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China's top economic regulator urges new impetus for city clusters

National Development and Reform Commission(NDRC), China's top economic regulator, has called for speeding up urbanization by freeing up household registration restrictions in smaller cities and injecting new impetus to develop city clusters, a pillar of China's plan for a "new type" of urbanization.

In a policy document issued on April 8, NDRC has asked cities with a population between 1 and 3 millions to eliminate all restrictions on household registratios, or "hukou", for rural migrant workers. Cities with 3 to 5 million populations should also gradually relax residency permits.

The move is aimed at moving more rural population into the cities without further jamming up big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. Instead, they're expected to drive the development of emerging city clusters, first proposed in China's 13th five-year plan (2016-2020).

In the policy document, the NDRC also called for orderly development of China city clusters, as it laid out major tasks for year 2019. TransFORM has summarized the key messages as below:

Advancing development of city clusters:

  Accelerating regional development and integration of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, the Yangtze River Delta and the Greater Bay Area;

 ● Evaluating and researching on policy plans for Chengdu-Chongqing city cluster, building the region into a new growth engine;

  Implementing development plans for city clusters including Harbin-Changchun, Mid-reaches of the Yangtze River, Beibu Gulf, Central Plains, Guanzhong(centred on Xi'an), Lanzhou-Xining, Huhhot-Baotou-Erdos-Yulin, and etc; Improving coordination mechanisms for city clusters that cross provinical borders;

  Speeding up planning for two frontier city clusters in central Yunnan and north of Tianshan mountains in Xinjiang.

Fostering development of modern metropolitan zones:

  Accelerating integrated transport infrastructure network in metropolitan zones;
  Building new region-wide mechanisms for tax collection and sharing;
  Encouraging private investment in constructing and operating metropolitan zones; etc.

Strengthening transport network and boosting urban infrastructure construction:
  Building forward-looking transport network based on new trends in population flow and demographic restructuring;
  Constructing rapid transit networks within city clusters, with focuses on rail and expressways;
  Advancing integration of backbone railways, inter-city railways, suburban railways and urban railways;
  Improving connectivity between small- and medium-sized cities, backbone transport networks and transport hubs;
  Optimizing urban road and rail network, prioritizing public transit and improving interchange conveniences; etc.

Improving and refining financing mechanism:
  Balancing the relationship between risk prevention and stabilizing growth, maintaining effective investment while putting local governments’ debt risks under control;
  Arranging fiscal input, government investment and local government bonds, as well as adopting financial measures to support key urban development projects, including bank lending and the launch of real estate investment trusts (REITs), etc.