Photo: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
Chinese netizens are widely discussing a rumour that the Chinese government is planning to move the country’s capital in the next few years.Tea Leaf Nation’s Rachel Lu traces the rumour to Sina Weibo user @Victor倪卫华, who cited information leaked by a local government website that suggested work had already begun on moving China’s capital to Xinyang by 2016.
This isn’t the first time the rumour has surfaced, and talk of relocating the capital can be traced at least back to 1980.
The idea does appear to be gaining steam, however. In 2007 FT Chinese published an op-ed by Mei Xinyu that suggested it was time for the capital to be moved (you can read a translation of it here). The discussion picked up again in 2010 when a Shanghai-based scholar, Shen Hanyao, discussed possible alternatives, and just last year the South China Morning Post published an op-ed that suggested the capital should be moved to Hebei.
The problem is that Beijing is far from an ideal capital. For example, the city’s air pollution problem has been making headlines around the world. That’s not the only problem — the city’s traffic is notorious, and the country’s location makes it very susceptible to drought (a real problem that is likely to get worse).
Its location in the North East corner of the country has also led to some concerns in a country so large and diverse.
The big thing about the latest rumour — even though we should remember it is just a rumour — is that it names a specific city and a specific date that the move may take place. The article cited on Weibo even says that 160 experts descended on Xinyang to investigate the possibility last July, reportedly for the 28th time.
Xinyang is a city in China’s central Henan province, located on the river Huai. A 2010 census reported a little over 6 million inhabitants, which may sound like a lot but is pretty paltry compared to the 20 million people who live in Beijing. While moving a capital may be a major step, it wouldn’t be unprecedented — last century Australia, Brazil, and Argentina all moved their capitals.
Is it a good idea? Tea Leaf Nation also followed the discussion about the rumour on Weibo, and found a large amount of support for the rumoured move — except, of course, from Xinyang residents, who don’t want Beijing’s pollution, crime and traffic descending on their fair city.
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