Beijing is known for being a metropolis of Peking duck, Beijing opera and bicycles (remember that Katie Melua song?). However, the city is also able to claim some of the world’s highest population and pollution rates, prompting drastic measures from the Chinese Government.
The world has been watching on with scepticism as China races to build out and up, creating brand new cities for urban inhabitants to flock to in a bid to address rising pollution and a bursting population of over 1.3 billion. The most recent ambitious project to capture everyone’s attention is Xiongan New Area, located 62 miles outside of Beijing, which the government is packaging as China’s ‘new area of national significance’ and a ‘special economic zone’.
Despite success stories such as Shenzehn’s development (which became one of the world’s fastest growing cities in the 1980s), China’s latest projects have beckoned various naysayers to the fray, speculating whether these ‘ghost cities’ will ever be filled.
‘Anyone can build a useless overpass, but it takes China to build a city for a million people with no buyers in sight’.
The buyers however were quick to make an appearance earlier this week following President Xi’s announcement that Xiongan will be heavily invested in and given high strategic priority to ensure steady economic growth. Local media reported that property prices more than doubled in the hours after the announcement, prompting an emergency sales ban and forced closure of local estate agents on Monday, as thousands queued in traffic and filled up local hotels around the area to get their hands on brand new residential bargains.
Watching China build its infrastructure in the way that is has is a fascinating example of how a country handles extreme urbanisation. Though this isn’t a solution that can be applied everywhere, creating booming cities and in turn, a demand for them, is echoed in places such as Dubai and Singapore.
Despite a slowing economy, the chart below demonstrates the extent to which China is racing beyond its previous pace of growth and how it has even managed to overtake the global average.
There is no doubt that China is taking their rising population and economic position seriously. This rapid building of new infrastructure offers an extreme, as well as fascinating, case study to how bold, strategic development can deliver results. It is now a question of whether the nation’s faith in the government’s plans and China’s economy can continue to deliver on these high-rise promises and if the answer to this is ‘yes’ – what lessons can the rest of the world take from them?