“Journey to the West”

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Chongqing, Wuhan, Xian, Changsha and Chengdu, 5 of the 13 cities that we described in our book about Chinese megacities are listed in the ranking of Foreign Policy and McKinsey, covering the most dynamic cities of 2025 [1]. During our research in 2009 these cities were still largely unknown to the general public, but in the last few years they grew from unknown names in the hinterland of China to new urban metropolises.

Foreign Policy thereupon concludes that the existence of all those new dynamic cities in China can be seen as a proof of the decline of Western cities. While this could be the case, an article in the Oriental Morning Post (东方早报) of 6 November shows another trend. The article claims that at present almost 1/3 of all foreign investments in Australia’s real estate markets actually derive from China. In October this year the New York Times brought bits of the same story as it told about the port of Piraeus in Greece that since a Chinese company leased half of it two years ago, experienced a spectacular economic recovery. The other half is still in Greek hands, but while the Chinese side managed to double the amount of containers to 1,05 million per year, the Greek side was forced to focus on passengers transport to maintain basic operations [2]. Another port, based on real estate, is the financial district of Canary Wharf in London. The Economist announces that the China Investment Corporation already has the third-largest stake in the area and that several Chinese banks in the last couple of years bought or leased more than 28.000m2 of office spaces [3]. In a way you could say that the banks filled up the gaps that emerged after the financial crisis. Also the Global Post provides us with the news that on the US-China Cities Forum in 2012 at least four Chinese companies promised to invest a total amount of $70 million in the US [4]. Regarding the name of the Forum, these investments will probably be targeted at cities.

Logically, this is all part of China’s growing trade links with the rest of the world. However, if we dive deeper into the actual consequences of the cities involved, it is also possible to draw another conclusion. A conclusion that could propose that Chinese cities will not, as Foreign Policy argues, rise at the cost of Western cities, but might actually be involved in counteracting the mere decline of these cities. China’s Journey to the West has only just begun, but if we take a glimpse into the future, it might well be that a previous unknown city like Changsha can form the rescue of Athens in the coming years.

 

[1] www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/08/13/the_most_dynamic_cities_of_2025
[2] www.nytimes.com/2012/10/11/business/global/chinese-company-sets-new-rhythm-in-port-of-piraeus.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
[3] www.economist.com/node/18895430
[4] www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120624/china-investment-us-deals-chinese-companies

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