China’s geographically uneven growth plays a key role in regional integration by creating more varied and largely beneficial global connections. In this article, Xiangming Chen takes a new look at China’s key cities and how they not only drive China’s local and regional economic growth but also serve as bridges to link China’s varied local economies to regional and global markets.
China projects a huge and continually growing profile and impact on the world stage. Much of this Chinese influence globally is often anchored to and channelled out by its key cities. Shanghai towers over all these cities in what it stands and functions for China, as the country’s financial and trade centre, largest port (also the world’s top container port), and gateway to China’s huge domestic market. As such, Shanghai gets a lot of attention from the global business community, especially when its stock market tumbled recently and sent shock waves around the world.
Besides Shanghai, a variety of other cities have become more important for China, and the world economy, for that matter. A number of these cities are well known for their significant historic and contemporary economic and cultural roles such as Guangzhou and Xi’an. Other cities have risen from unknown origins to prominent economic centres like Shenzhen. There are also some much less known cities that have grown into new regional hubs with strong global connections. You most likely have not heard about them, names like Ruili and Yiwu.
In this article I take a new look at China’s key cities by focusing on two of their salient features. These cities are drivers of China’s local and regional economic growth. They also serve as bridges to link China’s varied local economies to regional and global markets. I examine both roles in how they play out in similar ways across four very different cities in scale and other dimensions: Shanghai, Chongqing, Yiwu, and Ruili (see their locations on Map 1 below).
Map 1: The Location of Four Key Cities in China: Shanghai, Chongqing, Yiwu and Ruili
About the Author
Xiangming Chen is the Dean and Director of the Center for Urban and Global Studies and Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Global Urban Studies and Sociology at Trinity College, Connecticut, and a distinguished guest professor at Fudan University, Shanghai. He has published extensively on urbanisation and globalisation with a focus on China and Asia. His most recent book, with Sharon Zukin and Philip Kasinitz, is Global Cities, Local Streets: Everyday Diversity from New York to Shanghai (Routledge, 2015) with a companion website at http://www.globalcitieslocalstreets.org/.
*I express my gratitude to Yu Xue in Shanghai for her assistance in gathering the most up-to-date data in Figures 1 and 2. This article also draws from some of my collaborative work with former and current students at Trinity College, and research partners in the United States and Shanghai.