For all the attention being heaped on Shenzhen lately, Guangzhou is deserving some of its own, too. It is, after all, China’s No. 1 city in two measures much-loved by mainland residents: population mobility and urban vitality.
This is according to Baidu Map, the service that probably knows more about how people move around than any other. Among 100 Chinese cities surveyed by Baidu Map, Guangzhou topped the list with an “attractiveness index” of 14.277, ahead of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen.
Guangzhou had 14.904 million permanent residents at the end of last year. The government plans to increase its population to around 20 million by 2035.
The reasons why Guangzhou is appealing to outsiders can be summarized as follows:
The city has fantastic landscape as well as mild and humid climate. It even ranked among the top five livable cities of China last year.
It has been at the forefront of Reform and Opening, with a dynamic economic structure and good public facilities, such as hospitals and universities.
A highly diversified economy provides more opportunities for job seekers from various sectors.
Industrial upgrading in the GBA has increased Guangzhou’s attractiveness as the southern China base for multinational companies.
House prices in Guangzhou are relatively more affordable compared to other major cities.
The local government has also rolled out a series of measures to attract talent.
With forests, beaches and traditional villages, Huizhou has big potential in tourism. The city is also aiming to ride the tech-upgrade momentum created by the GBA masterplan. Here is a deeper dive into one of the Bay’s more spacious municipalities.
Guangzhou’s first-half performance this year was remarkable indeed, as the trillion-yuan economy was up 7.1%, nearly a percentage point above the national average. However, within the city were two astonishing growth stories, in the Nansha and Tianhe districts, which grew at a sizzling 9.4% each.
The least-populated of the nine GBA cities, Zhuhai is determined to catch up with an aggressive development plan that includes technology upgrades and cooperation with Macau to build a world-class tourism hub.
Dongguan and Foshan, the two cities most closely linked to Guangzhou, have been dueling for attention and prestige for decades. Both are “Tier 2”, behind Guangzhou and Shenzhen, yet with lofty ambitions. Trade data from the first half of the year paints an interesting picture of how each is doing. (We have City features, hyperlinked above, that are worth reading, in case you missed them.)
Foshan has the bigger economy, but in recent years Dongguan has been closing the gap thanks to large hi-tech investments by some of the country’s biggest manufacturers. It also has a bigger foreign trade sector, nearly three times the size of Foshan’s, which illustrates how Dongguan is more like Shenzhen and Foshan is more like Guangzhou.
The municipality of Foshan looks like a suburb of Guangzhou on a map. The two are divided only by a small river and if their boundary were removed they would look like what is expected of a major megalopolis. Which is why it makes sense that they are intertwining more by the day, with a common Metro system and joint planning commissions. But go back in time, not that far, and Foshan’s status as a dynamic and brilliant city in its own right becomes clearer.
Foshan’s Dali was once seen as an example of what went wrong in China’s helter-skelter economic drive, as its aluminum industry processed thousands of tons of other countries’ waste. Not any more. Now a new project aims to turn the town into a global trading center.