally involved in making decisions and plans to develop Xiong’an.
On May 10, Xi, also the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, inspected Xiong’an and presided over a meeting on promoting its development. The transformation of the Xiong’an New Area from ground zero to an emerging sophisticated modern city within a mere six years is miraculous, Xi remarked, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
In April 2017, China announced plans to set up the Xiong’an New Area, which would be on par with the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area. The development of Xiong’an embodies many long-term development goals for China, including high-quality, innovation-driven, and green development, and ultimate Chinese modernization, experts noted.
Underscoring the significance of Xiong’an, Xi has visited the city three times since 2017. During the latest trip on May 10, Xi visited various places in the city, including the construction sites of an inter-city railway station and an international trade center, where he learned about the development of key infrastructure projects and major projects launched for the purpose of relieving Beijing of functions nonessential to its role as the capital.
Xi said more efforts should be made to develop a multifaceted and integrated transportation network and make full use of underground space so as to build a "city of the future" free of urban maladies.
"President Xi was standing right here at this spot. Right here," highlighted Fu, assistant to the general manager of Xiongshang Development Company under China Xiong‘an Group, as he vividly recalls the trip with palpable excitement. "We were very happy to witness this scene."
With an investment of 20.9 billion yuan ($2.99 billion), the site has a total of construction area of 1.6 million square meters, covering different building units, such as rail, office buildings, and hotels.
As an important transportation hub in Xiong’an, the complex is composed of four different rails, including one high-speed railway line, an R1 to terminal, and two sub lines, as well as different buildings, transforming the complex into a region with offices, hotels, apartments, as well as rail transit, and aviation services, Fu told the Global Times.
All the transfer can be realized under the ground upon completion, Fu said, adding that the farthest transfer distance does not exceed 270 meters, and it can realize a transfer to any rail in three-minute at the same-floor.
While the inter-city railway station and an international trade center, among many other major projects are still under construction, many have also been completed and Xiong’an’s calling cards of being a smart, green, and innovative are already taking shape.
By the end of 2022, Xiong’an had already seen an inflow of more than 510 billion yuan in investment earmarked for 240 major projects, according to the China Media Group. Another 270 key projects are expected to be launched in 2023, with a total investment of 664 billion yuan. Also, state-owned enterprises have set up more than 140 institutions in the city. Thousands of companies, most of which specialize in science and technology, have been registered in Xiong’an.
A tale of two cities
Another iconic project that has been completed and put into use is the Xiong’an Railway Station, which is connected to Beijing via the high-speed railway. On May 10, Xi took a high-speed train and arrived at the station.
The railway station is designed as a transportation hub, Xi said, emphasizing the need to improve the connectivity of the station with various places.
Located along the railway linking Beijing and Xiong’an New Area, the intercity railway section was officially made operational on December 17, 2020. Aerial photo shows that the station is in the shape of water drop ellipse, echoing the water culture of the Xiong’an New Area.
As the first major infrastructure project started being constructed in the Xiong’an New Area, it is currently the largest railway station in Asia, with an area six times the size of the Beijing Railway Station.
This comprehensive transportation hub has combined high-speed and intercity rails, and subway connectivity together, helping boost the integration of the Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei cluster.
Currently, there are 17 pairs of high-speed trains shuttling between Beijing and Xiong’an daily. On May 14, it has marked 869 days of safe operation, having completed 1.44 million passenger trips, Liu Dongmei, a staffer at the Xiong’an Railway Station, told the Global Times.
Liu added that the passengers are mainly builders, business people commuting to and from Daxing Airport, and tourists.
It will take 19 minutes to complete a commute from Xiong’an Railway Station to Beijing Daxing International Airport, and less than one hour to the Beijing West Railway Station, Liu added.
"Taking the high-speed train between Beijing and Xiong’an has been my working habit since 2021," Meng Hongwei, deputy director of XiongAn Blockchain Lab with Intelligent City Innovation Federation of Xiong’an, told the Global Times. "The high-speed train has made the two cities of Beijing and Xiong’an seem like one."
The blockchain lab, which was established in 2020, with the goal of conducting research on and applying blockchain technologies and concepts to the construction of a new smart city, also highlights Xiong’an’s focus on innovation.
To the west out of the Xiong’an Railway Station sits the Rongdong area of the Xiong’an New Area, where there are estates of residential buildings and trees, which differs entirely from the usual sight in the rural areas of North China.
As one of the first areas to be built up in Xiong’an the New Area, the Rongdong region has an area of 12.7 square kilometers and a planned population of about 170,000.
In his visit on May 10, Xi visited a residential community that is home to 5,000-plus relocated residents. There, Xi chatted with community workers and residents, expressing his satisfaction with the good living conditions of the residents.
He also highlighted the importance of ensuring the relocated residents live well and have satisfactory jobs.
Promoting equal access to basic public services is crucial in building a people’s city that is both livable and conducive to doing business, Xi noted.
"I was nervous before President Xi visited, but was relaxed after seeing him. He is so kind to everyone," Wang Weixiao, Party Secretary of the Nanwenying community, recalled.
The service center of the Nanwenying community is not big but has a clear layout. On the left side is the residents’ activity room, where residents can read books and deal with various self-services, and on the right is the service station, where community workers can provide 45 services, including government-related ones to residents.
"Moving into this community is a day I never thought would happen, as the environment is quite clean, and it is even hard to see a single cigarette butt, not to mention the greenery," 47-year-old Xiao Qiuyun told the Global Times.
In the past, I worked in a garment factory, and I needed to overwork to make more money, but now my income is almost the same as before, but I am less tired, she said.
What makes me more satisfied is that education getting better as far as I know my child’s teachers are selected from other high-quality cities, something that was hard to even imagine in the past, Xiao said.
According to the plan, Xiong’an will form a "15-minute living circle," that is, the residents can walk 5 minutes to send children to kindergartens, walk 10 minutes to vegetable markets and primary schools, and 15 minutes to hospitals and middle schools.
Mapping out the future
During the inspection, Xi stressed the need to give the people a more concrete sense of fulfillment and happiness through the development of the new area. He also called for enhancing policies that guide employment and entrepreneurship, as well as bolstering employment training programs. He encouraged the area to blaze a new path in narrowing the gap between urban and rural areas, advancing integrated urban-rural development, and promoting common prosperity for all.
"Xiong’an is a sample of China’s modernization, and the sample is people-oriented," Ye Tanglin, a city planning expert with the Capital University of Economics and Business, told the Global Times.
From top-tier planning to scientific innovation and low carbon development, Xiong’an has set an example of high-quality development, and currently, what Xiong’an is set to become is in sight.
On Saturday, the application process for the points-based permanent residence declaration for the Xiong’an New Area for 2023 started.
The points-based system was introduced on January 1, 2021 with more detailed guidance issued on December 31, 2021, aiming to attract more talent to settle in the region. In 2022, 324 people had qualified for settlement through the points-based mechanism, marking the first batch of eligible people under the system.
Local officials noted that the new points-based system aims to open the doors to as many talented people as possible, laying a foundation for the area’s future development.
While much of that work is still underway, many in Xiong’an like Fu are already seeing the beautiful light at the end of the development tunnel. "By the middle of next year, the whole construction site will be full of lights shining at the cranes in the nights, and the scene will be spectacular," Fu said.