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Is China's Latest Major Construction Project Destined to Be a Ghost Town?

The Xiongan New Area has been positioned as the cure for Beijing’s rising sprawl and congestion. But will it really be a workable solution, or just a new host to existing problems?
A man wearing a respirator walks toward an office building amid smog in Beijing.
A man wearing a respirator walks toward an office building amid smog in Beijing.Jason Lee/Reuters

For the 22 million residents of Beijing, the Chinese government’s latest announcement may come as a literal breath of fresh air. In April, the Communist party’s top leaders unveiled plans to create a new city just south of the country’s capital. The Xiongan New Area, a designated special economic zone, is being hailed by state media as a model for urbanization and a potential cure for Beijing’s urban sprawl. According to China’s official news agency, Xinhua, the city is reflective of “a new chapter” in the country, and will relieve the capital’s rising pollution level and car-choked traffic.

A joint statement released by the country’s two most powerful political bodies, the state council and the central committee, sees the new city as “a strategy crucial for a millennium to come.” The proposed city will stretch across three counties. Though details are scarce, early plans suggest it will be three times the size of New York City.