CHINA announced Saturday it would establish the Xiongan New Area in Hebei Province as part of measures to advance the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.
This is another new area of national significance after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area, according to a circular issued by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council.
The move is a "major historic and strategic choice made by the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core," said the circular, which described the decision as "a strategy crucial for a millennium to come."
The new area, about 100 km southwest of downtown Beijing, will span three counties that sit at the center of the triangular area formed by Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei's provincial capital Shijiazhuang.
The move will help phase out some non-capital functions from Beijing, explore a new model of optimized development in densely-populated areas, and restructure the urban layout in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, according to the circular.
The new area will cover around 100 square km initially and will be expanded to 200 square km in the mid-term and about 2,000 square km in the long term.
President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, has said priority should be given to developing an area to pool non-capital functions that will be shifted from Beijing.
He has ordered a modern urban district to be built at a suitable location in Hebei, guided by new development concepts.
During an inspection tour to Hebei on Feb. 23, Xi called for "world vision, international standards, Chinese characteristics and high goals" in the planning and construction of the area.
He urged efforts to build Xiongan into "a demonstration area for innovative development."
The area should prioritize ecological protection, improve people's well-being as well as protect and carry forward Chinese traditional culture, he said.
The Xiongan New Area covers the counties of Xiongxian, Rongcheng and Anxin, and is home to Baiyangdian, one of the largest freshwater wetlands in north China.
The area features geological advantages, convenient transportation, an excellent environment, ample resources and lots of room for development, according to the circular.
Specifying key tasks for the development of Xiongan, Xi said it should be built into a green, modern and smart area with a beautiful environment, high-end industries and efficient transportation.
High-quality public services and facilities should be provided to create a new model for urban management, while reforms must be advanced to let the market play a decisive role in resource allocation, he said.
The area should also be open to the outside world and become a new platform for further opening up and international cooperation, according to Xi.
Meanwhile, the circular cautioned that local authorities should avoid excessive urban expansion in the development of Xiongan, calling for a reasonable development pace with patience and respect for the laws of city construction.
Saturday's announcement was the latest step in China's efforts to cure severe "urban ills," such as traffic congestion and air pollution, in Beijing by curbing the capital's population growth and moving certain non-essential facilities, including manufacturing and logistics, to nearby regions.
A number of wholesale markets in the city's central areas have been shut down or relocated, and some of Beijing's city administration will be moved out of the city center to the eastern suburbs in Tongzhou.
The removal of non-capital functions from Beijing is part of a greater strategy to integrate the development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei for a better economic structure, cleaner environment and improved public services.
With that strategy, authorities intend to transform the region into a new growth pole as China's economy slows.
The decision to set up Xiongan New Area is a key stroke in solving urban woes and creating new growth, said a commentary carried by the website of the People's Daily, flagship newspaper of the CPC.
Xiongan and Tongzhou will form "two wings" for Beijing and create new room of development for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the commentary said.