The chief architect of China’s latest special economic zone said he expects to submit to the government by the end of this month a detailed proposal including plans for a high-tech garden city in one of the country’s most polluted provinces. The idea of developing the Xiongan New Area, about 100 km (60 miles) southwest of Beijing, was announced on April 1. The planned zone in Hebei province has been touted as having the same national significance as the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone that helped launch China’s economic transformation in 1980. “We estimate the proposal would be submitted to the central government for review by the end of June,” Xu Kuangdi, chief adviser for the planning of the Xiongan economic zone, said at a forum on regional development in Beijing. All infrastructure in the zone, including transport, water and electricity, will be built underground to make room for green spaces and pedestrians, Xu said on Tuesday. Inter-city transport would be “ultra-convenient”, with the commute between Xiongan and Beijing a mere 41-minute ride by high speed rail, he said. There are, however, still challenges, such as securing water supplies in such a dry area, reviving the ecology of the Baiyangdian lake, and ensuring the city is so smart and high-tech that it would “still be advanced in 100 years”, a requirement set out by President Xi Jinping.
“President Xi’s words have given us lots of pressure,” Xu said. Xu said he was inspired by the planning of Paris, saying it was similar to the ideal envisioned by Chinese experts for Xiongan. Xiongan’s core area will be about 100 square kilometres and an “expanded area” of 1,000 square kilometres.