When Jiang Jieshi, otherwise known as Chiang Kai-Shek set up Chongqing as the capital for his Republic of China, he could not have envisioned the journey that the city would take.
Achieving the status of a municipality in 1997 as part of the Chinese government’s attempt to speed up economic development in the central and western regions, Chongqing is now one of China’s five ‘National Central Cities’, along with Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing and Guangzhou. The municipality has a population of 32.8 million although it is actually estimated that the number of actual urban residents stands at about six or seven million.
By all accounts, this economic initiative has been a success. Chongqing plays a central role in the the military, iron and steel industries, with heavy industry accounting for 71.5% of Chonqing’s gross industrial output. It is one of the countries three largest aluminium producers, and is home to Asia’s largest aluminium plant, South West Aluminium. Within these heavy industries, transport equipment takes the lion’s share at 29.3% of gross industrial output. Chongqing is the third largest centre for motor vehicle production, and the country’s largest producer of motorcycles. Car and motorbike manufacturers in Chongqing include Changan Automotive Corp, Lifan Hongda Enterprise and the Ford Motor Company.
The consumer market in Chongqing is also booming, as disposable income increases along with the industry. Total retail sales increased by 18.7% in 2011, standing at RMB 348.8 billion.Logistics has developed to keep up with ever increasing demand. The imposing and controversial Three Gorges Dam has the potential to provide up to 22,500 MW of electricity. It also increases the shipping capability of the Yangtze river, making shipping from Chongqing to Shanghai quicker, cheaper and safer. Work has also begun on the Shanghai-Wuhan-Chengdu High-Speed Railway, which will connect Chongqing to a 2,078km east-west high-speed railway line.
Chongqing is also leaning towards the electronics and information industries. Foxconn have a manufacturing base there, as do Hewlett-Packard Co. Several new development zones such as the Chongqing New North Zone will hopefully provide an industry hub. Indeed, the Chongqing local government hopes that high technology manufacturing will eventually account for a quarter of all its exports.
So, Chongqing sees a bright future ahead. It aims to become a major oil hub, processing crude oil from Burma, the Middle East and Africa and transporting it across China. At the same time, the city also promotes green industries: large companies such as Suntech are already important operators, and the city authorities are actively encouraging more green start-ups.Naturally, there are caveats. The last decade in Chongqing’s history has also been marked by corruption scandals, environmental problems and social inequality. However, Chongqing hopes to move past this and become a model of urban development for the rest of China to follow.
All Photographs © Patricia Calvo