China's top steel province makes headway in green, balanced growth
* Hebei Province once accounted for roughly a quarter of China's total steel production, and was home to seven of the country's 10 most polluted cities.
* As China deepens supply-side structural reform for high-quality growth, Hebei has made headway in cutting overcapacity and pollution, and in the pursuit of green and balanced development.
* Wang Zhengpu, governor of Hebei, noted that the province would continue to promote the high-level ecological environment protection and the high-quality economic development in a coordinated manner.
by Xinhua writers Li Fengshuang, Zhang Tao and Gao Bo
SHIJIAZHUANG -- Hebei, China's top steel producing province, saw its steel production capacity down from 320 million tonnes at its peak to below 200 million tonnes over the past decade, local authorities said.
The number of iron and steel enterprises in the northern Chinese province has been slashed from 123 about 10 years ago to the current 39, and 15 steel companies have moved away from urban areas, according to Hebei's industry and information technology department.
Aerial photo taken on Aug. 15, 2022 shows a view of the Hutuo River in Shijiazhuang City, north China's Hebei Province. [Xinhua/Yang Shiyao]
As China deepens supply-side structural reform for high-quality growth, Hebei, which neighbors Beijing, has made headway in cutting overcapacity and pollution, and in the pursuit of green and balanced development.
Hebei once accounted for roughly a quarter of China's total steel production, and was home to seven of the country's 10 most polluted cities.
Having been engaged in the iron and steel field for nearly 30 years, Yao Zhankun, 54, has witnessed the change in environment of Hebei's steel hub Tangshan City.
Ten years ago, the steel mill Yao worked for was just next door to the local ecology and environment bureau. "The two stone lions at the gate of the bureau were often covered with dust, and the cars parked in its yard had to be cleaned every day," he recalled.
Photo taken on July 12, 2018 shows workers dismantling a steel plant in Tangshan City, north China's Hebei Province. [Xinhua/Yang Shiyao]
To reduce overcapacity amid an ongoing industrial upgrade, Yao's factory ceased production in late 2018. "I was very sad to see that the steel mill was dismantled. However, if the overcapacity issue were not solved, there would be no way to upgrade the industry. We must look at the big picture," Yao said.
While the outdated capacity has been reduced, steelmakers that remain operational have upgraded their technology and equipment to save energy and cut pollution.
Hebei Iron and Steel Group Co., Ltd. (HBIS), one of the world's largest steelmakers, has adopted more than 130 advanced technologies at its new plant in Tangshan, where ultra-low emissions have been realized across the whole production chain, said Pang Deqi, head of the energy and environmental protection department of HBIS Group Tangsteel Company.
GRASPING STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITIES
In 2014, China initiated a strategy of coordinating the development of Beijing and its neighboring Tianjin Municipality and Hebei. Sino Innov Semiconductor (PKU) Co., Ltd., a high-tech company based in the city of Baoding, Hebei, is the result of an industrial collaboration between Beijing and Hebei.
Aerial photo taken on Feb. 23, 2021 shows the Baoding-Zhongguancun innovation center in north China's Hebei Province. [Xinhua/Wang Xiao]
With technology support from Peking University (PKU), the company was incubated in the Baoding-Zhongguancun innovation center, which has attracted 432 enterprises and institutions since it was established in 2015, said Zhang Shuguang, who is in charge of the center.
Over 100 km south of Beijing, a "city of the future" is emerging with great potential, five years after China announced its plans to establish the Xiong'an New Area in Hebei.
To advance the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, Xiong'an was designed as a major recipient of functions relocated from Beijing that are nonessential to its role as China's capital.
Progress in moving companies and public services to the new area is accelerating. Centrally administered state-owned enterprises, including China Satellite Network Group and China Huaneng Group, have started the construction of their headquarters. Locations have been chosen for a group of colleges and hospitals from Beijing.
By the end of 2021, the Xiong'an New Area had completed an investment of over 350 billion yuan (about 50.6 billion U.S. dollars), and more than 230 key projects were planned this year.
Staff members operate at a workshop of a medical equipment company at the Qinhuangdao economic and technological development zone in Qinhuangdao, north China's Hebei Province, Aug. 3, 2022. [Xinhua/Yang Shiyao]
"The coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, the planning and construction of the Xiong'an New Area, and the Beijing Winter Olympics have brought golden opportunities for Hebei's development," Ni Yuefeng, secretary of the Hebei Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, said at a recent press briefing.
Over the past decade, Hebei's industrial structure has been gradually optimized. In 2021, the operating revenue of the equipment manufacturing industry climbed to 1.15 trillion yuan, becoming the top driving force for the province's industrial growth.
Continuous efforts driven by green and balanced development have borne fruit.
In July, several Baer's pochards were observed at Hebei's Baiyangdian Lake, proving that the Baiyangdian wetlands had become a breeding ground for these critically endangered ducks.
Photo taken on July 22, 2022 shows Baer's pochards and white-eyed pochards in Baiyangdian Lake in Xiong'an New Area, north China's Hebei Province. [Xinhua/Xing Guangli]
"Baer's pochards require a high-quality ecological environment. Their arrival is strong proof that the ecological environment of Baiyangdian Lake has improved," said Yang Song, deputy director of the planning and construction bureau of the Xiong'an New Area.
From 2013 to 2021, the average PM2.5 concentration in Hebei dropped from 104 to 38.8 micrograms per cubic meter, the number of days with good air quality in the province increased from 149 to 269, and heavily polluted days decreased from 73 to nine, said Wang Zhengpu, governor of Hebei.
Wang noted that Hebei would continue to promote the high-level ecological environment protection and the high-quality economic development in a coordinated manner.
Xinhua reporters Liu Taoxiong, Wang Min, Gong Zhihong and Cheng Lu also contributed to the story.
Video reporter: Qu Lanjuan; Video editors: Peng Ying, Cao Ying and Zhu Jianhui.