Tianjin and its Binhai New Area carry high expectations not only as the next growth engine for China, but also as a model of sustainable development.
That was the clear message from Tianjin Mayor Huang Xingguo when he addressed the first panel discussion at 18th Asian Corporate Conference yesterday.
"Right after Shenzhen and Shanghai's Pudong, Tianjin is earmarked as the future portal city of China, a high-profile modern manufacturing and research and development hub, north China's international shipping and logistics center and last but not least, a green city suitable for human habitation," Huang said.
China's top decision makers have high hopes for Tianjin's pioneering efforts in scientific and sustainable development. To meet those expectations, Tianjiners are racking their brains to formulate a new approach for sustainable development, the mayor said.
In line with the national strategy for the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10), Tianjin has set a bold target to trim per unit GDP energy consumption by more than 20 percent by 2010.
Last year the city succeeded in meeting its energy efficiency and pollution reduction targets, with per unit GDP energy consumption dropping by 4.4 percent.
Tianjin is now working in full swing with Singaporean counterparts to build a demonstration eco-city project in its Binhai New Area.
What differentiates the eco-project from others is that it will rise from saline land in an area that desperately lacks water, Huang said.
"We will try to be bold and innovative enough to turn the eco-city into a sustainable model project," Huang emphasized.
Foreign countries, especially developed nations, have a great deal of experience to share with China in sustainable urban development, according to Huang.
Japan has done a good job in putting a conservation economy into law. The country has lowered its energy consumption of per unit GDP to only one-fourth of the world average.
"All these practices are treasured experiences that we can refer to. Although we are lagging behind, we can draw experiences from developed counterparts," Mayor Huang said.
Tianjin has traditionally been known as a manufacturing hub, but one lacking resources and a large consumer market. Restrained energy resources require the city to follow an energy-efficient and ecologically responsible path.
The city witnessed its annual GDP jump by 15 percent in each of the past five years. Tianjin has the lowest water consumption and electricity use per unit of GDP in the nation, as well as the highest rate of water recycling.
Water is so scare in Tianjin that its per capita water availability is only one-fifteenth the national average.
"We give top priority to water conservation. A city water usage plan has been worked out with regulating indices for the city and its industries in water consumption," Huang said.
The city has developed five cyclical industrial model projects, including the Dagang petrochemical industry project, TEDA eco-industry garden and the Beijiang power generation plant to facilitate a new development model.
"It is a very meaningful topic to address how to build a sustainable first-class city. It is generally believed that we cannot seek growth at the cost of our environment. A sustainable development path must be worked out," Huang added.
Western countries completed the stage of initial development decades ago. Developing nations are now going through the same process. "Construction cannot be given up, but a sustainable approach must be used," said Sheila Dixit, chief minister of Delhi.
John So, mayor of Melbourne, commented that as a more developed city, Melbourne also experienced challenges from unsustainable development.
"So we have a lot to share with our sister city Tianjin to maintain a sustainable growth, which guarantees the quality of people's lives," he said.