he new designation of “national central city,” expected to
be introduced soon, could reshape the current hierarchy of
Chinese cities and give policy support to those which are
seen to have the potential to become world-class metropolises.
The concept was originally proposed by the China Academy of
Urban Planning and Design (CAUPD) in 2005 in the initial draft
of the country’s National Urban System Planning, a policy guideline
currently under discussion.
So far, eight Chinese cities are known to have already been granted
the new status. In addition to four centrally-administrated munici-
palities – Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing – the list also
includes four provincial capitals, namely Hubei Province’s Wuhan,
Sichuan’s Chengdu, Guangzhou in Guangdong and Zhengzhou,
capital of Henan. Last year, a so-called final list with 15 cities started
to circulate online, but an anonymous inside source close to the plan-
ning process told ChinaReport that it’s only one of a large range of
alternative plans. Li Xiaojiang, former director of the CAUPD, com-
plained at a conference last year that pressure has been huge since
contradictory opinions between different ministries have confounded
any consensus-making on urban systems planning.
Meanwhile, to compete for the remaining positions, however
many there are, provinces have issued official documents to support
their capital cities or regional economic giants to become national
centres. A competitive atmosphere has since been spreading among
China’s big cities, all of which are looking to climb the greasy pole.
The term “national central city” represents the government’s aspi-
ration to create more star cities, which can rival in influence world-
renowned metropolises like New York and London while also ener-
gising the regional economies in which they sit.
According to the original CAUPD plan, which started blueprint-
ing the country’s overall urban hierarchy in 2005, such central cit-
ies should be of global influence and competitiveness that will allow
National Central Cities
REACHing fOR STAR STATuS
China wants to create cities of global stature that allow the country to compete internationally and
boost the regional economies. At the moment, the provinces are competing to enter the global
By Cai Rupeng