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Beijing's future arrives early

05-30-2011 08:56 BJT

BEIJING, May 30 (Xinhuanet) -- The rapidity of the changes around us means plans are forever playing catch up.

Changes in Beijing's demographic statistics have occurred so rapidly that the city's 2005 plan to be prepared for a 20-million population by 2020 is already obsolete 10 years ahead of time. Though change is arguably the defining characteristic of the country, a 10-year discrepancy between reality and the plan is conspicuous by any standard. By Nov 1, 2010, the city's resident population had surpassed 19.6 million, according to the sixth national census, so the corresponding urban development blueprint needs to be redrawn to accommodate this state of affairs.

A central task - and also pressure - on the shoulders of local development planners is to deal with the outstanding mismatch between the ever-expanding size of the metropolis and tightening resource supplies. A shortage of water, for instance, is emerging as a real restraint on the city's development ambitions. Per capita water reserves in Beijing are reportedly one-tenth of the internationally accepted alert level. And each and every one of its traditional and potential water suppliers is now suffering from drought.

The previous emphasis on "satellite cities" - or at least the way it was implemented - has proved a failure in remedying the city's headaches. Instead, we see the revival of an earlier development blueprint, which places Beijing in the context of the "Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei delta", a blueprint that has been on the drawing board for decades, yet had until recently received little serious attention.

Coordinating and integrating the development plans of the three adjoining areas would appear to be a matter of course, yet we are talking about three separate province-level administrative entities. Even integrating Beijing and Tianjin, two municipalities under the direct jurisdiction of the State Council, would be difficult.

If the new regional planning process follows the traditional centralized approach, where the surrounding areas always play a supporting role, there is little chance that Beijing will be able to ease its current headaches. Even in the best-case scenario, it would merely transfer some of its troubles onto its neighbors.

Super metropolises in China have become what they are mainly because of the uneven - and indeed unfair - allocation of public resources sanctioned by the government. To balance the national development picture, there is no other option but to redirect the flow of public resources away from the privileged major cities to the rest of the country.

A similar process of decentralization is unavoidable for Beijing because unless a considerable part of the lucrative resources in Beijing are transferred to neighboring areas, there is little hope of reducing its ever-growing population.

 

Editor:Du Xiaodan |Source: Xinhua

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