Chongqing: January 2008 Archives
I write this as I sit near the beautiful Shekou dock in Shenzhen (one of my favorite cities), where despite the light drizzle people seem prepared to head out for some evening entertainment in the nearby bars and restaurants.
Although I am happily back in the south (I joke -- well, not really -- that every time I arrive in the south, just setting foot off the airplane makes me 50% happier than I was in Beijing -- this time made moreso, as I was able to escape the capital's recent frigid weather and icy winds), it's Chongqing that has gotten my attention.
I've read alot about Chongqing recently. I have never been there, despite my love of Chongqing-style hot pot. I have some friends who reside in the city, and a remarkable number of them like to compare Chongqing, in aesthetic terms, to Hong Kong. A recent documentary that aired in Canada discussed Chongqing in glowing terms, and claimed the city's population would surpass Beijing and Shanghai by 2020 to become China's largest metropolis.
I honestly haven't paid the city that much though, until I picked up the December issue of That's PRD while in Shenzhen. Inside, Gary Bowerman has written an article called "China's hidden monster; Welcome to Chongqing, the most talked about city in the world..." Perhaps the headline writer exaggerated -- just slightly -- regarding the second half of that headline. But it's clear lots is happening in Chongqing, like other cities, outside of the Beijing-Shanghai shuttle.
(Unfortunately, after looking through the That's PRD website, I was unable to find a link to the story. If in Shenzhen or Guangzhou, I recommend picking up the magazine -- which, despite changes to its sister magazine in Shanghai, remains free).
But let's get back to the future - because no tourism site represents Chongqing's aspirations more vividly than the Urban Planning Exhibition Center. Though the scale city model at Shanghai's counterpart in People's Square is undoubtedly impressive, the vastness of Chongqing's urban ambition slays it with a trump card. Covering 60,000 square meters, it claimes to the "the biggest urban planning gallery in China". I don't doubt it for a second. And, while Beijing is constructing some of the world's most experimental modern architecture, Chongqing is not far behind. The Guotai Arts Center, The Chongqing Grand Theater and the Chongqing Science Museum, with a combined space of 174,000 square meters, are buildings of mind-blowing archectural largesse.
After an hour here, the video presentations and dazzling statistics - 15 bridges, 36,000km of roads, seven regional rail stations, as well as an enlarged port, to name but a few highlights - will disarm even the most jaded traveler. You simply won't believe your eyes.
The story also mentions how Chongqing is called the "largest city in the world", and how that is slightly misleading. Chongqing does apparently cover 82,000 square kilometers (about the size of Austria, the article tells us), and comprises 32 million people, making it equal to, or slightly larger than, greater Tokyo. But apparently the urban population is much smaller than Beijing or Shanghai, even though it may pass those cities within the next 15 years. 70% of Chongqing's current population is rural.
I am scheduled to visit Chongqing later this year, and I'm looking forward to seeing this city first-hand. Perhaps, when looking at the big picture, the exciting growth of the next 10-15 years in China will be in the second-and-third tier cities, many of which are rapidly catching up with Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Beijing. There are increasing numbers of opportunities in these cities for investors, and ammenities and infrastructure are rapidly becoming first class.