Beijing's Tongzhou: Rapidly on Its Way to Becoming a Modern, International New City

Oct 18, 2010, 09:00 ET from Beijing Fang Di Institute of Economic Development

BEIJING, Oct. 18 /PRNewswire-Asia/ -- Tongzhou, located at the head of the thousand-year-old Grand Canal where it meets the eastern end of the Chang'an Avenue, is the eastern gateway to China's capital city of Beijing. The 9.06 square kilometer (3.4 sq. mi.) district, with a population of 1.09 million, is divided into four residential zones and 11 villages and towns. Tongzhou, whose history stretches back over many centuries, was founded during the Western Han Dynasty period and at the time was a well-known land-and-water transport hub and imperial port. It was the third richest city in the region after Beijing and Tianjin.

After successfully hosting the Olympic Games and China's 60th anniversary celebration, Beijing has entered a new stage of development and set the strategic goal of establishing itself as a world-class city. As an important part of this world-class city, Tongzhou finds itself at a turning point in its history, entering a period during which the district faces the challenge of realizing what could be characterized as a quantum leap in its development.

Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee Liu Qi said, in the minutes of the 7th Plenary Meeting of the 10th Beijing Municipal People's Congress, that "It is of the essence to consolidate our strengths in Tongzhou, and to leverage resources both from within China and from abroad to create a modern, international new city that meets the development needs of the capital as soon as possible." Beijing's mayor Guo Jinlong said in the government work report released at the 3rd Session of the 13th National People's Congress of the Beijing Municipal Committee that "It is incumbent upon Tongzhou to initiate a project that will bring about a major breakthrough, and set an example for others to follow." The Beijing Municipal Committee and the municipal government have, for the first time, made the development of Tongzhou New City a priority in two work reports, outlining detailed requirements for the creation of the modern, international new urban district.

Upon being informed of the requirements, the Secretary of Tongzhou District Committee said that Tongzhou New City can take the lead as the area has unique advantages in terms of being able to undertake a project requiring rapid development. Tongzhou's location at the convergence of Beijing's Chang'an Avenue and the Eastern Development Belt makes it the "New City" closest to central Beijing. With Tian'anmen 20 kilometers (12 mi.) and the Central Business District 13 kilometers (8 mi.) to the west, the city's international airport 16 kilometers (10 mi.) to the north, and Tianjin's Tanggu Port 100 kilometers (62 mi.) to the east, the district is a hub of the Ring Bohai Economic Circle. The largely flat expanse of land that is Tongzhou boasts an extensive highway network, convenient rail transport and important rail arteries. With a deeply rooted cultural identity, a distinctive ecological system bordering its waterways and ample room for the development of its industries, Tongzhou is certain to fulfill its vast potential.

The Forum on Development of Tongzhou International New City amid the Construction of World-Class City, was co-organized by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform and the Tongzhou People's Government, at Beijing International Hotel recently. A dozen government officials including Qiu Baoxing, Vice Minister, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, and Hou Yunchun, Vice President, Development Research Center of the State Council, as well as experts and scholars put forth forward-looking philosophies and strategic opinions through keynote speeches and round-table panel discussions based on the theme of "New Mission, New Orientation and New Development" during the forum.

High-End Orientation, Coordinated Development

What does "Modern International New City" mean for the development of Tongzhou? And how will it guide the development of Tongzhou? The strategic orientation of Tongzhou Modern International New City, as part of Beijing's efforts in establishing itself as a world-class city, has become a hot topic among experts.

Tongzhou's role in the development strategy of Beijing has been enhanced to "Modern International New City" from previous "Satellite City" and "Key New City", signalizing that construction of Tongzhou has been included into the strategic planning of establishing Beijing as a world-class city, making Tongzhou a vital part of the new world-class city.

Wang Yiming, Vice President of Academy of Macroeconomic Research, NDRC, said that the orientation of Tongzhou Modern International New City should focus on two aspects. Firstly, global vision should be included into the strategic planning of Tongzhou. A world-class city belongs to the first echelon of the global city system, boasting a country's key elements and resources. An important platform with international cooperation competitiveness is required to establish Beijing as a world-class city, and Tongzhou Modern International New City should be the platform. In addition, a world-class city is typically home to major headquarters of multinational companies and large financial institutions and acts as a hub of global economic activities and resource allocations. As an integral part of Beijing's development into a world-class city, Tongzhou Modern International New City should become a key "nerve cell" in the central nervous system of the global economy. Secondly, Tongzhou's strategic planning should take changes in China's regional development pattern into consideration. Beijing is establishing itself as a world-class city not only to consolidate its own city status, but also to improve the competitiveness and international status of China by exerting a far-reaching influence on regional development. For this reason, Tongzhou's strategic planning should be viewed as a national-level strategy rather than limiting to Tongzhou itself or Beijing. It also should pay attention to the economic integration of Beijing and Tianjin, facilitating Tongzhou to become a key resource exchange platform and talent pool.

Zhao Hong, Director of the China Center for Headquarters Economy Research, and Assistant Director of Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, said that Tongzhou should be defined as a sub-center of Beijing to play an active role in business office, government office, industry development and residential functions, with a status only next to Beijing's central area.

The position of Tongzhou Modern International New City has been clearly defined after a series of brainstorming sessions. It will become a new city to help ease up Beijing's existing urban functions and promote the new functions as a result of the capital's status as a world-class city, while acting as the "window" of a world-class city, serving Ring Bohai regions, China and even the world.

This position is supposed to go all the way with what Tongzhou has strived for since a long time ago. At the 6th Session of the 4th Tongzhou District People's Congress held recently, Tongzhou government put forward that the Modern International New City shall take shape in ten years, during which it will gradually become a new center to decentralize business functions, improve consumption functions, complement international functions and integrate cultural functions, and become a forerunning, experimental and demonstration district as Beijing strives to establish itself as a world-class city, according to Yue Peng, the chief executive of Tongzhou district government. He also said the government will attempt to create an elaborate city to live, which combines humanistic care, civilization, cultural attraction and harmony, and where people feel quite happy.

Regarding this objective, the "three integrations" are particularly eye-catching.

The first integration is to plan the short-term development and long-term development as a whole, and to ensure a scientific and orderly construction of Tongzhou New City. In its twelfth five-year plan, Tongzhou clarifies its New City construction targets and tasks in five years and meticulously formulates various special plans, on the basis of which it will carefully design the development strategy, objectives and tasks for the next ten years and beyond, integrate the development and construction of the center area with that of other areas in the New City, and ensure the high efficiency and quality of the Modern International New City construction.

The second integration is the balance between urban development and rural development to promote urban-rural integration. Giving full play to the radiating and exemplary role of the New City construction and integrating urban-rural development at a higher level, Tongzhou will connect the rural infrastructure and urban infrastructure with each other, equalize public service between rural and urban areas, coordinate rural and urban space layout, make rural and urban service functions complement each other, and organically integrate industrial developments, in a move to build a new integrated urban- rural relationship that evolves harmoniously. Tongzhou will take the lead in the urbanization of 111 villages in the New City; it will comprehensively accelerate urbanization of town centers and the surrounding areas of the development zone, starting from key towns including Taihu, Xiji, Huoxian and Yongledian; it will plan reserved rural areas and energetically improve urban and modern agricultural grades and levels to realize characteristic development and allow rural residents have a richer and better lives.

The third integration means the economical society development in entirety and pulling out all the stops to improve people's well-being. Tongzhou goes all out to bring tangible benefits to people for the purpose of "New City construction; Common People Benefit". It will establish a social security system adapting to the Modern International New City, and achieve the goal of "all people are well educated, workers well paid, patients well treated, elders well tended, and families well accommodated" step by step.

Scientific planning; deliberate deployment

Planning should go first when it comes to city development. The city planning accordingly can best represent the core concept of city development.

At the Forum of Tongzhou International New City Development during World City Construction, Wang Yunfeng, the secretary of the Tongzhou District Committee revealed that early this year they invited over 30 top-level planning and designing masters from home and abroad, who used the world's latest city design concept, borrowed successful construction examples from world major cities, demonstrated the plan for Tongzhou New City thoroughly and carefully, and primarily completed a development scheme for the plan of the canal core area.

Yue Peng, the chief executive of Tongzhou district government, further pointed out that the new planning revolves around the junction of five rivers at the core of the canal, with Beiyun and Tonghui rivers as axis, water zone and Yuantoudao as the landscape center and southern and northern commercial zones as the industrial base of the city, creating a space structure of "two axes, two centers and two zones". The whole configuration is a unique sight of a community with an ultra-high modern cluster and conventional low density architecture that are distributed rationally in picturesque disorder, showing the city's charm, brought by an organic combination of history and modern times with classic design and fashion enhancing each other's beauty, creating a sleepless water city "prospering with business during the day and flourishing with leisure and entertainment at night".

The landscape of Tongzhou highlights water ecology. It fully expresses the city's water-abundant character by enlarging the water zone area around the Lantern Lighting Pagoda (also known as Randeng Ta) and forming a pattern in which the south and the north echo each other with the Tonghui River as an axis. Meanwhile, the city architecture can obtain the largest water space through designs such as underpasses, moving out of the Binhe Road, and low density layouts. A special water plan is developed to strengthen the water environment governance for rivers including Beiyun and Tonghui and improve water quality, bringing a splendid landscape with clean water and green banks.

Many leaders and experts raised the opinion, as if by prior agreement, at the forum that Tongzhou New City should put ecological civilization into a core position and stick to a low-carbon and environmental development view. The view was well reflected in Tongzhou New City's plan.

For the first time, the city plan established an index system for a low- carbon city, which will be applied in such areas as municipal facilities, urban architecture and urban management. Firstly, the new city will bring in the concept of "pedestrian first" in the design process of surface transportation, building more roads with narrow distance, in a move to maximally meet the demands of pedestrians, bicycles and clean energy buses and establish a green traffic network. In terms of energy resource utilization, the new city will actively adopt new energy supply modes, including solar energy, combined cooling, heating, power and water source heat pumps. In terms of building design, green building materials and such scientific and technological achievements as roof greening and energy efficient design will be widely used. In addition, it will aggressively use advanced technologies in a cyclic utilization of water resources, rainwater collection and utilization, vacuum pipe waste collection and a smart grid, among other fields, to promote the use of low-carbon technologies in urban management.

Zhao Hong, assistant director of Beijing Academy of Social Sciences and director of China Center for Headquarters Economy Research, added that Beijing's major problem lies in spatial structure, its single-center pattern restricts the city's comprehensive carrying capacity, leading to serious traffic jams. He is optimistic about the effect of modernized Tongzhou International New City's plans to evacuate over intensive urban functions in the central city, relieving Beijing's spatial structure problem.

Compared with other districts in Beijing, Tongzhou has embraced its broad development potential. Despite this advantage, the city put forward a comprehensive utilization of underground space from a view of long term development. In the new plans, Tongzhou places great emphasis on the integrated design of surface and underground space and highlights the unified layout and development and utilization of underground space, putting driveways, railway lines, traffic hubs, parking lots and supporting service facilities underground in a move to achieve the interchange of underground space and form a clear underground corridor. In addition, it will use urban pipe gallery technology to comprehensively arrange underground municipal pipe network, integrating such municipal facilities as pipes for electricity and heat supply into the underground corridor, which will be convenient for unified maintenance and management and avoid the adverse effects on surface facilities.

Scientific planning doesn't work without strong execution. Due to tight deadlines, heavy tasks and high standards, Tongzhou established a comprehensive leadership structure and working mechanism for the development and construction of the new city, setting up a development and construction headquarters for Tongzhou New City. The district held meetings every week to implement leading responsibilities and a working scheme to deploy work as well as solve practical problems. The major leaders of Tongzhou district play important roles in major sections such as planning, investment invitation and relocation. All departments exerted their functions to make innovation and work hard and are busy carrying out work with extremely high vigor and efficiency.

Push Forward in an Efficient and People-Oriented Way

According to Wang Yunfeng, the Secretary of Tongzhou District Committee, since the beginning of the year, Tongzhou has made the building of the New City as a top priority and is pushing on with this work with all their strength and in innovative ways. The district is pushing forward planning of the central area of the New City, primary land development and investment attracting simultaneously, and has recorded a good start and made substantial progress. Construction of the first phase of the New City will begin in October. At the same time, the government of Tongzhou is actively attracting investments in major projects that meet the development needs of the New City, and has established a multi-channel fund-raising mechanism to provide sufficient capital for construction. Now all jobs are progressing efficiently and steadily, which demonstrates the commitment of Tongzhou to the construction of the New City.

The fundamental objective of building the Tongzhou New City is to benefit the people. In pushing forward the building, the Party committee and government of the district always adhered to the important principle of being people-oriented. At the present stage, this is embodied in re-housing local residents.

The planned central area of the New City, located at the confluence of five rivers at the source of the canal, kicked off construction this year. Land parcels covering an area of 170 hectares were primarily developed, which needed a total of 11,334 households to relocate, involving 257 organizations of demolition and relocation. In order to make the demolition and removal plan benefit the residents involved, relevant departments of Tongzhou simultaneously pushed ahead with primary development of land in areas surrounding Qitian Park, Xinjiancun, Beidajie, Yuantoudao and Xihaizi, and completed the removal in short order.

Adhering to the principle of maximizing benefits to displaced people, the government of Tongzhou made the most favorable policies concerning compensation for demolition and rehousing, which are of great concern to the people. These policies were widely accepted by the people. The compensation standard for land expropriation was set on the basis of bringing the maximum benefits possible to the targeted people, with low-income residents and vulnerable groups treated specially. More than 10,000 apartments located in the central area of the New City and around subway stations have been offered to resettle the displaced residents. The government of the district ensures the best benefits to the residents even if the proceeds from land sales will be reduced.

Leading officials of the Party committee and government of Tongzhou district personally directed the relocation, with residents removing regularly. The clearance areas were divided into 6 zones which were further divided into 52 sections, and officials at all levels of the government were assigned the tasks of directing and promoting the removal by sections and doing ideological work hut to hut. The great efforts made by the cadres received general support from the masses.

The relocation was carried out in an open and transparent way, with the relocation policy, compensation standard, houses for resettlement, selections of new houses by displaced residents and use of funds all made known to the public. In addition, auditing, financial and supervisory departments were asked to oversee all relocation-related activities and use of funds, to prevent behaviors violating the law and discipline.

The relocation was finished with zero complaints, maintaining social stability.

A City of Hope Suitable for Living and Production

Today, Tongzhou is rallying its force to prepare for an imaginative tomorrow.

Construction of a modern, international new city calls for advanced and complete facilities. Yang Kaizhong, Executive Dean, Beijing Development Institute, Peking University pointed out that Tongzhou should change its transportation from "through traffic" into "hub traffic" as soon as possible. Such an appeal for upgrading ancillary facilities has been taken into consideration by the Tongzhou District Committee and government, and many changes are on the way, including accelerating the planning and construction of eight rail lines and a "10 verticals, 9 horizontals" network of roads through which a more convenient three-dimensional traffic flow will be shaped. Other changes include optimizing the power grid system with a batch of newly- built power facilities and "3 verticals, 3 horizontals" high-voltage cable tunnels on both sides of the Canal, in a move to ensure strong and reliable electricity supplies for the creation of the new city; speeding up the construction of Sanhe combined heat and power project to achieve timely execution of planned operation; aggressively making good use of new, clean and renewable energy, changing household garbage into resources in a harmless way, and exploring waster water heating and cooling technologies to improve the utilization of resources, with the goal of making appropriately prospective low-carbon municipal infrastructure; enhancing the integrated governance of water systems through expanding the core area at the intersection of the five rivers to connect the water system of Xihaizi Park and opening park areas along the banks of the Canal to establish an unique water-ecological landscape to showcase the distinctive fascination of the "ever-bright water city"; reinforcing the construction of IT infrastructure with building of a high- speed broadband IT network to meet the IT requirements of the international new city in an all-round and diversified way.

Well-equipped facilities and a superior public service system are the two cornerstones of a livable city. Based on such an understanding, Tongzhou has completed rational planning to fully improve the new city's level of public services. Measures that are progressing include: accelerating the reform of medical and healthcare systems with establishment of four regional medical services centers and an improved third-level public healthcare system; a team of top medical talents to be developed to gather high-quality healthcare resources and integrate them into three A-level hospitals, as well as planning and development of modern medical centers to improve the overall level of the new city's medical and healthcare services; perfecting the new city's education system by developing higher education with a group of high-standard middle and primary schools to be built to optimize and improve the level of elementary education, enhancing the construction of public kindergartens to meet the requirements for preschool education, optimizing the educational resources of the new city through profoundly advancing the project of setting up local branches by well-known schools, widening international exchange and collaboration to attract international renowned schools, as well as strengthening the development of teaching staff to completely increase the educational and teaching quality; initiating the construction of a regional cultural center, including highly advancing the development and construction of an entertainment and recreation area and the Yuantoudao ecological expo area, speeding up attracting well-known cultural, performance and sports troupes; and building a group of high-end theaters, large-scale cultural and performing facilities, comprehensive stadiums and other projects.

In the future, Tongzhou will not only be a livable city, but also a city suitable for production. With a focus on China's grand economic development layout, an integration of big strategies of building a world-class city, and major opportunities in the transformation of economic development, Tongzhou International New City will vigorously develop high-end industries in connection with the modern, international new city and grab a commanding height of economic development. Wu Zhongze, former Vice Minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, put forward that Tongzhou should make "fostering and developing strategic emerging industries and optimizing economic structure" a priority, roping in a cluster of industries with a bright prospect that can play a leading role and provide plenty of jobs, especially accelerating the research and development, marketing and utilization of core technologies and products.

The industrial development approaches for Tongzhou district coincide with suggestions from leaders and experts on the Forum. The local government and committee called for developing emerging industries, including high-end business, e-commerce and the Internet, focusing on high-quality commerce, tourism, cultural entertainment and other consumer services and fostering high-tech industries, such as new energy, new materials and energy saving, to build the district into a modern service center, an international commerce waterfront, a city of culture and creativity and a new low-carbon Metro of wisdom, all led by modern service, cultural and creative industries.

Tongzhou is leveraging three major economic development engines. It values the core area of the Tongzhou Canal as its engine for leadership in the low- carbon industry through the transformation of achievements from low-carbon technologies and the integration of the low-carbon industry with culture, commerce, conferences and exhibitions, and consumer sectors based on the low- carbon design, construction and operation modes. The Business Park will be its engine for leadership in the commerce industry through the introduction of a number of financial service providers, professional agencies, e-commerce firms and other high-end projects and accelerating the development of new projects, including the entrances of the Financial Street, Sunshine Insurance and the joint project between Baidu and Japan-based Rakuten. The Cultural and Creative Industrial Park in Songzhuang town, Tongzhou, will be its engine for leadership in the cultural and creative industries through attracting major projects, including the Chinese art exchange centers. It is essential for the district to foster its economic growth drivers with support from important projects, including its Beiyuan Business Park, leisure and tourism destinations and the "two stations and one street" program for an integrated urban industrial base.

Although construction of the Tongzhou International New City has just started, everyone familiar with its development is excited with its current momentum and infinite potential for the future. Tongzhou is shaping itself as a forerunner in the low carbon economy with its global talents, and the legacy of its Canal and features of the waterfront. The city of hope for the future is emerging with the power of advanced technologies and the essence of a harmonious society.

About Beijing Fang Di Institute of Economic Development

Beijing Fang Di Institute of Economic Development is a social science research institute with support from the Beijing Federation of Social Scientists as the industry leader. Fang Di, which is led by Zhao Hong, its researcher and a State Council Special Allowance receiver Zhao Hong, creator of the theory of China Headquarters Economy, director of the Institute of Economics at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences and assistant director of Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, has a talented research team of over 60 researchers, associate researchers and senior consultants. It has completed more than 160 research projects commissioned by the National Social Science Fund, the Ministry of Science and Technology, as well as municipal, district and county governments, including Beijing, Chongqing, Nanjing and Qingdao. It has received provincial- and ministerial-level rewards, including Excellent Achievements in Philosophy and Social Science of Beijing and Award for Science and Technology Progress of Beijing.

SOURCE Beijing Fang Di Institute of Economic Development