BEIJING — Newly approved measures to create more city clusters could be new engine for China’s economic growth and urbanization.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, on Sunday unveiled a plan to develop city clusters along the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, China’s longest river and one of the busiest rivers for freight traffic worldwide.
Covering an area of 317,000 square kilometers, the clusters will mainly consist of cities around Wuhan in Hubei province, the Changsha-Zhuzhou-Xiangtan city group in Hunan province and clusters around Poyang Lake in Jiangxi province.
Unlike the three existing huge city clusters, Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, the Yangtze and Pearl River deltas, the new groups have more potential and abundant resources.
The provinces concerned grew over 2 percentage points faster than the country as a whole last year.
Qin Zunwen, deputy head of Hubei Academy of Social Sciences, said the plan heralds the “rise of central China” with regional advantages in land, manpower resources, the environment and markets.
“The new clusters will have a large area, requiring more in regional communication and infrastructure,” said Wu Xinmu of the regional development department in Wuhan University.
The “rise of central China” strategy was first put forward in 2004 in a bid for more balanced development and last year an economic belt along the Yangtze was conceived to coordinate urbanization along the river and boost inland regions. Rising in southwest China’s Yunnan and emptying into the sea at Shanghai, the Yangtze flows through nine provinces and two municipalities. These clusters are considered crucial to the Yangtze belt.
Wu pointed out the most serious problem in developing the clusters was weak market competition.
Ye Qing, deputy director of Hubei’s Bureau of Statistics, said breakthroughs are more likely to achieve in the poorer parts of the three provinces.
“These places provide more opportunities for better infrastructure, education, medical care, culture and tourism,” Ye said. “Cooperation in tackling poverty will expand the plan to a larger area.”
Wu said that the current fashion for reduced red tape and administrative intervention should stimulate more city clusters.