China stresses 'steady' planning for new economic zone

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli has stressed the need for “steady” planning in an ambitious new economic zone the government has touted as a driver of growth in northern China, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday.

File photo: Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli speaks at the inaugural ceremony of Beijing organizing committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic winter games at Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China December 15, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung

The zone, in Hebei province’s Xiongan around 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Beijing, will house some of Beijing’s relocated “non-capital functions”. It is currently 100 sq km (39 sq miles) in area but will eventually be expanded to 2,000 sq km.

News last month of the scheme to set up the zone that would be modeled on the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone that helped kickstart China’s economic reforms in 1980 sent land prices soaring and prompted government warnings against speculation.

Visiting the Xiongan New Area on Saturday, Zhang said the government should “plan well before taking action and make steady efforts in planning construction”, Xinhua reported.

Zhang “stressed tight control of land, property development and neighboring regions as well as protecting historical and cultural heritage and the ecological environment”, the report added.

Zhang called for “world vision, international standards, Chinese characteristics and high goals” in planning and building new area, Xinhua said.

Green development will be given priority when selecting industries to move into the new area, with the high-tech and service sectors encouraged, Zhang said.

China is currently implementing a plan aimed at integrating the economies of Hebei, Beijing and Tianjin, a heavily polluted region known as Jing-Jin-Ji.

The development of separate “fortress economies” in the region was blamed for widening income disparities and causing a “race to the bottom” when it came to environmental law enforcement.

Beijing, home to 22 million people, is trying to curb population growth and relocate industries and other “non-capital functions” to Hebei in the coming years as part of its efforts to curb pollution and congestion.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie and Christian Schmollinger