Merger of cities in Shan­dong can ben­e­fit both if done right

China Daily - - COMMENT -

THE STATE COUN­CIL, China’s Cab­i­net, ap­proved Shan­dong provin­cial gov­ern­ment’s ap­pli­ca­tion to merge its small­est ad­min­is­tra­tive area, the city of Laiwu, with the neigh­bor­ing provin­cial cap­i­tal Ji­nan last week. China Daily re­porter Li Yang com­ments:

The move will in­crease Ji­nan’s area from 8,177 square kilo­me­ters to 10,244 sq km, its pop­u­la­tion from 7.4 mil­lion to 8.7 mil­lion, and its an­nual gross do­mes­tic prod­uct from about 809 bil­lion yuan ($120 bil­lion) to 913 bil­lion yuan, ac­cord­ing to last year’s data.

The merg­ing of the two cities is not a sur­prise to many, as the Shan­dong provin­cial gov­ern­ment started car­ry­ing out a re­gional in­te­gra­tion de­vel­op­ment plan cus­tom­ized for the two cities in 2013, and a 117-km high-speed rail­way con­nect­ing the two cities has been un­der con­struc­tion since late 2017.

Both cities will ben­e­fit from be­com­ing one ad­min­is­tra­tive area. Ji­nan will fur­ther con­sol­i­date its po­si­tion as the sec­ond largest city econ­omy in the prov­ince, sec­ond only to the coastal port city of Qing­dao whose GDP is about 1.2 tril­lion yuan. And if Ji­nan’s cur­rent an­nual GDP growth rate of about 12 per­cent is main­tained, its GDP will in­crease to more than 1 tril­lion yuan — which is the thresh­old for first ech­e­lon of cities in China of which there are about 13 at present.

For Laiwu’s part, although many peo­ple lament its dis­ap­pear­ance as a city in name, the lo­cal peo­ple and econ­omy will ben­e­fit from the move. The city — which was up­graded from a county of its western neigh­bor of Ta­ian to a city in 1992 thanks to the boom­ing of its steel in­dus­try that con­trib­utes to more than half of its econ­omy to­day — is ex­pected to re­ceive more sup­port from Ji­nan. And Laiwu will have more re­sources and room to diver­sify its eco­nomic struc­ture.

De­spite this, Ji­nan will have to help up­grade Laiwu’s in­dus­trial tech­nol­ogy, and im­prove its ur­ban man­age­ment and pub­lic ser­vices, which Ji­nan has been do­ing for it­self, so as to shorten the de­vel­op­ment gap be­tween the two places. If this work is not done ap­pro­pri­ately, one plus one will be less than two.

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