Call of the West

Chongqing is fast be­com­ing west­ern China’s man­u­fac­tur­ing base and trans­port hub, and ri­val to Shang­hai and Hong Kong

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENTS - By Sarah O’Meara

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

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