Numerous skyscrapers under construction, modern neighborhood compounds filled with green and driverless buses crisscrossing on new asphalt roads are just a handful of the indicators reflecting the rise of the Xiongan New Area in north China's Hebei Province.
A high-level, ecologically friendly modern metropolis featuring high-tech infrastructure, the Xiongan New Area is one of China's ambitious projects. So developed in the new area that no one would believe everything about this dream city was built from scratch just six years ago.
Located 105 kilometers from both the capital Beijing and the coastal metropolis Tianjin, Xiongan was established to relieve pressure on Beijing while promoting the "coordinated regional development" of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. The city is expected to be comparable to the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area.
Taking a one-hour high-speed train, President Xi Jinping paid an inspection visit to the city on Wednesday, where he hailed the "important phased results" in the city while urging continuous, high-quality development that involves innovation, a high level of digitization, low carbon development and resident-friendly environment.
An innovation hub
Everything is going digital in Xiongan as high-quality development featuring scientific and technological innovation ramps up.
The driverless buses, which are currently undergoing trials, is one example. To improve the efficiency of the transportation network, the vehicles can not only recognize traffic lights and road signs but also reduce speed or stop in case of obstacles.
The city is also home to 153 km of "digital roads," where sensors on the lamp poles can monitor the number and speed of vehicles to reduce traffic jams. "The construction of the smart city … has set an example for the planning and management of future cities," said Weng Mengyong, chairman of the China Highway and Transportation Society.
During his trip, President Xi underlined his vision for "a fertile ground for innovation and business ventures."
The Chinese president also called for pioneering policies and measures in the reform and opening up, as well as forward-looking trial and demonstration innovation projects in the area.
Since China announced plans to establish the city in 2017, the Xiongan New Area has completed more than 510 billion yuan (about $74 billion) of investment. Specifically, China's state-owned enterprises have set up more than 140 subsidiaries and branches focusing on industries such as information technology, modern life sciences, biotechnology and new materials, among others.
A city for the people
"Xiongan is a young city with great potential," said Zhao Can, an employee of Hebei Xiongan Urban Construction Co., Ltd. The former Beijing resident has decided to settle down in Xiongan with his wife.
Zhao is among the hundreds of thousands of young talents attracted to the city for its favorable policies, friendly public services and "green" living environment.
During President Xi's Wednesday trip, he visited a residential community that is home to 5,000-plus relocated residents and highlighted the importance of ensuring the relocated residents live well and have satisfactory jobs.
Promoting equal access to basic public services is crucial in building a people's city that is both livable and conducive to doing business, Xi noted.
Experts say the development of the Xiongan New Area is a paradigm of China's modernization that carries historical significance.
"A complete and scientific plan goes first, followed by a whole-of-nation system to support innovative moves. The city is born to be a base for homegrown technological breakthroughs," said Cong Yi, dean of the School of Marxism at Tianjin University of Finance and Economics.
"It not only mirrors where China's economic strength is rooted but also will play an exemplary role in the world, showcasing that the Chinese way of modernization is not purely driven by economic growth, but rather is an all-rounded development model."