Chinese City Of Wuhan Competes To Be Next New York City

Laundry hangs outside a student dormitory at a college in Wuhan
Laundry hangs outside a student dormitory at a college in Wuhan, Hubei province March 5, 2009. Picture taken March 5, 2009. Reuters

Officials of a mainland Chinese city are boasting that their growing metropolis will join the ranks of world-class global destinations like New York by 2050. No, the city isn't one of the usual suspects like buzzing financial hub Shanghai or political center Beijing; it’s the central city of Wuhan.

Wuhan’s steady climb by GDP per capita has taken it to the ranking of 34th richest city in China. That may not sound like much, but Wuhan plans on being a central point for economic competition and trade because of its position on the Yangtze River. The Economic Observer said the government’s plan to transform the city of 10 million people rests on leveraging its location in central China as well as its reputation for competitive higher education.

The report says Wuhan has yet to successfully capitalize on its prime location. As China’s road and railway infrastructure continues to develop, Wuhan’s port location on the Yangtze has become less important for the transportation of goods. At the same time, other central cities have made a name for themselves as regional industry leaders. Zhengzhou, for example, located a little over 300 miles north of Wuhan, has made a name for itself by being the Chinese home to shipping giants UPS, FedEx, DHL and TNT. The report goes on to say that while Wuhan does attract some of the country’s brightest minds to attend high-ranking universities, many often leave after completing their courses, opting to work elsewhere.

The progress in transforming Wuhan into the new New York doesn’t seem to be materializing, and residents aren’t confident either. According to the report, one local website published the announcement by Wuhan officials and received an overwhelmingly negative response. A majority of 700 comments were skeptical of the lofty goals, saying the government was indulging in daydreams.

While Wuhan may be far from achieving international status, an area in Hangzhou, a city 450 miles east of Wuhan, has earned a spot on the map by becoming China’s Paris -- literally. The Tianducheng development in Hangzhou has replicated the famed French capital complete with a miniature Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées and European-style architecture. Aside from the copycat city, it doesn’t look like any of the smaller Chinese cities will become international cosmopolitan destinations anytime soon.

Paris, China The Tianducheng development in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, has replicated many of Paris' landmark designs and architecture including the Eiffel Tower.  Reuters

Erik Crouch, a news blogger at Shanghai-based website the Shanghaiist, echoes the sentiment Wuhan residents have over the ambitions of city officials. “We don’t blame you for trying, Wuhan officials,” Crouch wrote. “Perhaps next time you could aim to be ‘the Columbus, Ohio’ of China, instead of the New York City.”

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