Kaifeng, known as the "capital of eight dynasties" for its role in China's history, is expected to regain its former glory under a national strategy that will see it turned into the center of a megalopolis.
The ancient capital will be linked with the current provincial capital of Zhengzhou in central China's Henan by a 50.5-km intercity rail line before the end of 2013. While it presently takes an hour to drive between the two cities, that transit time will be cut to 17 minutes by train.
This is the latest major step toward the status of megalopolis, which can be defined as a giant urban area consisting of several large adjoining and interconnected cities. Zhengzhou and Kaifeng have also started to use the same telecom area code, and charges on long distance and roaming calls were canceled in late October.
The Zhengzhou-Kaifeng integration is poised to be the core of the Central Plains Economic Zone, a Henan-centered cross-administrative region which covers 30 cities in Henan and the surrounding Hebei, Shandong, Shanxi and Anhui provinces.
Officials are aiming to have the zone taking shape by 2015 and built into a prosperous, environmentally friendly region by 2020.
The plans come as a shining example of China's work to tap its mass urbanization to facilitate economic upgrading and sustainable growth. As this drive was accelerated during the recently concluded key reform meeting of the Communist Party of China, new focus has been placed on Zhengzhou-Kaifeng integration.
"The formation of megalopolises during the urbanization process is a global trend," said Sun Tingxi, director of the leading group office of the zone and director of the Development and Reform Commission of Henan.
Lagging behind in China's reform and opening up in the past three decades, the central and western regions of the country are expected to generate strength from such urban structures, added Sun.