How to help Bei­jing re­duce its ur­ban woes

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

With the “ur­ban dis­ease” be­com­ing in­creas­ingly ev­i­dent in Bei­jing, re­lo­ca­tion of de­part­ments with non-cap­i­tal func­tions out­side the city has be­come a se­ri­ous is­sue. State cap­i­tals across the world have huge ad­van­tages over other cities. This is es­pe­cially true for China, be­cause Bei­jing has al­ways been the most ro­bust cen­ter of Chi­nese so­ci­ety. Be­cause of its ad­van­tages in draw­ing tal­ents, and as a cen­ter of in­for­ma­tion, cul­ture and tech­nol­ogy, Bei­jing has been a mag­net for peo­ple.

It is this mag­netism, along with Chi­nese peo­ple’s tra­di­tional viewof see­ing the cap­i­tal as an all-em­brac­ing so­cial core, that is largely re­spon­si­ble for Bei­jing’s over­pop­u­la­tion. It has also made it the hub of a huge num­ber of com­pa­nies, with de­te­ri­o­rat­ing en­vi­ron­ment and poor ur­ban man­age­ment.

The de­vel­op­ment of a cap­i­tal em­bod­ies the grad­ual ma­tu­rity and ex­pan­sion of cap­i­tal func­tions, as well as the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of non-cap­i­tal func­tions. But the cap­i­tal and non-cap­i­tal func­tions of such cities have be­come more com­pli­cated in mod­ern times, and made how to strike a bal­ance be­tween the two a key is­sue.

The ques­tion of mod­i­fy­ing Bei­jing’s func­tions is not only about a change in peo­ple’s mind­set, but also about in­no­va­tive prac­tices and deep­en­ing re­form and open­ing-up. Cap­i­tals across the world have non-cap­i­tal func­tions and their pro­por­tion could in­flu­ence the ur­ban man­age­ment sys­tems. So while re­lo­cat­ing Bei­jing’s non-cap­i­tal func­tion de­part­ments to the Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei re­gion, spe­cial care should be taken to avoid con­fus­ing be­tween the cap­i­tal’s two ex­clu­sive func­tions of ad­min­is­tra­tion and pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity and ser­vices.

Since many of the ur­ban ills are caused by over­pop­u­la­tion, the aim of the ex­er­cise should be to re­lo­cate de­part­ments and in­sti­tu­tions with high num­bers of em­ploy­ees. The author­i­ties could start by re­lo­cat­ing some de­part­ments to neigh­bor­ing ar­eas. Of course, we can­not re­duce the co­he­sive­ness and ap­peal of cer­tain de­part­ments, but in this age of in­for­ma­tion and mod­ern­ized trans­porta­tion, they need not be lo­cated in the heart of the cap­i­tal to fully per­form their func­tions.

The need is also to shift from Bei­jing’s cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments that drawhuge num­bers of peo­ple, such as whole­sale mar­kets and la­bor-in­ten­sive in­dus­tries.

But since very few­cou­ples work for the same com­pany or or­ga­ni­za­tion, en­sur­ing proper re­set­tle­ment of fam­i­lies in which ei­ther the wife or the hus­band is af­fected by the re­lo­ca­tion of en­ter­prises will be a big chal­lenge. Should the non-af­fected spouse re­sign and move with the one af­fected, or should the fam­ily live apart?

More­over, given the sur­feit of op­por­tu­ni­ties in the Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei re­gion, it is very at­trac­tive to po­ten­tial mi­grants. So if ef­fec­tive pop­u­la­tion con­trol mea­sures are not taken, the re­gion will face the same prob­lems that Bei­jing is en­coun­ter­ing to­day. To tackle such fu­ture prob­lems, and solve the ex­ist­ing ones, dis­creet plan­ning and im­ple­men­ta­tion are needed.

Ef­fec­tive re­lo­ca­tion of de­part­ments and in­sti­tu­tions with non-cap­i­tal func­tions re­quires com­plete aware­ness of all the causes of Bei­jing’s over­pop­u­la­tion fol­lowed by adop­tion and im­ple­men­ta­tion of pre­cau­tion­ary poli­cies and mea­sures to deal with them.

Another ef­fec­tive long-term plan is the pro­mo­tion of bal­anced so­cial de­vel­op­ment across the coun­try, be­cause the “ur­ban dis­ease” Bei­jing is suf­fer­ing from is the re­sult of na­tion­wide un­bal­anced re­source al­lo­ca­tion and so­cial de­vel­op­ment. Only by break­ing the ex­ist­ing rigid sys­tem of ad­min­is­tra­tive di­vi­sion can co­or­di­nated de­vel­op­ment in the Bei­jing-Tian­jin-He­bei re­gion be gen­uinely re­al­ized.

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