The pros and cons of building a city from scratch – China society and culture news from May 5, 2017

Society & Culture

A summary of today’s top news in Chinese society and culture. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "Russia blocks WeChat."

FILE PHOTO: Baidu Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Robin Li speaks in Wuzhen town of Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, China, December 17, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

When the government announced in April that it would create the Xiongan New Area 60 miles south of Beijing, it triggered a property-buying frenzy as speculators looked to profit from the expansion of the planned annex city to the capital. Xiongan is planned to grow to three times the size of New York City and will incorporate education facilities, institutions, and residents from nearby big cities.

The Guardian has taken a sympathetic look at plans for Xiongan, and concludes that the concept of an integrated city cluster might actually make sense as a way to avoid population  overload, traffic jams, environmental destruction, and other ills of megacities. There are, of course, problems: The article says that “China’s stride toward the promotion of megaregions comes many years after the UN condemned the environmental and social impacts of such ‘endless cities.’” In the short term, challenges include the establishment of public services to new migrants and fair compensation to original residents who refuse to relocate. In the long term, despite the stated intention for the new development to be ecologically sound, “environmentalists have raised a red flag on plans to include most of Northern China’s largest wetland” in the Xiongan New Area, according to a Caixin report in April.