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China Focus: High-tech, beautiful city rises from industrial clusters

16 Jun 2021

by Xinhua writers Wang Jinye, Wang Minghao, Li Laifang and Li Kun

TIANJIN, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Duan Jiannan, a public servant in north China's Tianjin Municipality, no longer has to get up early to avoid the morning rush, as a smart system operating locally helps ease traffic congestion to a large extent.

"The red lights lasting forever are nowhere to be found. As soon as I drive to the intersection, I get a green light," said Duan, 29.

In the Tianjin Binhai New Area (BNA), where Duan's home is located, a smart urban administration system called "urban brain" optimizes the operation of traffic lights to reduce vehicle waiting time and avoid traffic jams. With the use of this high-tech system, morning rush hour now ends 30 minutes earlier.

A national-level new area, the BNA aims to become a smart and green model that is livable and suitable for business. It will be built as one of the "twin cities" together with the Tianjin city proper some 60 km away, according to Tianjin's 2021-2025 development plan.

"What we want to build is not only high-end industrial clusters, but also a beautiful city with humanistic care. We will integrate the industrial characteristics into urban construction, making the BNA a livable and business-friendly city," said Lian Maojun, Party chief of the BNA.


A perfect example embodying the smart and green development concept is the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City (SSTEC) in the BNA.

Breaking ground on saline and alkaline land in 2008, the SSTEC is a cooperation project between China and Singapore.

"If the eco-city can be built here, the experience we gain can be copied in other cities," said Yan Xu, a local official.

The "urban brain" administration system in the SSTEC not only eases traffic congestion but also visualizes the underground pipes on screens as one of the measures adopted to build a "sponge city."

Other measures include the building of scenic wetlands and permeable pavements for rainwater storage, said Yang Yong, deputy director of the SSTEC administrative committee.

To cut emissions, solar panels are installed on building rooftops, outdoor benches and even garbage cans, with driverless electric buses ferrying passengers.

The SSTEC is also renowned for spawning high-tech companies. As of January, more than 8,500 companies were registered in the eco-city with a population of about 100,000. Besides, 60 percent of the companies are smart or associated with technology.

A new "5G+AI" lab with full 5G coverage was inaugurated last month for 5G-related start-up companies, such as Aima, an electric bicycle producer involved in developing technology-based safe bikes for delivery personnel, and Deepinfar Ocean Technology, a company in the R&D, manufacturing and sale of underwater robots.

"The lab can accelerate the incubation by pre-verifying the feasibility of 5G products before the commercial use of 5G network," said Zeng Yansheng, director of the lab.

Life in the eco-city has also become smarter, thanks to technology.

By running on a smart and sensor-equipped track, joggers can obtain their running speed and calorie consumption information on the display at the entrance. The benches next to the track are equipped with solar-powered wireless mobile chargers and can also serve as a stereo system.

In the Sino-Singapore Friendship Library, robots are used to shelve books and help readers find those they want to read.

"I can borrow a book by scanning its barcode, and return it with my face scanned. The sorting robots will take care of the rest of the procedures," said the public servant Duan, who lives in the SSTEC.


Driven by reform and innovation, the BNA has been developed into a growth engine with industrial clusters surrounding the Bohai Bay in north China. Currently, the BNA's GDP accounts for about half of the entire Tianjin Municipality.

To improve the urban services, the BNA has prioritized the integrated development of the industries and the city to attract people working there to settle down.

High-quality schools and hospitals have been built, including Tianjin Juilliard, the first overseas campus of New York's Juilliard School. The master's degree awarded by this institution is accredited in the United States.

Heavy investment has also been poured to improve the ecology.

Nandi Coastal Trail Park, which used to be a tidal flat covered with grayish-brown sludge, has now become a new choice for residents to spend their leisure time.

"The original tidal flat wetland with poor ecosystem was redesigned to be an eco-friendly public space, functioning as a flood barrier," said Yang Jian, deputy general manager of Tianjin Binhai Tourism Area Investment Holding Co. Ltd., adding that even many Beijingers drive to the public space to spend their weekends.

Cui Jie, deputy director of the SSTEC Construction Bureau, said that due to the ecosystem restoration efforts, Tianjin has seen about 10,000 relict gulls, 80 percent of its total population in the world, return in recent years.

Listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, the relict gulls have very strict requirements for their habitat.

In the newly-built Binhai Cultural Center, a complex combining multiple cultural functions, residents can enjoy concerts, stage performances, modern art tours and immersive high-tech experiences. The library with a spherical, mirrored auditorium featuring terraced shelves in the center has attracted many readers as well as visitors taking selfies.

The BNA Party chief Lian said the number of people who commute to the BNA for work but live in the Tianjin city proper has decreased to about 40,000 now from some 300,000 in early 2016, indicating that the BNA has turned from an industrial area into a livable city.

"More and more newcomers have been attracted to buy an apartment and raise their children here," said Lian.

(Xinhua correspondents Zhang Yuqi and Lyu Qiuping contributed to the story.)

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