fundraising and fund using capacities, according to Li Xun. He said
the most important requirement is for these cities to be able to sup-
port and drive the growth of the regional economy.
For those who have already been officially recognised as central cit-
ies, there is no guarantee that they will keep that status for good, Liu
Zhiyan told ChinaReport, saying the title they are carrying is only
a message of anticipation. Whether the chosen cities live up to the
name will depend on their own efforts, he said.
Game of Policies
Since last year, at least nine cities have announced in official docu-
ments their resolution and proposed efforts to make it to the list of
national central cities. Zhang Hongming, former mayor of Zhejiang’s
provincial capital Hangzhou, told ChinaReport that they contacted
relevant departments to propose their plans immediately after the
message was issued last year.
In August, Zhejiang made it official in their written 13th Five-Year
Plan for urban development that Hangzhou would join the competi-
tion for the status while encouraging the city to take full advantage of
the opportunity of hosting the G20 summit in 2016 and the Asian
Games in 2022.
Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi province, has written into the report of
the regional Party Congress its commitment to placing the construc-
tion of a national central city among the city’s core strategies over
the following five years. Similar statements have also appeared in the
congress reports of cities like Changsha (capital of Hunan Province),
Zhengzhou (capital of Henan) and Ningbo in Zhejiang. Shandong
Province, China’s third largest regional economy, released an urban
development plan earlier this year to support both its capital Jinan
and the coastal industrial city Qingdao in their endeavours to build
themselves into qualified national centres.
The earliest to announce a central city plan was Wuhan, capital of
central Hubei Province. The city started an economic campaign as
early as 2013. Its major effort was a so-called economic multiplica-
tion plan that primarily promises notable growth in industrial out-
put. In 2013, Wuhan’s GDP grew by 10 percent year-on-year to 900
billion yuan ($130.9 billion), making it the fourth-largest economy
among provincial capital-level cities, after Guangzhou, Shenzhen and
National central cities need a substantial population and economy.
Many cities are making efforts to get bigger.
Believing that a city’s economic capacity is primarily determined
by its physical size, officials in Xi’an, who previously reported much
smaller economic figures than the city’s counterparts along the
wealthier east coast, have endeavoured to make the city seem bigger.
Following in the footsteps of Chongqing, Chengdu and Wuhan, all
of which have incorporated smaller neighbouring cities and counties
on their way to becoming GDP giants, the provincial government
of Shaanxi made Xianyang, a highly promising industrial zone, an
official part of Xi’an earlier this year, bringing the provincial capital an
additional one million in population and 10,000 square kilometres
The move has effectively given Xi’an more space for development
and allowed the city to qualify on physical and economic scales to be
a national centre, said Xi’an’s mayor Shangguan Jiqing in an exclusive
interview with ChinaReport during this year’s annual parliamentary
sessions in Beijing.
“Being chosen as a national centre means a city has its develop-
ment potential, advantages and prospects recognised by the country’s
top policy-makers,” said Yang Kaizhong, professor of economics at
Peking University. Yang said the title will also mean marketing success
for the city.
What truly matters is the promise of practical benefits, as national
central cities are likely to enjoy more preferential policies, especially in
infrastructure and public services, Liu Zhiyan of CASS told ChinaRe-
port. The title will soon be followed by a large number of construction
projects that will instantly boost a city’s economy and transportation,
said Lü Renyi, a lecturer at Xi’an University of Architecture and Tech-
Using Shenzhen as an example, which grew from a fishing village
to a modern metropolis in no more than three decades, Lü said pref-
erential policies have proven highly effective in creating economic
miracles in China. The construction of a national centre will turn
a city into a huge magnet that attracts a continuous flow of funding
and human resources, said Liu Zhiyan.
Behind these benefits there stands a fundamental duty for the cen-
tral cities, said Li Xiaojiang of the CAUPD. They are expected to join
the rank of world-class cities so that they can support China’s global
strategy, Li said. While China endeavours to move its manufactur-
ing up the global industrial chain and open up further to interna-
tional trade, it needs a number of national centres to perform global
functions such as free trade zones, international exchange centres and
transportation hubs, said the CAUPD’s Li Xun.
To ensure that a national strategy is properly implemented on a city
level, the central government will need to practise policy interven-
tions, suggested Tsinghua University architecture professor Yin Zhi
in an academic paper.
He said interventions can be done through establishing a national-
level pilot zone for policy reform, launching large-scale national-level
construction projects and supporting national strategic resources.
Only these can make sure that the construction of national centres
will follow the country’s overall strategic path, he said.