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On the Fast Track
Coordinated development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province provides a critical opportunity for Hebei to gain momentum
 NO. 10 MARCH 10, 2016

The Hebei part of Beijing-Hong Kong-Macao Expressway

"Coordinated development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province is a critical opportunity for Hebei's reform and development, and we must seize the opportunity to gain momentum. Everybody should move to implement the region's integration strategy, trying to achieve not only breakthroughs in transportation integration, environmental protection and industrial upgrades and transformations, but also comprehensive improvement in economic and social development," said Zhao Kezhi, Party Secretary of Hebei Province, at the 12th plenary session of the Eighth CPC Hebei Provincial Committee in November 2015.

Zhao's statement drew a blueprint for Hebei to enhance synergy with neighboring Beijing and Tianjin. By 2020, Hebei is expected to increase its expressway mileage to 9,000 km and high-speed railways to 2,000 km, connecting Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei with one-hour rail commuting circles. It will also attempt to improve its environment and air quality, and make Hebei cities exit the list of China's 10 most polluted cities. It's going to upgrade its traditional industries, and make great efforts to build the Shijiazhuang-Baoding-Langfang innovation and reform pilot zone, creating a Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei community of coordinated innovation. This is Hebei's ambition for the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period.

Environmental protection

With the integration of the three regions, it has become a trend for citizens from Beijing and Tianjin to spend their holidays in neighboring Hebei. Taking a deep breath in Saihanba National Forest Park, feeling the winds in the Bashang Steppe, skiing at Chongli ski resort, as well as looking at the stars on top of the Xiaowutai Mountain are the top four popular leisure activities for visitors from Beijing and Tianjin, who are attracted by the environments of the above destinations in Hebei.

"We must bear in mind that a green environment brings in money. And green production and consumption should be encouraged to build a good ecological environment for regional integration," said Zhang Qingwei, Governor of Hebei, in the provincial government work report of 2016. Though having advantages in environmental protection compared with neighboring Beijing and Tianjin, it's not an easy task for Hebei.

Still, the Hebei Provincial Government has for years taken a path toward green, low-carbon and recycling development. Hebei, with the help of the Central Government and Beijing as well as Tianjin, made unprecedented achievements in environmental protection. Air quality in Hebei had been greatly improved. Statistics show that the average PM 2.5 density in Hebei from January to November 2015 is 71 micrograms (compared to 94 micrograms in 2014, and 104 micrograms in 2013), and Hebei witnessed 181 days of clean air quality readings from January to November 2015 (compared to 138 days in the same period in 2014, and 120 days in that period in 2013).

To improve the ecological environment, Hebei continues to push forward campaigns to clean its air and water, and to plant more trees. At the same time, it tries to preserve and increase the value of its natural resources and speed up establishing a mechanism to promote ecological progress.

On December 3, 2015, authorities in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei jointly signed a cooperation framework agreement on coordinating environmental protection efforts. Prevention of air, water and soil pollution is high on the agenda in the agreement. The three local governments vowed to improve the regional environment by joint legislation and planning. On December 30,

a coordinated environmental protection plan for Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei was released by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. According to the plan, the PM 2.5 density in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei is to be cut by 40 percent. If the goal is achieved, Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei can get rid of smog by 2020.

Jingtang area of Tangshan Port

Transportation connectivity

"I visited my relatives in Baoding during the 2016 Spring Festival holiday (February 7-13). It took me only one hour to arrive there by train," a senior resident surnamed Zhang in Tianjin told Beijing Review on February 12.

The Tianjin-Baoding railway was opened on December 28, 2015. But before then, people from Tianjin who headed for neighboring Baoding had to take a detour via Beijing. The 158-km-long Tianjin-Baoding railway, the latest achievement of regional transportation integration, links the two cities directly, shortening the previous travel time of two and a half hours to one hour, and eases the traffic pressure on Beijing's railways. What's more, the travel time between Shijiazhuang, capital city of Hebei, and Tianjin is now only one and a half hours. Transportation integration is the first breakthrough in the coordinated development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei.

Moving conveniently around Hebei is no longer a dream thanks to the transportation integration. The 300-km-long highway linking Zhangjiakou and Chengde, the northern part of the Outer Ring Road which runs through Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, was opened half a year ahead of schedule, laying a key foundation for the 850-km-long Hebei-based highway. On November 25, 2015, work on the 680-km-long Taihang Mountains Expressway running from the north to the south of Hebei began. In addition, the plan on the Tianjin-Shijiazhuang Expressway was rolled out, the first one to connect the two cities.

A regional bus pass is now accepted in Beijing, Tianjin and four cities in Hebei, including Shijiazhuang, Zhangjiakou, Langfang, and Baoding. And more than 300 bus routes in Hebei are connected to one another.

By 2020, Hebei is expected to link all highways connecting Beijing and Tianjin, dead end arteries and bottle neck roads, increasing the highway mileage by 50 percent. Construction of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou and Beijing-Shenyang railways is to be accelerated, doubling the existing railway mileage to 2,000 km. It's also to finish building three subways in Shijiazhuang, and plan subway distribution in five cities including Qinhuangdao, Tangshan, Langfang, Handan and Cangzhou. It's going to improve the extension of Beijing's subway to neighboring regions including Sanhe, Gu'an County, and Zhuozhou, forming a one-hour rail commuting circle connecting Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei.

Industry transformation

Hebei has made transforming and upgrading traditional industries a priority of its economic development for the 13th Five-Year Plan period.

"Hebei has long been relying on highly polluting and energy-intensive industries as a major part of its overall economy. Such industrial structure does not conform with national industrial development policies and puts pressure on the environment. Therefore, transforming and upgrading traditional industries is the only way for Hebei to achieve healthy economic development," said Dong Zhengxin, a professor of the School of Economics at Hebei University.

While the economy is undergoing restructuring, traditional industries are eclipsed thanks to problems like backward equipment, low-end technology, poor competitiveness and high energy consumption per unit of GDP. Upgrading traditional industries is vital to Hebei's economic transformation.

A proposal on Hebei's 13th Five-Year Plan released in November 2015 raised four approaches to upgrading traditional industries, including eliminating some industries, upgrading technology improvement, integrating merger and reorganization among companies and transferring some to seashore area, industrial parks and foreign countries. Among all, the approach of eliminating some industries by a reversed forcing mechanism aims to cut overcapacity and set obligatory targets for Hebei's steel, cement and glass industries for the next five years.

At the same time, the proposal advises to make equipment manufacturing the pillar industry for Hebei, creating a 2.0 version of "Made in Hebei."

The year 2015 witnessed a significant event happened in Hebei: The output value of equipment manufacturing industry taking up 38.2 percent of the province's industrial production growth, 7 percentage points higher than the steelmaking industry, becoming the first pillar industry in Hebei.

According to the proposal, Hebei is to kick off a new wave of technology upgrading to achieve intelligent manufacturing. Under the guideline of Internet Plus Manufacturing, Hebei will standardize its quality assessment and brand-building process, cultivate 1,000 kinds of new products and 1,000 different brands. It will build some new and state-of-art industrial bases, upgrading Hebei's industries.

Guided by the two national strategies of Made in China 2025 and Internet Plus, Hebei in the next five years will seize the opportunities of industrial distribution reform and industrial chain regrouping to implement the comprehensive innovation in Shijiazhuang, Baoding and Langfang regions, building a coordinated community in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei. Advanced manufacturing and a modern service industry will become the two growth engines.

Copyedited by Mara Lee Durrell

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