RE­GION GOES FOR GOLD

Bei­jing’s suc­cess­ful bid for the 2022 Win­ter Olympics has given new im­pe­tus to the de­vel­op­ment of an ag­glom­er­a­tion tak­ing in the cap­i­tal, Tian­jin and He­bei province, re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS -

Al­most as soon as the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee an­nounced seven weeks ago that Bei­jing would host the Win­ter Olympics in 2022, eco­nomic fun­da­men­tals in the cap­i­tal, and more par­tic­u­larly its co-host city Zhangji­akou, be­gan to shift.

Some prop­erty de­vel­op­ers in the town 220 kilo­me­ters north­west of Bei­jing raised their prices 50 per­cent within min­utes of Thomas Bach, pres­i­dent of the IOC, de­liv­er­ing the de­ci­sion in the Malaysian cap­i­tal, Kuala Lumpur.

Also fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment, there seemed to be a de­cided air of ex­cite­ment in Chongli county, Zhangji­akou city, He­bei province — a main com­pe­ti­tion venue for the Games — as gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and busi­nesses con­tem­plated the ben­e­fits that stag­ing the event from Feb 4 to Feb 24 in 2022 will reap them.

How­ever, it is un­like the Bei­jing Olympics in 2008, when China was anx­ious to demon­strate to the world its abil­ity to host a huge in­ter­na­tional event and at the same time pro­mote the cap­i­tal and the coun­try as places to visit and to do busi­ness. Those or­ga­niz­ing the 2022 Games are un­der no such pres­sure.

In­stead, many econ­o­mists and in­dus­trial ex­perts re­gard the Games as a spring­board that will give a huge fil­lip to the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s plans to de­velop the cities of Bei­jing, Tian­jin and the sur­round­ing province of He­bei as one mighty ag­glom­er­a­tion. That idea has been ges­tat­ing for sev­eral years now, but it was only in April that de­tailed plans re­ceived the im­pri­matur of the coun­try’s top lead­ers.

Fur­ther­more, the com­pre­hen­sive plans for the Bei­jingTian­jin-He­bei ag­glom­er­a­tion, whose pop­u­la­tion is 100 mil­lion, are be­ing seen as a pos­si­ble model for ur­ban­iza­tion as the coun­try adapts to a slower, dif­fer­ent kind of eco­nomic growth, says Li Guop­ing, pro­fes­sor of the School of Gov­ern­ment at Pek­ing Univer­sity.

“Host­ing the Win­ter Olympics will ob­vi­ously boost the co­or­di­nated de­vel­op­ment of Jing-jin-ji,” he says, re­fer­ring to the Chi­nese ab­bre­vi­a­tion by which the three ju­ris­dic­tions are known.

Apart from events that will be held in Bei­jing and in Zhangji­akou in 2022, oth­ers will be held in Yan­qing county, 90 kilo­me­ters north­west of the cap­i­tal.

Be­fore the an­nounce­ment of Bei­jing’s win­ning bid, Wang An­shun, the mayor of Bei­jing, said that ap­ply­ing for the Games and do­ing so suc­cess­fully would ac­cel­er­ate the city’s build­ing of trans­port and other in­fra­struc­ture as well as plan­ning for growth.

“The Games will re­sult in im­proved healthcare, ed­u­ca­tion and other ba­sic public ser­vices and pro­mote sports cul­ture, tourism, leisure and the growth of many other low­car­bon in­dus­tries. In par­tic­u­lar it will speed up the im­ple­men­ta­tion of mea­sures to tackle the prob­lem of air pol­lu­tion, pro­mote em­ploy­ment in eco­nom­i­cally de­prived ar­eas and pro­mote the com­bined, sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of Bei­jing and Zhangji­akou.”

Though eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the past 30 years or so has been rapid across the coun­try, Li says, there has been an im­bal­ance be­tween growth in big cities and in small ones, on top of wide re­gional eco­nomic dis­par­i­ties. Many big cities have faced se­vere so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges, he says.

Jing-jin-ji is typ­i­cal of this. Bei­jing ful­fills many func­tions apart from its role as a cap­i­tal, bring­ing it se­ri­ous ur­ban prob­lems, in­clud­ing a high pop­u­la­tion, road con­ges­tion, air pol­lu­tion and soar­ing prop­erty prices. At the same time the three ar­eas have had to grap­ple with de­pleted ground­wa­ter re­sources and en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion, prob­lems con­trast­ing sharply with an abun­dance of other nat­u­ral re­sources and ro­bust eco­nomic growth.

“The re­gional chal­lenges mean that co­or­di­nated de­vel­op­ment is ur­gent, and in

Li Guop­ing, in­te­gra­tion the pri­or­ity will be trans­fer­ring the func­tions un­re­lated to Bei­jing’s sta­tus as the cap­i­tal city to Tian­jin and He­bei,” says Ji De­jiang, part­ner and vice-pres­i­dent for Greater China of Roland Berger Strat­egy Con­sul­tants.

As the coun­try has pressed ahead with re­form and open­ing-up, the eco­nomic epi­cen­ter that is the Pearl River Delta has grown, as has the Yangtze River Delta area, on the back of an in­flow of for­eign cap­i­tal, and that has mo­ti­vated in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies to en­ter the Chi­nese mar­ket.

How­ever, now the coun­try faces the prob­lem of how it can in­no­vate afresh and de­velop new en­gines for growth as it grap­ples with the so-called new eco­nomic nor­mal and the prob­lems that ear­lier growth have brought. The co­or­di­nated growth of Jing-jin-ji, with Bei­jing a cen­ter of in­no­va­tion, stands ready to act as an ex­am­ple, says Zhu Zhenxin, a re­searcher with Min­sheng Se­cu­ri­ties in Bei­jing.

The Win­ter Olympics had ear­lier been fac­tored into the blue­print of Jing-jin-ji’s de­vel­op­ment, and this is likely to be­come more ev­i­dent when flesh is put on the bones of that plan, to be made public later this year.

In the blue­print, in­te­grat­ing the re­gion’s trans­port, en­vi­ron­men­tal de­vel­op­ment and in­dus­trial trans­fer and up­grad­ing have been at the fore­front, and the Games de­vel­op­ment plan will fit on top of that.

Ji, of Roland Berger, who has been ad­vis­ing gov­ern­ments and com­pa­nies mak­ing plans for Jing-jin-ji, says all par­ties ea­gerly await the de­tailed plan. Work on that is likely to be speeded up as a re­sult of Bei­jing hav­ing re­ceived the nod for the Games, he says.

In­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion hap­pens to be the most ur­gent task for the Games and for Jing-jin-ji, too. All Olympic events on ice will be held in Bei­jing, most of the venues hav­ing been built for the 2008 Games, and events on snow will be held in Yan­qing, most of them in Zhangji­akou, at an al­ti­tude of more than 2,000 me­ters, and where a ski re­sort has been op­er­at­ing since 2008.

Eco­nomic hopes have long been pinned on Zhangji­akou. Its GDP was 136 bil­lion yuan ($21.4 bil­lion) last year, 4.7 per­cent of the whole of He­bei. The city has 17 coun­ties, 10 of which are im­pov­er­ished by na­tional stan­dards.

“The north­west of Bei­jing is moun­tain­ous, so build­ing up trans­port there is more dif­fi­cult and ex­pen­sive than is the case with other ar­eas nearby,” says Chen Jian, di­rec­tor of the Bei­jing-Zhangji­akou Win­ter Olympics Re­search Cen­ter.

“Be­cause gov­ern­ments have tended to do the easy jobs first, the re­gion’s trans­port lags that of other ar­eas, but for the Games the trans­port de­fi­cien­cies in north­ern He­bei, par­tic­u­larly in Zhangji­akou city, re­ally need to be fixed.

An im­por­tant el­e­ment of that ef­fort will be a high-speed rail link, ear­marked to open by about 2019, that will whisk pas­sen­gers from Bei­jing to Chongli in just 50 min­utes, com­pared with the present three to four hours drive. An ex­press­way from Bei­jing to Chongli and many more new roads are planned, and two air­ports will be built.

“What the Games are go­ing to do is cre­ate im­por­tant trans­port links in Jing-jin-ji, and these will ben­e­fit Zhangji­akou in par­tic­u­lar,” Chen says. “Over the next few years the Games will help Zhangji­akou fi­nally shed its cloak of poverty. If things go ac­cord­ing to plan, Chongli will be­come a shin­ing city that even­tu­ally will be renowned for its leisure and tourism in­dus­tries.”

Zhao Qiong, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor at Gent­ing Re­sort Se­cret Gar­den, a win­ter re­sort lo­cated where Games events will be held, says that this month more than 8,000 con­struc­tion work­ers are to start work on fa­cil­i­ties for the Games.

The re­sort now has 35 pistes, and another 53 will be built be­fore 2022, three years ear­lier than had been planned. Gent­ing has a five-star ho­tel there, and another five will be built soon, Zhao says.

On July 27 China Busi­ness News re­ported that author­i­ties were for­mu­lat­ing the coun­try’s first re­gional air con­trol plan and that con­trol mea­sures in Jing-jin-ji were top of the agenda. Five days ear­lier, Bei­jing and Tian­jin had pledged 860 mil­lion yuan in fund­ing to sup­port air qual­ity con­trol in He­bei, the mag­a­zine said, and 5.9 bil­lion yuan would be spent on such mea­sures in Jing-jin-ji this year.

“The gov­ern­ment has pledged to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment, and steps be­ing taken now are mak­ing that a re­al­ity,” says Wu Qi, man­ag­ing part­ner and CEO of Roland Berger Greater China. “Host­ing the Games brings with it in­ter­na­tional scru­tiny, and that is go­ing to speed up the im­ple­men­ta­tion of pol­lu­tion con­trol mea­sures for the re­gion and bring other mea­sures for pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Host­ing the Win­ter Olympics will ob­vi­ously boost the co­or­di­nated de­vel­op­ment of Jing-jin-ji.”

pro­fes­sor of the School of Gov­ern­ment at Pek­ing Univer­sity

Con­tact the writer at cheny­ingqun@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A ban­ner pro­motes Bei­jing’s 2022 Win­ter Olympic Games at a ski re­sort in Chongli, Zhangji­akou, He­bei province.

A girl cel­e­brates the win­ning bid for the 2022 Win­ter Olympics in Chongli.

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