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Officials deny Baoding to be auxiliary capital

2014-03-20 08:50 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

Officials on Wednesday denied claims that Baoding, a city in Beijing's neighboring Hebei province, had been chosen as a location to devolve some central government functions.

According to Caijing magazine, governments in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei had reached agreement to make Baoding the primary choice for an auxiliary political center after Beijing. The move would counteract Beijing's dominance as the nation's political, cultural and economic center.

Liu Feng, spokesperson for Baoding government, rapidly denied the report. Liu told The Beijing News that he had never heard the news and only learned of it from the Internet Wednesday morning.

Other sources contacted by the Global Times, including one with the National Development and Reform Commission, also claimed they had no knowledge of the move.

Although the accuracy of the information remains unknown, many details released in the Caijing report looked surprisingly persuasive.

With a population of over 11 million, Baoding is in the center of Hebei, 140 kilometers southwest of Beijing. It is at the midpoint between Beijing and Hebei's capital of Shijiazhuang, and forms an equilateral triangle with Beijing and Tianjin.

Compared with other options in Hebei, such as Zhangjiakou, Chengde and Langfang, Baoding's geographical location, argued Caijing, is a major advantage as the top authority expects its convenience will help boost the economy of the entire province.

The magazine said that educational institutions as well as public institutions under some central government departments will be among the first batch of organizations to be relocated. To ease the relocation, the household registration, or hukou, of employees will remain in Beijing where they will receive better healthcare and insurance.

Although previous news reports have revealed that Beijing plans to transfer some of its scientific research, education and cultural enterprises to Baoding, it is the first time that a city has been described as an "auxiliary political center" next to Beijing.

Caijing's report prompted the price of stocks in local enterprises, such as Baoding-based Great Wall Motors, to skyrocket on Wednesday.

"Baoding is a reasonable choice in terms of transferring some of the industries out of Beijing. However, to say that the city is to be appointed China's 'secondary political center' would be a stretch. The term means that at least some government departments will be relocated, which will increase the administrative cost and hurt efficiency," said Niu Fengrui, director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The core function of Beijing, as China's capital, is to serve, not as the economic center or cultural center, but as the political center of the country. It would not make sense to deprive Beijing of its political arm unless all other means have proven useless to lessen the pressure of its huge population and lack of environmental resources," Niu noted.

Beijing has been under a lot of pressure to tackle its rapidly growing population and the problems that come with it. Overpopulation has, to various extents, aggravated problems such as congestion, environmental pollution and water shortages.

Some of these problems, such as smog, have grown to become social and political issues that could impact stability.

After previously moving some heavy industries to less developed regions nearby, Beijing has started shifting clothing and agricultural product markets to suburban areas and moving hospitals out of downtown areas to release the pressure.

It is also part of the country's urbanization plan to "strictly control" the population of metropolitan cities.

Niu said discussions of an auxiliary capital shows that the public widely recognize that functions of Beijing must be devolved at some point.

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