The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city is the second flagship Government-to-Government project between Singapore and China. The project was mooted by then-Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in April 2007, against the backdrop of rapid urbanisation and increasing global attention on the importance of sustainable development. On 18 November 2007, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Wen Jiabao signed a Framework Agreement for Singapore and China to jointly develop the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city.
The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city’s vision is to be a thriving city which is socially harmonious, environmentally-friendly and resource-efficient – a model for sustainable development. This vision is underpinned by the concepts of Three Harmonies and Three Abilities.
Three Harmonies refer to
- People living in harmony with other people, i.e. social harmony;
- People living in harmony with economic activities, i.e. economic vibrancy; and
- People living in harmony with the environment, i.e. environmental sustainability.
Three Abilities refer to the Eco-city being
- Practicable: the technologies adopted in the Eco-city must be affordable and commercially viable;
- Replicable: the principles and models of the Eco-city could be applied to other cities in China and in other countries; and
- Scalable: the principles and models could be adapted for another project or development of a different scale.
The Eco-city site is 40 km from Tianjin city centre and 150 km from Beijing city centre, and is located within the Tianjin Binhai New Area. The Tianjin Binhai New Area is located in the Bohai Bay Region (which covers Beijing, Tianjin and part of Hebei Province). The Bohai Bay Region was identified as the next growth engine in China, after the Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta.
The Chinese government had two criteria when choosing the site – land is non-arable, and facing water shortage. Four possible sites for the project were identified – Baotou (Inner Mongolia), Tangshan (Hebei Province), Tianjin Municipality, Urumqi (Xinjiang), The current site in Tianjin Municipality was eventually chosen as it was on non-arable land facing water shortage, which would be a convincing demonstration that sustainable urbanisation could be achieved despite difficult environmental challenges. Prior to the development of the Eco-city, the site comprised mainly saltpans, barren land and polluted water-bodies, including a wastewater pond of 2.6 km2.