A development plan for cooperation between Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province (Jing-Jin-Ji) has recently been submitted for approval by the State Council, indicating that a solid step is being made toward the unified development of the three locations. This will be a milestone for China's regional economic development as well as representing one of the effective measures to control smoggy weather.
In recent years, in order to make up for the development gaps between different areas, several economic regions have been established, each containing neighboring provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. Experience indicates that this strategy works well in boosting regional economic growth.
A heavy smog has settled over Beijing and its neighboring regions since last year, impelling the Central Government to coordinate industrial layout and economic development in the three areas. The Jing-Jin-Ji integrated development plan has a promising future once China has completed the measures required to accelerate economic restructuring. It will bring about three benefits, at the very least.
The scheme has the potential to reduce environmental pollution. Hebei, which surrounds Beijing and Tianjin, has an industrial structure mainly relying on the production of steel and cement, in addition to other industries with high energy consumption and high pollution. An important goal for the coordinated development is to reduce smog across the area as a whole. The Central Government requires that the three locations strengthen cooperation in ecological and environmental protection, and, based on the already initiated coordination program for air-pollution control, further improve cooperation campaigns in the building of shelter forests, the protection of water sources, water pollution control and the promotion of clean energy applications.
The scheme will also be able to alleviate the "bloat" in Beijing and balance development in Tianjin and Hebei. Too many resources have been funneled into the nation's capital, causing problems such as a boom in population, traffic jams and a huge strain on resources. Appropriately, cutting the size of Beijing and reducing its economic functions are the key to solving these problems. Moreover, the three locations at present have overlapping industrial structures. The Central Government will require these areas to redefine existing functions, industrial division, urban layouts, supporting facilities and comprehensive communication networks.
For coordinated development, the three locations also need to build and expand public utilities, and companies will need to carry out energy-saving renovation after relocation. These will provide new investment opportunities. Through learning from the experience of developed economies in smog control, green industries can address the urgent needs of the integration process. The integration of the proposed Jing-Jin-Ji area will certainly not be realized within a short period of time. We hope the three locations can together embark on a journey toward coordinated development based on mutual benefit as soon as possible.