Commuters line up to enter the Tiantongyuan North Subway Station in Beijing at about 7:30 am. Located between the Fifth and Sixth Ring Roads, the station is crowded during the morning rush hour as local residents head to work downtown. Image: China Daily
Experts are calling on the government to urgently formulate solutions to urban planning problems, as concerns rise about the lack of infrastructure construction and policy support given to new suburban districts and townships.
The inefficient transportation network in some outlying areas of Beijing has prompted widespread criticism from residents. For example, Beiqijia, an area at the east of Changping district also between Fifth and Sixth Ring Roads, was expected to be developed extensively in these years which has attracted over 200,000 people to move here, but the current situation fails everyone. Trains and buses are still rarely coincide as residents need to commute 24 kilometers to downtown which has caused most of them much trouble in both work and personal life.
In the early 1990s, the National Development and Reform Commission chose Beiqijia as one of a number of pilot towns for the capital's urban expansion plan.
In 2006, a revised municipal development plan handed the district the "key task" job of developing itself into an innovative hi-tech industrial development zone for information technology, biotechnology and high-end equipment manufacturing.
Although a number of State-owned companies moved to Beiqijia in 2009, the area still lacks basic infrastructure.
Many similar small and medium-sized new towns and cities are being built across China, each with a different key task assigned by the central government.
By the end of May, 3,500 new towns and cities had been built nationwide, according to the NDRC's annual New Town and New City Development report.
The massive urban expansion is the result of the national plan to relocate 100 million rural residents to urban regions by the end of 2020, a key task in the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20).
Data from the Beijing Municipal Institute of City Planning and Design show that in the Beijing suburb of Yizhuang, industrial land use accounts for a large proportion of the government's urban development plan, while the development of public facilities accounts for a much smaller slice.
Meanwhile, data from the NDRC's report show that in 2006, industrial fixed-asset investment was more than 728 billion yuan, while residential investment was just 35.6 billion.
The year-on-year rise in the rate of industrial fixed-asset investment outstripped that of residential investment until 2012, and it is still much higher in absolute terms.
Moreover, from 2005 to 2011, the year-on-year growth rate of land used for healthcare services rose from 5.52 percent to 8.67 percent, while the rate for commercial land use rose from about 25 percent to nearly 121 percent during the same period.
The lack of opportunities and facilities are not so attractive as those offered in the more-centralized districts of the capital makes people, especially the younger generation, reluctant to move to new townships and they are opting to remain in the overcrowded core areas, despite rising traffic congestion and air pollution, said an NDCR researcher who led the commission's survey.
Referring to the National New-Type Urbanization Plan (2014-2020), China has already released top-level guidelines, but the scenario would be different if local governments were allowed to formulate their own plans.
A specialist suggested that young people need to be provided with more policy support and job opportunities, and that local governments should produce new policies to attract talents.
If that could be achieved, it would be good news for those already living in the new towns and also for potential residents.