Discussion on relocating China’s capital resumes after Beijing is deemed unlivable
Shen Hanyao, a Shanghai-based scholar, was quoted on December 13 as saying in order to address the outbreak of Beijing’s urban maladies, relocating the capital is the best option. Good candidates are Xinyang in Henan Province and Yueyang in Hunan Province. Critics of Shen said that his proposal is all about “relocating the capital to cure the traffic jam”, and that regardless of where the capital will be moved, it will only become another Beijing. It will not be a good cure for traffic congestion.
On the picture, two personified Chinese characters for “Capital City” on a sports car point to the map of China and ask “Where should we go?”
On December 15, Shen Hanyao told “Zhengzhou Evening News” that the media has “misinterpreted” what he meant with the proposal.His vision is to build a new capital in the hub at the junction of China’s central, western, northern and southern part, and boost the gravitational pull to bring fundamental change in the distribution of wealth and productive forces. Treatment of Beijing’s growing urban maladies will only come as a convenient byproduct of the relocation.
Discussion on relocation of the capital dates back to 1980. In the following three decades, each major environmental crisis or event has triggered conjectures about whether Beijing would be replaced with a new capital. However, all the buzz is limited to the masses.
This time the discussion is enabled by Beijing’s citywide traffic jam on September 17.
On that day, a rain in Beijing hamstrung the city’s major thoroughfare Chang’an Avenue, which runs from the east to the west. The congestion then spread to 143 main roads and paralyzed the road traffic. Beijing Traffic Management Bureau’s real-time traffic alerts turned all red.
That night, Bai Yansong, a well-known anchorman of China Central Television used phrasing such as “leading people to a nervous breakdown” and “an unbearable sight” to describe it, saying that it can be recorded in Beijing’s history.
Traffic near Beijing’s 2nd ring road.
Traffic on Chang’an Avenue, Beijing’s major thoroughfare.
Car riders impatient of the jam get out of their cars.
Chen Baocun, head of the Real Estate Chamber of Commerce at the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, said that Beijing’s “Supreme Congestion” (shoudu, a homonym of the Chinese word for “capital city”)has become commonplace; it is extremely difficult to improve the city’s road traffic without relocating the capital.
Passion of talking about a new capital is rekindled. When words came out from Shen Hanyao, president of the Shanghai-based Warton Economic Institute, in an interview on December 13, it was pushed to a climax.
Shen Hanyao said the new capital should not be a medium- or large-sized city that has already taken shape. Rather, it should be built from scratch.
Like most proponents of the relocation, Shen Hanyao thinks the new capital should rest in China’s central plain region or on the Yangtze River. His top two choices are Yueyang in Hunan Province and Xinyang in Henan province. “Any place two to three hundred kilometers (125 to 190 miles) away from the city of Wuhan would be a good pick.”
His argument is that, these places have abundant water resources, convenient transportation and a flat terrain. More important, relocating to one of these places can promote the development of China Midwest and is conducive to the shift of the economic epicenter.
But his explanation of the rationale wasn’t given much notice. Most people focused on his proposal itself, and poked fun that his “relocation of the capital as a treatment for traffic congestion” theory is no different from “treating only the head when one’s head aches and only the foot when one’s foot hurts,” a superficial move.
The first one to propose “relocation” is a scholar named Wang Ping.
In early 1980, Wang Ping, a professor at Capital University of Economics, sent a letter proposing dropping Beijing as the capital. Since then, voices about relocation have often been heard.
In 2006, a fierce sandstorm struck Beijing, pushing the debate to an all-time high.
In March, 2006, 479 representatives attending the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s legislature, moved a joint motion to the NPC Standing Committee, requesting that the capital be moved out of Beijing.
Hu Xingdou, professor at Beijing University of Technology sent a long-awaited proposal to the central government, NPC and the state council, “The ecological environment in North China is on the verge of collapse. We suggest: move the political capital out of Beijing into the central plains or the South.”
In November, 2007, Mei Yuxin, researcher at Ministry of Commerce’s China Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, wrote on British Financial Times Web site that China should give serious consideration to relocating its capital. Mei said, “If Beijing continues to serve as the capital, it will not only pose an additional heavy burden to the overall development of the country, but lead the city itself to a dead end as well.”
In February 2008, scholar Qin Fazhan and Hu Xingdou co-authored a long article, in which a concept of “one country, three capitals” was put forward. That is, select the best place to build a new administrative capital while leaving Shanghai as the country’s economic capital and Beijing as the capital of culture and technology.”
As another popular candidate, Shaanxi has never relented its effort to garner support for its candidacy. A vice president at Shaanxi Normal University wrote an article recommending Baoji in the province as the capital. Hu Yicheng, a scholar at Shaanxi Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, believed that at the very least Xi’an in Shaanxi Province should be the auxiliary capital.
Netizens listed Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi’an, Wuhan, Hanzhong as the five fittest candidate cities based on population, city area, economic output and other indicators. Nominees run the gamut from second-tier cities to small towns in the hinterlands. Even residents of southern cities, such as Guangzhou and Haikou, joined the war of words, clamoring for their hometowns.
Shen Hanyao said his idea of relocation of the capital is never aimed at “improving road traffic.” His original idea is to break the current economic pattern of “a very strong east and a very weak west.”
Shen said their research in 2007 on China’s economic transformation has found that China’s eastern region has been overdeveloped and overloaded with manpower. China’s economic center should be shifted from the east to the midwest.
He said that in recent years, the gap between regions is widening, disparities in development between the far-flung regions and the coastal areas are growing.
Government statistics show that the eastern part of China now accounts for 13.4% of the country’s land area but has 41.15% of the population, contributing more than 60% of China’s GDP, while the western part contributes only 14% of the GDP with 23.11% of the nation’s population and 56.9% of the land area. The gap between China’s north and the south in socio-economic realms is also widening.
“After the relocation, land in overdeveloped cities like Beijing and Shanghai in the east can be returned as forests, and living standard can be thereby greatly enhanced,” Shen said.
Online discussion forums have been chatting and debating the likelihood and viability of choosing a new capital. Some enthusiasts have even begun proposing names for the new capital.
Some said, China has had Beijing (literally Northern Capital), Nanjing (Southern Capital), Dongjing (literally Eastern Capital, today’s Kaifeng in Henan province) and Xijing (Western Capital, today’s Xi’an in Shaanxi Province). The new capital can be named Zhongjing (Central Capital). Others say it should be named after a luminary or cultural icon that is widely recognized by the world and capable of influencing the world. “Confucius City” would be an example.
Some netizens argue that relocation of the capital is by no means a pressing matter of the moment. As for Beijing as a multifunctional capital with too heavy burdens, the countermeasure should be to reassign its functions rather than simply build a new capital.
Selected comments from Chinanews.com
What a fanciful illusion! They are so anxious to see the world in disorder. The key is management, not relocation of the capital. Look at how many subway lines there are in a foreign country and how few there are in Beijing. They should develop rail transport.
Relocation is not crucial to resolve the “supreme congestion.” I think the priority is how to shut down all types of local government liaison offices in Beijing and cur the number of offices of other functions. Now there are way too many civil servants.
The crux of the matter is our civil servants are too corrupt. They want to amass whatever political power into their hands. If the power could be returned to the people, such a problem would be unlikely. Without changing the mentality, it doesn’t matter where the capital is. It would be a disservice to the ordinary people.
Four million cars. If they were in another place, the jam would have occurred much earlier.
In order to improve road traffic and develop the west, experts’ should not focus their attention on relocation. They should find out the optimum plan. You can’t drop the capital simply because of growth of the automobile industry and ill-developed economy in China’s west. This is a fool’s talk. Building a political center of a nation is not the work of a single day.
The problem needs solving. But moving out of Beijing is not the best solution. Beijing has been China’s cultural and economic center for hundreds of years. It is also a beautiful city. Let’s focus on the road traffic issue. None of the developed countries in Europe relocated their capitals because of problematic traffic. (We) should learn from developed countries’ experience of traffic control.
Those experts who feed on the people, get down to business! Don’t become trash who only creates sensation.
The best selection would be in Central China. This is conducive to the economic development of the entire country. It would better be in Xiangyang in Hubei Province. This will play a pivotal role in enhancing the Midwest.
Liaocheng (Jing’s note: in Shandong Province in eastern China). It is the best!!!!!!!
The most important thing is to downsize the government. How many civil servants and employees registered with institutes are there? (Jing’s note: many of them are paid by taxpayers’ money too)How many government-owned cars are in operation in the overstaffed state’s organs? Please be straight-forward.
Xi’an is the top candidate for the new capital.
Who says the capital city should remain the same forever? In my opinion, as long as the city is overdeveloped, we should consider changing a place.
We should downplay the concept of a capital. Many countries’ capitals are not necessarily metropolises. They are simply a seat of a government of rural style. Go visit Canberra and Brasilia. They are just a seat of the government. Don’t insist on large size. That’s purely old-fashioned way of thinking. Don’t harp the same string of relocating the capital. It is nothing but finding a place for offices of the government. How come you think about making it prosper? It’s the 21st century!
Better to relocate the capital. Beijing’s geographical position and current situation are not suitable for a capital.
It is best to relocate it to Anyang (Jing’s note: a city in Henan Province.
I approve it if it is relocated to China’s northeast. Otherwise I object to it.