Less than 30 km away from Beijing, Hebei's Xianghe County is most famous for its cheap, delicious pies made of pork, beef or mutton, which have more than 200 years of history.
In the past four years, however, an utterly different industry has been taking shape in the meat pie county: robots.
A spate of high-end robot manufacturers have moved to Hebei to take advantage of the lower costs, including German company Nimak Welding (Beijing) Ltd., following the regional integration in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei launched in 2014.
Sun Liang, with the company's marketing department, said that it took only a few months for the company executives to decide to move to Xianghe.
In late 2016, his company decided to relocate to a robot-making area in Xianghe for market expansion in the province.
Construction of the government-supported area began in 2014, and the government provides preferential policies for companies operating there, according to Zhang Jinwu, a local official.
Nimak sold 1,000-plus robots with an output value of more than 200 million yuan (32 million U.S. dollars) last year, "a very good start," Sun said.
The company has more than 160 employees, of whom almost half are locals of Xianghe.
About 1,400 high-tech companies from Beijing and Tianjin have moved to Hebei since 2014. Last year, Hebei obtained 250 billion yuan of funding through the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei regional cooperation mechanism.
"Traditionally when people in China speak of Xianghe, they think of meat pies," Sun said. "But from now on, robots will replace meat pies to speak for Xianghe."
Beijing and Tianjin municipalities along with Hebei Province form one of China's most economically developed regions. Over 100 million people inhabit the region with an area of 216,000 square km.
Officials were urged to bear in mind coordination and integration when building the economic zone surrounding Beijing, and note the need for balancing development, the environment, population and resources.
In the past four years, several breakthroughs have been made in regional integration.
GOING HOME, THE HIGH-SPEED WAY
Diao Hongqi works for the Tianjin Tiantie Metallurgy Group Company in the mountain areas of Shexian County, Hebei Province.
The plant was built in 1969, when Diao was born. It currently employs more than 20,000 workers born in Tianjin.
The distance between Shexian County and Tianjin is about 550 kilometers. There used to be only two choices to travel between the two places: 13 hours by slow train, or 7 hours by coach.
"There was only one train every day, and the buses could be easily affected by weather," Diao said.