Beijing is one of the most crowded cities in the world—home to 24.9 million people in the metro areas. It's also one of the smoggiest, with some of the worst air quality in the world. In an effort to combat the city’s rapid growth (an average of 600,000 residents per year flocked to the city between 2000 and 2013) and the traffic congestion and pollution associated with it, China plans to build an entirely new city to take the pressure off its capital, Curbed reports.
The Chinese government recently announced a regional economic project called the Xiongan New Area, which will be a new metropolis built about 60 miles south of Beijing. According to China Daily, Beijing will remain the functional capital of China, but the new city will take over some of the general economic functions that have so far been concentrated within Beijing.
The idea is that some of Beijing’s industry and business will move to Xiongan, and with it, some of its population. With jobs no longer concentrated so densely in Beijing, people will be able to live closer to their work, giving them more transportation options and cutting down on air pollution.
Not that it’s necessarily going to happen that way. Planned cities don’t always work out as well as their spontaneously developed cousins. Many of the world’s greatest and most vibrant metropolises were created without any kind of central planning, while meticulously master-planned cities can come off as sterile and soulless. (Think of New York City’s cramped but bustling streets versus Washington D.C.’s grand boulevards.) As Adam Greenfield wrote in The Guardian in 2016, “Most of the planet’s newest cities bear a markedly strong resemblance to one another. Whether they happen to be planted on African terrain or Indian or Chinese, they have the self-contained, inward-turning flavor of a high-end condo, and indeed are branded and marketed in just the same way.”
But this isn’t China’s first time creating a major new city. After Shenzhen was named a Special Economic Zone in 1980, it went from a 300,000-person town to a major financial hub that’s now home to 11.9 million people.
Real estate speculators are betting on the same thing happening in Xiongan, though—a few days after the new city was announced, so many people rushed to buy property that the government instituted an emergency ban on sales.