In February 2010, the ministry issued the "National Urban System Plan" and designated five major cities, Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chongqing as National Central Cities.
It was the first time for China to set National Central City which would help to lead regional development in areas like economy, science and technology, communication and traffic.
In 2016, National Central City again captured public attention as it was announced that Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in southern China, Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, and Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, both in central part of China, would be constructed into National Central Cities.
In the ninth issue of 2017, Oriental Outlook ran a cover story discussing the reasons behind the selection of the three cities and the decision to support them to be developed into National Central City.
Below is an excerpt of the article.
Chengdu is located in both the Belt & Road and Yangtze River economic zone, which has a significant strategic meaning for the country. Developing Chengdu into a National Central City is a key step for the country to promote western region development and connect inland cities with eastern coastal cities and international market.
To become National Central City, the city has relied on innovation, reform, opening-up and talent as the four main engines to push the development of the city.
It is estimated that 12,000 technological enterprises were set up in 2016, up 9.1% on year and 39,000 patents were applied in 2016, up 32.6%. The high-tech industry helped the city to create 838.7 billion yuan in 2016.
According to the statistical bureau of Sichuan province, the 2016 GDP in Chengdu was 1,217 billion yuan, increased by 7.7% on year and the growth rate was one percent higher than that of the whole country.
In 2017, Chengdu set a goal to promote its industry through innovation and is to invest around 29 billion yuan in Research & Development (R&D) sector. It will also set up 12,000 more technological enterprises which will help to create 48 billion yuan technological deals, up 9% on year.
As a National Central City, it is also obliged to lead the development of neighboring cities such as Deyang, Ziyang and Meishan, and the way to connect these cities to Chengdu are the intercity high-speed railways.
Developing international rail roads is another key step for Chengdu to become a core city in the region. One of the most important international railroads is the Rong’ou express railroad which not only helps to transport cargos for companies between cities in China and Europe, but also to transfer capacity and upgrade industry.
According to Chengdu Customs, up to 1,200 companies used the Rong’ou express railroad in 2016, and it is estimated that the amount of cargos transported through Rong’ou has reached more than $2 billion in the past three years.
Fully exploring the domestic and international market, and participating in international supply chain are key steps for Chengdu to develop into National Central City, experts say.
In January 2017, China’s National Development and Reform Commission said it would support Wuhan to be developed into a National Central City. Like Chengdu, it is also one of the conjunctions of the Belt & Road and Yangtze River economic zone.
A port city by the Yangtze River, Wuhan is one of the most important traffic hubs in the Chinese mainland, integrating water, land and air carriages. The traffic advantage is a core resource for Wuhan to become a National Central City.
One of the seven pilot free trade zones that China has recently decided to set up, Wuhan will undoubtedly bring huge opportunities for the development of sectors including international trade and business, finance, logistic services as well as some new industries, experts say.
In 2008, the GDP of Wuhan was 396 billion yuan during the financial crisis, which ranked No. 8 among the 15 sub-provincial level cities of the country, while it now ranks No. 4 and is the only city in central China to have a GDP larger than 1,000 billion yuan.
Unlike many other cities which reformed their economies by upgrading the technology and eliminating backward capacities, Wuhan’s development also has to do with the city’s customer-oriented production policy.
Besides improving traditional manufacturing industry, emerging industries like information technology, medicine and intelligent manufacturing also support the rise of Wuhan.
Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, became one of the pilot free trade zones in February this year, marking the start of a national strategy in the city. In 2016, China has announced that it would support the city to be constructed into a National Central City.
With an economic output ranking 15 among the 35 big-and-medium sized cities across the country, the most important reason Zhengzhou was selected as a central city is due to the significance of its location for regional development. A major city on China’s railroad system, it helps connect China’s inland cities with coastal cities, and bridge China with European countries.
The capital city of Xia and Shang dynasties more than 3,000 years ago, Zhengzhou now is a pilot area for many programs including free trade, cross-border ecommerce and self-innovation.
It is estimated that the cross-border e-commerce created 6.4 billion yuan in 2016, up 65% on year, and the customs collected in the same year was up to 650 million yuan, a four-fold increase compared to the previous year.
While the country’s supportive policy has made large contributions to Zhengzhou’s development, there are still shortages that the city itself should make up, for example in areas like infrastructure, public service facilities, technology and innovation, education, as well as city governance.
But an official from the Zhengzhou Development and Reform Commission revealed that the city will have become a National Central City by the end of the 13th five-year plan in 2020, and developed into an influential international big city which contains core functions such as international logistics, national innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as advanced manufacturing and modern service.