Beijing: China today said it will set up a special economic area in a province neighbouring Beijing as part of a strategic move to advance the coordinated development of the adjoining areas and integrate them with the national capital.
The setting up of the Xiongan New Area in Hebei Province is also aimed at reducing congestion and pollution and will help phase out functions from Beijing that are not related to the capital.
The Xiongan New Area is of national significance after the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone and the Shanghai Pudong New Area, according to a circular issued by the ruling Communist Party of China's Central Committee and the central Cabinet.
The move is a "historic and strategic choice" made by President Xi Jinping, it said about the economic zone, which is part of measures to advance the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region integrating with the capital.
The circular described the step 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 centre of the triangular area formed by Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei's provincial capital Shijiazhuang, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
The zone will explore a new model of optimised development in densely-populated areas, and restructure the urban layout in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the circular said.
It will cover around 100 square kms initially and will be expanded to 200 square kms in the mid-term and about 2,000 square kms in the long-term.
Beijing has a population of about 21.5 million and it aims to cap the number at 23 million by 2020.
Xi called for efforts to build Xiongan into "a demonstration area for innovative development." It should prioritise ecological protection, improve people's well-being and protect and carry forward the Chinese traditional culture, he said.
The New Area covers the counties of Xiongxian, Rongcheng and Anxin, and is home to Baiyangdian, largest freshwater wetlands in northern China. It features geological advantages, convenient transportation, an excellent ecological environment, ample resources and lots of room for development, according to the circular.
Today'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 Beijing's central areas have been shut or relocated, and some of its administration is planned to be moved out to the eastern suburbs in Tongzhou.
Authorities intend to transform the region into a new growth pole as China's economy has slowed down.