As the capital and cultural center of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing is one of the most crowded and visited cities on earth. Steeped in 3,000 years of history, Beijing has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, all of them popular tourist attractions. The city sits on a plain not far from the sea in the north of China and is surrounded by mountains to the north, northwest and west.

Dubbed the Billionaire Capital of the World, Beijing is an economic powerhouse. It is regarded as China’s political, business, cultural, entrepreneurship and education hub.

The 2008 Olympics and Paralympics helped to transform the cityscape and improve transport networks. Iconic buildings such as the Bird’s Nest (Beijing National Stadium) and the Cube (Beijing National Aquatics Center) gave the city a new sense of pride. The events also had a significant impact on Beijing’s economic development and the growth of its service industry. In 2022, Beijing will host the Winter Olympics — making it the first city to host both Games.

Increased wealth and improved healthcare mean that life expectancy in Beijing continues to grow, although there is concern about how the city will support a large elderly population. The goal of Beijing’s latest city plan is for it to become a “world-class harmonious and livable city”. Two of the major objectives in the plan are to remove non-capital functions and to solve big city diseases. The first objective is based on coordinating development in Beijing and its surrounding regions. To meet the second objective, the government is attempting to control the growth of the urban population along with other measures.

Rapid development has created significant challenges for Beijing. The city’s smog is infamous. The authorities report daily on the level of fine particle matter. Targets have been set for improved air quality and the government has ordered major heavy industries, such as steel and concrete, to reduce their emissions or leave the city.

Recent research suggests that climate change and its influence on weather patterns may also hinder Beijing’s efforts to reduce the smog. In a bid to resolve its severe traffic congestion, Beijing has introduced traffic management controls, increased investment in the public transport network and encouraged people to use it. To enhance the city environment, there are plans for more parks, bike paths and green belts as well as water and wastewater infrastructure.

The Chinese Government’s thirteenth Five-Year Plan includes ambitious goals for social policy expansion with a focus on health, education, housing, pensions, disability and poverty. While these social issues are acknowledged, many others such as the widening wealth gap and gender disparity are not being addressed because of political sensitivity.

Will the forces at play in Beijing converge to shape this complex metropolis into a truly global city?

PLACES

Score: 5.6/10
HOUSING

HOUSING

Score: 5.0/10
Policies on housing and urban/rural development are mandated by the Beijing Municipal Commission. The government provides different types of housing to fulfill different needs: commercial, limited price, shared property, public rental and self-occupied that can be sold after a specified period. The government also has several policies to regulate the price of housing. PUBLIC REALM

PUBLIC REALM

Score: 7.0/10

Beijing celebrates history and culture within its city center but there’s a marked shortage of green space and a huge surplus of illegal construction. The municipal commission is tackling the problems through special measures that involve dismantling illegal structures and disposing of the construction waste to allow enough room for green space creation.

The city has so far demolished 40 million square meters of illegal construction. It will upgrade 615 backstreet alleys, strictly following street and lane design guidelines. The commission will continue to promote the central urban area, upgrade Tongzhou District back street lanes, transfer overhead lines to underground, and complete main and secondary trunk roads and associated street furniture within the core area.

URBAN GREEN SPACE

URBAN GREEN SPACE

Score: 6.0/10
From this year, Beijing plans to build 3,872 hectares of park in and around the city center. This will include urban forest parks, cultural theme parks and micro green parks. The city will build another 2.4 million square meters of ecological corridor from the north of Laiguangying area, along the Xiaoqing River and east to Jingcheng highway. The ecological corridor will finally connect to South Fifth Ring Road. Most key roads will also have boulevards. SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE

SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE

Score: 5.0/10

As well as promoting economic and social development, China’s thirteenth Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) focuses on education, a theme that has been taken up with enthusiasm in Beijing. By 2020 the capital plans to have a fair, high-quality, innovative and open education system that will have fulfilled all the tasks set out in the Beijing Medium and Long-Term Education Reform and Development Plan 2010-2020. Attendance rate targets have been set at 95 per cent for pre-school, 100 per cent for compulsory, 99 per cent for high school and 60 per cent for higher education. Half of workspace employees will have higher education.

The capital has invested in building 843 new kindergartens, 200 new primary and secondary schools and 65 more integrated urban and rural schools.

Beijing is promoting itself as the capital of art performance by offering 30 to 40 per cent off ticket prices. Last year 24,000 art performances in the city attracted a combined audience of 10 million, each person paying an average of less than CAD20.

The thirteenth Five-Year Plan also is aimed at protecting original streets and the ambience of alleys while building 10 new national museums.

CLIMATE CHANGE

CLIMATE CHANGE

Score: 5.0/10
To control carbon dioxide emissions, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has stipulated 12 key supervisory tasks from steel mills and oil refineries to construction sites and petrol stations. This year the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform is administering a carbon emission trading trial for 621 enterprises. The enterprises will submit their carbon dioxide discharge report to an online system and those with a discharge of more than 5,000 tons will be supervised by key discharge units. Mobility

MOBILITY

Score: 7.2/10
INFRASTRUCTURE: PUBLIC TRANSIT

INFRASTRUCTURE: PUBLIC TRANSIT

Score: 8.5/10

The thirteenth Five-Year Plan calls for the expansion of the subway transit network to 900 km of track. Construction of four subway lines will begin this year and two railway lines will be completed. Building of the S6 line linking Beijing with Baizhou, ZhangJiaKou, TangShan, BinHai and ShijiaZhuang will speed up travel.

Beijing already has 12 transport hubs where passengers can change from subway to bus or vice versa. Three new hubs are being built at Science City, Wangjing West subway station and Tonzhou district, of which the latter will cover 70 hectares and be the biggest in China.

All transport modes have used a contactless ticketing system since 2006. A newer system allows passengers to download a mobile application, which scans QR codes when taking the subway.

LOGISTICS & FREIGHT PRODUCTIVITY

LOGISTICS & FREIGHT PRODUCTIVITY

Score: 7.8/10

The city is fast-tracking the construction of four logistics bases to improve international flows, express package distribution function, and regional links in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

The Ministry of Transport and National Development and Reform Commission have jointly agreed on the building and distribution of 46 multimodal freight hubs in different counties.

GLOBAL CONNECTIVITY

GLOBAL CONNECTIVITY

Score: 9.0/10
Last year, Beijing capital airport handled 95.79 million passengers, a growth of 1.5 per cent, and the volume of airfreight passed 2 million tons. Meanwhile, a new capital airport in Daxing District, begun in 2014, is expected to open next year. INFRASTRUCTURE: PEDESTRIANS & CYCLING

INFRASTRUCTURE: PEDESTRIANS & CYCLING

Score: 4.5/10
To ease traffic congestion, the municipal road management department is building or repairing 900 kilometers of pedestrian/cycling path this year. More than 136 roads and streets will then have cycling paths. BUILT FORM: PARKING PROVISIONS

BUILT FORM: PARKING PROVISIONS

Score: 5.0/10

In 2015, parking in the city was divided into three categories:

  • The first and most expensive category covers the central business district, CuiWei business district and the rest of the area within the third ring road.
  • The second category is the area between the third and fifth ring roads.
  • The third and lowest fee category is outside the fifth ring road.

Parking fees also vary per the time of day.

Of the 3.82 million parking spaces in the city at the end of 2016, 2.19 million were in residential areas. The parking resources census report divided the city’s 16 districts into 66,000 basic units according to parking availability and zoned them as sufficient, basic balance, insufficient, serious insufficient or non-residential.

The city recently began the testing of electronic toll collection for parking on 4,086 lots in 37 streets. The municipal government will expand the electronic toll collection system to the whole city by the end of next year.

FUTURE MOBILITY: SERVICES

FUTURE MOBILITY: SERVICES

Score: 7.8/10
In Beijing, the private sector develops point-to-point, on-demand, ride-share and car-share services under policies decided on by the government. Since 2016, the Beijing Traffic Commission has managed the internet booking of taxis. Last year, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued a joint guidance policy on the sustainable development of mini-car rentals. In 2016, the popularity of bicycle-sharing was in full swing, with the total number of bicycles reaching 2.35 million. FUTURE MOBILITY: TECHNOLOGY

FUTURE MOBILITY: TECHNOLOGY

Score: 8.0/10

Last year, the Beijing Government began implementing a policy that requires electric vehicle charging facilities every five kilometers. The minimum ratio of charging facilities to total parking spaces is 1:4 for new office buildings, 1:5 for commercial buildings and community car parks, 1:1 for residential development, and 3:20 for other public buildings such as hospitals, schools and cultural facilities.

Beijing released its first road test license for driverless cars in March 2018.

Technology

TECHNOLOGY

Score: 6.0/10
CONNECTIVITY & INFRASTRUCTURE

CONNECTIVITY & INFRASTRUCTURE

Score: 8.0/10
The core of the strategy for a Digitalized Beijing is to develop information resources by efficient information management in order to modernize communications and improve people’s quality of life. FIXED INTERNET: SPEEDS & FEEDS

FIXED INTERNET: SPEEDS & FEEDS

Score: 8.0/10
In 2011, the city has started free replacement of households’ copper internet wires with fiber optic cable. The retrofitting will be complete in the next five years, after which the average broadband speed should reach 100 Mbps. MOBILE INTERNET: WI-FI, 5G, NARROWBAND IOT

MOBILE INTERNET: WI-FI, 5G, NARROWBAND IOT

Score: 8.0/10

After trialing Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) in dozens of cities across the country, China’s telecommunications operator has expanded the project to 300 cities. During the same period, the operator has been testing the commercial viability of the Enhanced Machine-Type Communications (MTC) network in several regions, including Beijing.

China began testing 5G technology in January 2016, completed the first standard version in June 2018 and will complete a full version in September 2019 ready for it to be available commercially by 2020.

OPEN DATA

OPEN DATA

Score: 3.0/10
China has issued a summary of government information disclosure every year since 2014. This year’s summary lists 16 additional items in these areas: credit, health, safety, quality, finance, medical, culture, resources, education, geography, statistics, employment, agriculture, environment, meteorology, transportation, social security, enterprise registration and science and technology. INFORMATION & DATA SECURITY

INFORMATION & DATA SECURITY

Score: 1.0/10

China has nearly 40 laws, 30 ordinances and 200 regulations on personal information protection, but they’re not found in any one place. There are many inadequacies in the realm of personal privacy, and the sale of personal data is common in the big underground data market.

Last year, the National Information Security Standardization Technical Committee released the second draft of the Information Security Technology-Guidelines for Cross-Border Data Transfer Security Assessment for public comment. It includes a Personal Information Security Standard.

PLANNING & POLICY

PLANNING & POLICY

Score: 8.0/10
Last year, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology submitted a recommendation for the development and sharing of telecommunications infrastructure. It will explore innovative methods to speed up the construction and sharing of telecom infrastructure in Beijing. Urban Systems

URBAN SYSTEMS

Score: 6.4/10
POWER GENERATION & DISTRIBUTION

POWER GENERATION & DISTRIBUTION

Score: 6.0/10

China aims to increase renewable energy to 15 per cent of total energy consumption by 2020, 20 per cent by 2030 and 60 per cent by 2050. By that date it hopes to be generating 2.7 gigawatts a year from solar power, a 90 per cent improvement on the 29 megawatts of 2014.

Renewable energy projects are also being built in 2017 in Chengde, Chifeng, Zhangjiakou and Wulanchabu (Inner Mongolia) to supply additional power to the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

After modification of smart grid infrastructure in the Chaoyang district in 2017, the electric equipment will automatically distribute power to most of Beijing’s households. The power supply reliability within the fourth ring area will be 99.9 per cent. The whole smart grid infrastructure will be completed by 2020, extending the automatic power distribution to the fifth ring area.

Between 2012 and 2016, Beijing installed the smart metering system for 6.3 million resident users who can download an app to pay for their electricity.

Since 2013, households have been encouraged to install solar panels to generate their own electricity under the National Energy Administration’s Interim Measure for the Management of Distributed Photovoltaic Power Generation Project. Their excess generated electricity could be connected to the electricity grid and sold to the electricity company. Now households with solar power will be financially rewarded by the local government, as stipulated by the National Development and Reform Commission.

WATER TREATMENT & DISTRIBUTION

WATER TREATMENT & DISTRIBUTION

Score: 8.0/10

In 2016, the government restricted total water use within semi-arid Beijing to 4.3 trillion liters, which represented a cut of 20 to 30 per cent.

To bolster the limited water supply, the Beijing Municipal Government embarked on a three-year action plan to accelerate the sewage treatment of a black and smelly river and to discover potential sources of renewable water. As a result, 1081 kilometers of sewage pipeline will be built or replaced, 14 sewage treatment plants will be upgraded or relocated into parks, 472 kilometers of recycled water pipeline will be built, and 27 recycled water treatment plants will be built. The historical practice of sewage being dumped from 760 villages will be strictly prohibited as the black smelly river gradually reverts to a clear fragrant river.

WASTE MANAGEMENT

WASTE MANAGEMENT

Score: 5.3/10

A city management meeting last year decided that to eliminate dumping into landfills of the 30,000 tons of waste generated in Beijing each day, 24,250 tons would be incinerated and 6,350 tons would be treated with biochemicals every day. Six garbage incineration towers will be completed this year. At the same time, a garbage classification and recycling system will be promoted. By the end 2020, each community will establish a garbage classification center.

The existing landfills in China are mostly used for greenwood, not for construction materials or multipurpose waste. During their 20- to 30-year design life, greenwood landfills settle less than construction or multiwaste landfills because greenwood degrades less. With comparatively favorable soil mechanical properties, previous greenwood landfill sites may serve as multistory permanent building sites in the future.

Since 1 June 2008, supermarkets and other retail store stopped providing free plastic shopping bags to customers. But nine years later, the campaign has been judged as largely unsuccessful. There isn’t any sustained or enforced waste reuse framework in Beijing.

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