About 60 miles south of the center of Beijing, a new city is being built as a showcase of high-tech ecologically friendly development. Its massive high-speed rail station and “city brain” data center have been heralded by Chinese state media as evidence of the speed and superiority of China’s growth model—not least because the city is a “signature initiative” of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xiongan New Area is also a test for whether China can boost domestic innovation and climb into the ranks of advanced nations in the face of slowing economic growth and efforts by the United States and others to restrict its access to advanced technology.
Xiongan offers a window into what Xi’s vision of state-led innovation looks like on the ground. Xi has called the city his “personal initiative” and a qiannian daji, or “thousand-year plan of national significance.”