A Mega-City Rising From Rice Fields, May 2017

 

“Until the start of this month (April 2017), no one had ever heard of Xiongan. Today, it is the most talked-about place in China. When the government announced on April 1st that it would create ‘Xiongan New Area’ as a metropolis from scratch, it immediately set off a frenzy. Housing prices in the zone, about 100km (62 miles) south-west of Beijing, more than tripled overnight before authorities ordered a halt to property transactions. Local hotels were booked up and roads packed with cars as prospective investors flocked to what is still largely farmland. The shares of companies such as local cement-makers and real-estate developers soared in value. State media extolled the promise of the city, touting it as a new chapter in China’s urban development.” (The Economist)

Xiongan is an attempt by the Chinese government to take some of Beijing’s overcrowding away. One writer expressed it this way: “I expect that aside from key Party organs and diplomatic agencies, most of the central government’s less essential departments and institutions will move to Xiongan, as will a portion of the capital’s population. Xiongan’s establishment and the decentralization of Beijing’s functions are, in fact, a covert attempt to move the capital outright.” As another writer explained: Beijing is “a city whose penchant for centralization has left it unable to house the vast number of financial, scientific, and administrative organizations that operate within the capital’s bursting seams.”

Certainly Beijing needs help, with its chronic overcrowding (Beijing currently houses 20 million people), notorious traffic jams, shortages of water and its dangerous smog. Thus, says the Economist, “China wants to make Xiongan a model city, with a clean environment, fast transport and high-tech industries, to attract millions of people. The hope is that a big slice of Beijing’s “non-capital functions”, from businesses to universities, will move to Xiongan… Eventually, the aim is to reach 2,000 square km, more than twice as big as New York city or Singapore.”

At least two challenges face investors and indeed the local population of what is now in part a rural and backward area. The first is that not all of China’s “new cities” have succeeded. “The government has pointed to Shenzhen, a southern metropolis, and Pudong, Shanghai’s financial district, as examples of successful urban developments that it hopes to replicate. Yet there are also plenty of new areas — notably, Binhai in Tianjin, just east of Xiongan — that have failed to take root.” (The Economist).

Secondly there is the issue of the impact on traditional Chinese society and its network of interlocking relationships. As one recent visitor commented, “Two months ago, as I stood in the middle of that wheat field, I never would have imagined that this dusty county in the back of beyond would soon become something akin to a new capital. What saddens me, however, is that its development will inevitably come at the cost of the people and communities who have called these places home for years.”

Pray for wisdom  for those who are responsible for this enormous project, with huge impact on many lives, that they might be given wisdom.

Pray for Christians to be led by the Lord to establish churches and reach out to this new population as they relocate. Often changes of this scope involve dislocated people, who thus become open to the good news.

Pray for Beijing itself, that as these events take place there the Gospel might also flourish, and churches would be empowered to embrace the new realities for the growth of the church.

In His grace,

Ross Paterson
Director,  Derek Prince Ministries – China