Chengdu: China's Next Big Mega City Is Attracting Tech Startups And Foreign Investment

Chengdu China Development: (L-R) Chengdu Planning Exhibition Hall, Chengdu's Hi-Tech Zone, network equipment at Maipu, Chengdu's new Silicon Valley employees residences (Photos: Lianna Brinded)
Chengdu China Development: (L-R) Chengdu Planning Exhibition Hall, Chengdu's Hi-Tech Zone, network equipment at Maipu, Chengdu's new Silicon Valley employees residences (Photos: Lianna Brinded)

The southwestern city of Chengdu, located in China’s Sichuan province, is known mainly for its fiery food, beautiful women, and giant pandas. But what was once just one of thousands of the nation’s unassuming cities has become one of the biggest cities to watch in China.

In the past, Chinese hubs like Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong had been big sites for business and investment. However, more and more, second- and third-tier cities like Chengdu are on the rise for local and foreign investment, attracting tourists, businesses and new industries to the city. Backed by Premier Li Keqiang, who has called for the development of western China, Chengdu’s local government is making a push to be one of China’s globally recognized hubs, opening up the country’s often underexplored western regions.

Some of Chengdu’s quick numbers:

18 million: The estimated population of Chengdu in 2030, compared to its current 14 million. As the cities add additional large-scale construction projects, and airports, the city’s limits are also likely to expand.

71: The number of international air routes that go directly to Chengdu, including cargo routes, making it the biggest hub of international flights in the central and western regions of China. Chengdu’s international accessibility continues to expand. This year, the city plans to establish direct routes to the U.S. and Russia, and to make currently existing flights to Europe, the Middle East and other parts of Asia more frequent.

252: The number of Fortune 500 companies that have set up office locations in Chengdu. Companies that have set up shop in Chengdu cover a range of industries, from food and beverage, like Nestle and Danone Group, to medical giant’s GlaxoSmithKline and Unilever.

8.8 billion: The amount of foreign investment in U.S. dollars that has been put into the city, according to the Chengdu Investment Promotion Commission.

Though Chengdu has a rich history, like much of China, the city is keen on portraying an image of modernity and attracting foreign investment. Tapping into the tech industry is one way that the city plans develop that image.

Chengdu is already a hub of sorts for a lot of tech manufacturing. Somewhere between one-third and one-half of all iPads sold around the world are assembled in Chengdu, while about half of Intel’s microchips are also made in the city. But the city is striving to be more than just a manufacturer, but a Silicon Valley of sorts. “Software Park” is intended to focus more on innovation rather than immediate money-making schemes.

Additionally, the city’s “Go West” program offers startups one-year interest-free loans, giving them incentive to put down roots in Chengdu. The city’s “hi-tech development zone” has attracted about 29,000, of which 1,000 are foreign enterprises. 

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