Call of the West
Chongqing is fast becoming western China’s manufacturing base and transport hub, and rival to Shanghai and Hong Kong
Chongqing is the youngest and largest of China’s four municipalities, alongside Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. And one of the largest and fastest growing cities in the world. Located on the upper reaches of the Yangtze river with a total population approaching 33 million (covering an area the size of Austria), the region is regularly in the spotlight for going its own way.
Whether you’re talking about the country’s first mobile-phone only sidewalk, the city’s overground railway lines that pass through high-rise buildings, or its rural land exchange system – a pilot scheme that allows farmers to loan their land to private companies in return for cash – Chongqing is a national trendsetter.
Just one of four direct-controlled municipalities (the highest level classification for cities in the People’s Republic of China) and the only one in inland China, the city has historically enjoyed preferential support from central government, and has seen accelerated economic development in past decades.
In 2000, the Chinese government launched the Western Development Program“Go West”to unlock the potential of China’s landlocked provinces, and Chongqing businesses enjoyed the knockon benefits of fiscal transfers, infrastructure investment, and generous tax and loan arrangements.
As a result, the city’s GDP has quadrupled since 1998, reaching $103 billion at the end of the first half of 2014.
According to Professor PuYong Jian, vice dean of Chongqing University, central government support is reflected in all aspects of the city’s investment, taxation and industrial policies. “Numerous developing programs are implemented in Chongqing, especially construction programs, as the city is the most important conjunction between the west and east China,”he says.
In recent years, the city (along with its neighbor Chengdu) has also been designated a key region for economic experimental reform. The city’s leaders have introduced progressive reforms to make it easier for rural workers to move