While China’s tier-one and tier-two cities keep rapidly expanding, making us marvel at the speed and quality of their development, the really astounding action is happening elsewhere. Having probed piles of UN data, The Economist recently published its ranking of the world’s fastest growing cities by population. Unsurprisingly, alongside a slew of rising Indian municipalities, there were some Chinese ones, but, interestingly, not the ones that you might think of.
Suqian, a prefecture-level city in the north of Jiangsu Province, is one of the fastest growing cities in China economically, and the fastest growing city in the country demographically, according to The Economist. The city, while still rather small even on a domestic scale, reaps considerable benefits from its geographic position on the intersection between Shanghai and the provincial capital Nanjing, as well as other provincial economic hubs.
Suqian’s population has grown by 36.6% since 2015, not least thanks to opportunities in the manufacturing sector and recently in tech-adjacent ventures. Suqian is the hometown of Richard Liu, the founder of JD.com, one of the top Chinese e-commerce companies. Liu was among the first tech entrepreneurs to move their companies’ customer service teams to Suqian. Other companies – including Dangdang, another prominent e-commerce player – followed suit.
Suzhou, another major city in Jiangsu Province, has also made it on the Economist’s ranking. Suzhou’s total industrial output value ranks second in the country after Shanghai, while its total import and export volume was third in the country after Shanghai and Shenzhen.
During the “10th Five-Year Plan” period (2001-2005), 107 of the world’s top 500 multinational companies invested in Suzhou, with a cumulative registered foreign capital of $57 billion. Now the city hosts a few development zones, part of the municipal government’s efforts to encourage FDI, while its relative proximity to Shanghai and lower entry costs also act as a magnet for investors. Suzhou is also one of China’s largest manufacturing and tourist hubs.
Since 2014, Putian, a city in the southern Fujian Province, has gone through a series of urbanization reforms, which seem to have played out well, with the city’s urban population growing by 32.2% from 2015. As an export base for Fujian products – Fujian is known for its manufacturing industry – it is an attractive destination for rural citizens looking to give up their plows in exchange for a more lucrative profession. Additionally, Putian is a coastal open economic zone and enjoys preferential policies granted by the state and the province.
Interestingly, Putian is also home to the largest private hospital group in China, accounting for eight of every 10 private hospitals in the country. However, several deaths in high-profile cases associated with the facilities, and proof that some of the hospitals fabricated patients’ testimony and doctors’ credentials, have irrevocably mired the chain’s reputation.
Wuhu has grown to become the second largest city in Anhui Province. The city’s economic aggregate exceeds 300 billion yuan ($43 billion), equivalent to half of the provincial capital Hefei, and far surpassing other cities in the province.
There are two main reasons for Wuhu’s rapid economic development. The first is the Yangtze River. Wuhu is the largest port city in Anhui and the fifth largest port in the Yangtze River Basin. The second is Wuhu’s proximity to Nanjing, and its remoteness from Hefei, the provincial capital. This location gives it an opportunity to interact with an important city without being overshadowed by a bigger competitor.
Wuhu is also part of the Yangtze River Delta Economic Zone, an area with a developed economy and a wealth of Human resources. It is about 200 kilometers away from Nanjing, Suzhou, Wuxi, Shanghai, and Hangzhou, and on the intersection of many tourist routes.
Anyang was one of the eight ancient capitals of China. The city ranks seventh in Henan Province in terms of GDP, with a total population of roughly 5.9 million. It benefits greatly from being a regional center that borders 4 provinces – Henan, Hebei, Shanxi, and Shandong.
Anyang Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone, located in the southern part of the city, was established in 1992 and has become a demonstration base for China’s photovoltaic industry. The city also hosts the Hongqiqu Economic and Technological Development Zone, the eighth national economic and technological development zone in Henan, and the first county-level national economic and technological development zone in central and western China. As a result, Anyang has become a center for high-end equipment manufacturing.
The city is actively attracting foreign and domestic investment and is currently home to more than a dozen joint ventures.
Huai’an, a small county in Fujian Province, is considered home for a vast number of overseas Chinese, mainly those who settled in the province of Taiwan after the Civil War. The county is located in the middle of an economic zone on the west side of the Taiwan Strait, adjacent to the central city of Quanzhou, and in the middle of the sea transportation route from Shanghai to Guangzhou.
The county has a prominent position in strengthening Fujian-Taiwan economic, trade and cultural relations. It is one of the regions closest to Taiwan from the mainland and an important part of the southeast coastal city group. With a coastline of more than 200 kilometers, Hui’an has a wide water area and is a deep-water port, which is rare in China. It is planned as one of the four major transit ports in China by the Ministry of Transport and was even selected as one of the eight most beautiful coasts in China by the National Geographic.