Deep inside China, the city of Chongqing is growing so fast that maps are out of date the moment they’re printed. Even for a country busting at the seams with development, Chongqing is exceptional—it’s the world’s fastest growing city.
From just 200,000 people in the 1930s, the city’s population has ballooned to 32 million and there are no signs of slowing – the metropolitan area absorbs an additional 1 million people every year.
Like many other places in China, this high-speed transition has overwhelmed infrastructure and the very idea of “city planning.” An article about Chongqing in the latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine likens the city’s growth to “a railroad car hurtling down the line at the same time that attendants scramble to hitch on the wheels and lay the track.”
Speaking of laying track, $1.5 billion is to be spent on the city’s light-rail system and $1.2 billion on other rail lines this year, Foreign Policy writes. On top of that key infrastructure outlay, $2.3 billion is going to highways and a massive project is under way to double Chongqing’s airport capacity to 30 million passengers by 2011 and 70 million by 2020. Financing for these and other projects is a mix of government and foreign investment.
On the jobs front, the local government slashed corporate tax rates to 15 percent (the national rate is 25 percent) to woo foreign corporations. That appealed to Hewlett-Packard, which is setting up shop in the area.
The “Chongqing model,” as it is called, has quadrupled the city’s GDP since 1998 to $86 billion. Currently, the city’s per capita income is only $3,300 a year, well below Beijing’s $10,000 level.
Chongqing’s robust weapons, motorcycle manufacturing and chemicals factories aren’t cheap-labor exporters to the developed world. Nearly 90 percent of the industrial goods produced in Chongqing are kept in the country.
This is a good example for the Beijing government to point at as it works to transition China from an export-led economy to one built on domestic consumption.
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