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Several Chinese cities restructure administrative divisions

07-07-2010 14:43 BJT Special Report:

Beijing recently released the administrative division adjustment program involving the core city proper: the four districts located in the center of Beijing, including Dongcheng, Chongwen, Xicheng and Xuanwu, will be replaced by two new core areas with capital functions, the Dongcheng district and the Xicheng district. The Dongcheng district, where the Forbidden City is located, and the Xicheng district, where the Zhongnanhai is located, will expand southward. This adjustment has attracted wide attention.

Several cities in China, including Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Xiamen and Shenyang, have implemented administrative division reform and adjustment during the past year. In addition, except for the municipalities, special economic zones and provincial capital cities mentioned above, some large or medium-sized cities have also implemented, or are prepared to implement, the administrative division adjustment.

Professor Jiao Hongchang from the China University of Political Science and Law pointed out that administrative division adjustments are generally associated with economic development. As the economy is developing to a certain degree, it is necessary to break through the traditional boundaries of administrative divisions, therefore inevitably leading to changes in those administrative divisions.

"The scope of the current adjustments is very large and may form a trend in China,” said Professor Jiao, “or will at least serve as a demonstration."

Beijing city proper has made the adjustments to integrate and make better use resources

The State Council recently approved adjustments to the core area administrative divisions of the Beijing municipal government to serve new capital functions. It agreed to repeal Beijing’s existing Dongcheng and Chongwen districts and establish a new Dongcheng district of Beijing, as well as repeal Beijing’s existing Xicheng and Xuanwu districts and establish a new Xicheng district of Beijing. After the adjustment, the area of the new Dongcheng district will reach more than 41.8 square kilometers with resident population of 865,000, and the area of the new Xicheng district will reach 50.7 square kilometers with resident population of more than 1.2 million.

Du Liqun, vice president of the Beijing Academy of Urban Planning and Design, said that as Chongwen and Xuanwu district are the two smallest and the least populated districts among the 18 administrative divisions in Beijing, their development spaces were limited and their economic and social development lagged behind the northern part of the core area. The current administrative division adjustment will allow administrative divisions to share administrative resources and make urban management more flexible. It will also help bridge the gap between the economic and social development of the northern and southern regions of Beijing in a certain range, as well as play to Beijing’s core function as the national capital.

According to sources, there are four advantages in the current administrative division adjustment of the core areas of Beijing: first, it is conducive to promoting the balanced development of the northern and southern regions of the core area; second, it is conducive to improving the carrying capacity and service level of the core area; third, it is conducive to enhancing the overall protection of the historical and cultural features of the city; and lastly, it is also conducive to reducing administrative costs and improving administrative efficiency.

"The current adjustment of administrative divisions has had a large impact on Beijing’s development space. The development of the four existing districts has always been unbalanced. The development of Dongcheng and Xicheng districts were relatively fast while the development of Xuanwu and Chongwen districts has been relatively slow. The Chongwen and Xuanwu districts have development space but no money while the Dongcheng and Xicheng districts have money but no development space," said Professor Jiao. The merging of four districts will ease the problem of having an unbalanced development space, so that the development of the southern and northern regions will stay balanced. Meanwhile, it will also greatly improve administrative efficiency and reduce problems such as repetitious management, as well as prevent competition for projects from a small range.

Professor Jiao added that the current administrative division adjustment is one aspect of the "Big Beijing Strategy." As Beijing has been busy hosting the 2008 Olympic Games and the 60th Anniversary National Day Ceremony in the past few years, it is possible that Beijing has lagged behind cities like Shanghai and Tianjin if Beijing has had no major strategic measures regarding economic development.

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