Beyond Beijing & Shanghai: The Next Era of Metropolitan Cities in China


Every year, Forbes China publishes a report on the “Top Cities in China for Business”. Already third to Shanghai and Beijing in population size, the city of Guangzhou was once again at the top of the list. Following Guangzhou were Shenzhen, Wuxi, Nanjing, and Hangzhou. Given the diversity of these cities in industries and areas, what are the main contributing factors that have allowed these cities to prosper?

Culture and History

There are many representations of Chinese culture in media and literature. However, we often only see one side of China’s rich history. This is why cities like those included in this report have been deemed valuable – primarily for the stories they share. Hangzhou and Nanjing are two of the Seven Ancient Capitals.

A neighbor to Shanghai, Hangzhou is home to one of the largest tea plantations where tourists can learn how to make and taste what is deemed as the most famous green tea in China – Longjing or Dragon Well. Other notable sites include the National Tea Museum. Other historical sites in Guangzhou include the National Silk Museum and the West Lake.

Nanjing has too been praised for its commitment to preserving history. Similar to Hangzhou, the city has preserved sites from its days as four ancient capitals. Some of these include the Sun Yatsen’s Mausoleum, Confucius Temple, and the Memorial Hall of the Nanjing Massacre. During the first National Day of Remembrance, eight thousand visitors paid tribute to the 300,000 victims of World War II. Another event held in this city of 8 Million people, is the International Plum Blossom Festival during the first quarter of every year.


Another striking characteristic of the cities on this list is their growth in the sectors of technology and research.

Prior to 1979, the city of Shenzhen did not exist. As trade with China increased, the area where Shenzhen is now was declared a “special economic zone.” From there, locals from neighboring cities migrated and built the city from scratch. Today, the city of Shenzhen has been labeled as Chinas Silicon Valley, with American companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook purchasing local subsidiaries with billion dollar valuations. Other than the investment of these multinationals, local manufacturers ZTE Corp and Hangzhou Hikvision have too contributed to the global economy recording billions of dollars in revenue.

With a population of 10 million people, the city of Wuhan has also been growing exponentially in the past few years. The city is predominantly fueled by the production of iron and steel however in the past few years; it has expanded its economy by engaging in automobile, biological engineering, new pharmaceuticals, and construction. With a 12.5% annual economic growth, analysts predict its gross domestic product to multiply significantly over the next few years.

Foreign Investment

Though the Chinese government continues to implement progressive policies for local companies, foreign investment remains to be a key priority for the growth of the economy. As China has projected openness to collaborate with other countries; political leaders and corporate heads alike have grown more confident to venture to the neighboring cities of Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai.

Since its first exchange of Western products in the late 1700s, Guangzhou’s economy has continued to rise. Having invested in maintaining a reputation of having a “good business climate,” by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Guangzhou is home to 13 of China’s most innovative companies. This December, Vice Mayor Cai Cholin will host the 2017 Fortune Global Forum with the hopes of welcoming more global companies to partake of business opportunities. To promote the event, the government of China shared initial plans to implement policies that will prioritize transportation, business, and technology. Should these cities continue to embrace change and innovation, they may soon overtake the stage in the next era of metropolitan cities.

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