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Hebei: part of one of the biggest megalopolis of the world

Beijing and Tianjin cities were once part of Hebei province, but they eventually became municipalities with their own management. Hebei means “north of the river”, in this case the Yellow River.
Most people living in Hebei are Han, but there also consistent Manchu, Hui and Mongol minorities.
As it has historically been the province where the capital of China was located, Hebei was directly controlled by the central government for a long time. Its older name was, in fact, Zhili (meaning “directly administered”).
The total population is more than 75 millions, but, if we include Tianjin and Beijing, it almost doubles, making it a very densely populated area.
Important cities include Zhangjiakou, Baoding, Tangshan, Handan, Cangzhou, Chengde and the capital, Shijiazhuang.

Map of the provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions and special administrative regions of China. Source: chokkicx / Getty Images

Hebei: between mountains, plains and ocean

Hebei’s climate is continental, with the presence of monsoons. Temperatures can vary a lot through the year, going from -15 to 27 degrees. The raining season takes place during summer. While most of Hebei is flat, the western area, on the border with Shanxi, is mountainous.
The opposite border connects the province to the Bohai sea, through which it is possible to reach other eastern provinces of China or the Pacific Ocean.

Hebei is well connected with China's ancient past.

Hebei’s economy

Tianjin and Beijing, the two historically and economically most important cities of the area, are not belonging to Hebei anymore. The economy of Hebei suffered from this disconnection, making it now a relatively poor province when compared with East China. Many industries of the area are located in Tianjin and Beijing as well. For this reason it is hard to understand the economical situation of Hebei. If Hebei included Tianjin and Beijing, its economy would be far better on average.
The primary sector includes wheat, soy, coal and steel. Second sector, which is the most important to support the GDP, involves steelworks, textile, chemicals, ceramics, energy production and food processing. Tertiary sector is also very valuable, especially thanks to tourism, software and services.
To boost the local economy and general development, there are Economic and Technological Development zones in Baoding, Qinhuangdao, Shijiazhuang and Langfang.
Transportation with Beijing and Tianjin is very convenient. Because of its shape, Hebei takes advantage of all railways and highways leading to these two cities. Anybody must pass through Hebei to reach them – except by plane and sea. Still, important airports, such as the new Beijing Daxing Airport, are very useful to connect Hebei with the rest of the world, and sea connection is ensured by the big ports of Tianjin and Qinhuangdao.

A culture all around the capital

Hebei’s Peking man, from about 750.000 years ago, is one of the most ancient retrievals of humanity. Besides that, millions of visitors go to Hebei every year to see also the Ming Great Wall, since it is the closest portion of the Great Wall to Beijing. Another interesting spot is Shanhaiguan, the place where Manchu were allowed inside China in 1644, managing to end the Ming dynasty and later start the Qing.
Beijing influence is very powerful in Hebei. The Beijing dialect strongly influences Hebei’s language, and as a consequence the local dialect is very close to standard mandarin.
Local forms of opera, such as Pingju, are very popular and have been also influenced by the more famous Beijing opera.
The Great wall of China. Hebei's portion of the Great Wall is one of the most popular.

The capital, Beijing, and the big port of Tianjin have always had an important connection with Hebei. Even if these two are separated municipalities, their economy and culture are influencing each other. Hebei is, therefore, one of the provinces with the biggest potential in China, although not on statistics. At the same time, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area (called Jing-Jin-Ji) is one of the biggest megalopolis of the world, and will become more important in future.

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