(reprinted from the South China Morning Post, April 24, 2014)
A couple weeks ago, one of China’s top economic planners discussed plans to integrate Beijing, Tianjin and parts of Hebei into a new mega-city. This new Beijing mega-city would contain approximately 100 million people and is already being referred to as “Jing-Jin-Ji”.
We thought we would point out eight cool “likely facts” about the new Beijing mega-city – and Chinese urbanisation in general.
1) By 2025, Beijing will have over 7 million households earning over US$20,000 per year. This will make it third or fourth on the global rich cities list.
2) The Beijing mega-city is already happening. Beijing’s seventh ring road, currently under construction, is basically in Hebei at this point. And Tianjin is a fast 30-minute train ride away. So these cities are already connected in terms of hardware – roads, trains, and infrastructure. Now it’s about integrating the software – policies, companies, services, families, and so on.
3) The Beijing mega-city population is approximately 100 million people and this is rising fast. Between 1990 and 2010, Beijing’s population has grown more than three times as fast as China’s population. This is both from migrants and people having babies.
4) The economic output of the Jing-Jin-Ji cluster is about 10 per cent of China’s GDP. But by 2025, Beijing will be the world’s fifth largest urban economy. Add in Tianjin at number 12 and the Jing-Jin-Ji cluster will then be larger than London, Tokyo or New York.
5) Beijing has over 100 large company global headquarters, more than any other emerging market city, and sixth in the world, ahead of Seoul, Chicago and Los Angeles.
6) These sorts of city-clusters are the future of China. You can’t really build a >50 million person city as it becomes unworkable. Pollution, traffic, population, and housing pressures become increasingly problematic beyond a certain size. So creating a hub-and-spoke system around major cities like Beijing makes sense. Beijing is already struggling with air pollution, water scarcity, and a flood of migrant workers.
7) About one-fifth of Beijing’s nonresident population is already from Hebei, so the nonresident and undocumented are a big part of the movement of people within this cluster. If trends continue, over 40 per cent of China’s urban population nationwide will be undocumented and technically “illegal” by 2030.
8) Due to urbanisation and medium-rise development, China’s residents live approximately 10 metres higher in the air than they did 10 years ago. Beijing is growing both up and out. With the increasing difficulty to convert agricultural land to urban use, this “rising in the air” trend will continue.