Don’t trans­fer ur­ban dis­eases to Tongzhou

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

With Bei­jing de­cid­ing to fo­cus on its role as China’s cap­i­tal, its south­east­ern Tongzhou dis­trict is ex­pected to see re­mark­able real es­tate de­vel­op­ment by 2017 as it be­comes the city’s “sub­sidiary ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­ter”.

To re­lo­cate its non-cap­i­tal func­tions, Bei­jing will shift many in­dus­tries and or­ga­ni­za­tions to sub­ur­ban ar­eas, and neigh­bor­ingHe­bei province and Tian­jin mu­nic­i­pal­ity, boost­ing its in­te­gra­tion with the two re­gions in the process.

As the de facto “ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­ter” of Bei­jing, Tongzhou dis­trict should be able to take care of more than the city’s po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural func­tions. Fol­low­ing the shift­ing of lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tive bod­ies and ac­tiv­i­ties, Tongzhou is ex­pected to ease the traf­fic con­ges­tion in and en­vi­ron­men­tal pres­sure on the down­town area.

Be­sides, the dis­trict, now home to about 1.36 mil­lion peo­ple, will be able to pro­vide more qual­ity public ser­vices in the fields of ed­u­ca­tion, healthcare and cul­ture. With more cap­i­tal flow­ing into the Tongzhou ad­min­is­tra­tive dis­trict, top univer­si­ties and schools, hos­pi­tals, and cul­tural cen­ters, which used to be an ur­ban priv­i­lege, will also be­come avail­able to peo­ple liv­ing there.

The about 906-square-kilo­me­ter Tongzhou dis­trict can ac­com­mo­date the busi­ness and other es­tab­lish­ments which now crowd Bei­jing’s cen­tral area, be­com­ing a new­pole of re­gional growth in the post-in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion era.

Of course, Tongzhou dis­trict is sup­posed to have its own public fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices. But it does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that all ad­min­is­tra­tive func­tions and su­pe­rior public re­sources should be con­cen­trated in one area. In essence, it should be dif­fer­ent from ma­jor Chi­nese cities, in­clud­ing Bei­jing, and most pro­vin­cial cap­i­tals.

Bei­jing’s new“sub­sidiary ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­ter” should avoid the func­tional mis­takes of mono-cen­tric cities. For in­stance, mu­nic­i­pal de­part­ments for ur­ban land­scap­ing, cul­tural con­struc­tion and traf­fic man­age­ment can be lo­cated in other de­vel­op­ment zones and eco­log­i­cal con­ser­va­tion ar­eas of Bei­jing to pre­vent Tongzhou from over­flow­ing.

Pri­mary schools and sec­ondary schools, for ex­am­ple, have to be built near residential ar­eas for stu­dents’ con­ve­nience, but high schools can come up far­ther away from ad­min­is­tra­tive in­sti­tu­tions and densely pop­u­lated neigh­bor­hoods. And univer­si­ties do not have to and should not be con­cen­trated in the new­down­town area of Tongzhou. In­stead, they can be small town­ships in them­selves like Stan­fordUniver­sity in theUnited States and Cam­bridge Univer­sity in theUnited King­dom.

Like­wise, Grade III hos­pi­tals, or the best-rated ones such as the XieheHospi­tal, can be shifted, thanks to the in­creas­ingly con­ve­nient trans­porta­tion, to re­moter sub­urbs to boost lo­cal de­vel­op­ment.

To pre­vent the crit­i­cal “ur­ban dis­eases” that the cap­i­tal has suf­fered from for long, Tongzhou needs to adopt a chess­board­type ur­ban man­age­ment fea­tur­ing clearcut di­vi­sion of func­tions and be­nign in­te­gra­tion.

But Tongzhou is not yet ready to shoul­der all the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties be­cause of its de­pen­dence on the tra­di­tional ur­ban ar­eas. So it is more than nec­es­sary to straighten out a fewkey con­cepts to guide Tongzhou through its mis­sion.

A sub­sidiary ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­ter should be in­de­pen­dent of bound­aries not only in terms of space but also ur­ban func­tions. It should not be sim­ply an ex­pan­sion of down­town Bei­jing. If Tongzhou, as Bei­jing’s de facto sub­sidiary ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­ter, is not able to pro­vide lo­cal res­i­dents bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion and med­i­cal treat­ment, they will con­tinue to flock to the ur­ban dis­tricts for them.

More­over, Tongzhou’s in­dus­trial po­ten­tial lies not in man­u­fac­tur­ing but high-end ser­vices. Given the lack of wa­ter sources in Bei­jing, it should ac­com­mo­date com­pa­nies spe­cial­iz­ing in in­dus­trial de­sign and tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion that con­sume less energy and yield high out­puts. The au­thor is di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Ur­ban and En­vi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences.

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