New city and lifestyle taking form in Chengdu
As the Western world celebrated Christmas on Dec 25, city leaders in Chengdu held a grand ceremony of their own — to break ground on a massive new project in the capital of Sichuan province that is likely draw attention from businesses around the globe.
Called Tianfu New Area, it will cover 1,578 square kilometers. If the vision of planners reaches fruition, it will be a modern, new “city” in the nation’s heartland.
Nearly 1,300 sq km, or 81 percent of the development, will be within the borders of Chengdu, with the rest in the neighboring cities of Meishan and Ziyang.
By 2030, its urban population is projected to be 5.8 to 6.3 million residents.
The new area will be built into an international city based on modern manufacturing and high-end service industries, according to the provincial government of Sichuan.
Qiu Qian, vice-director of Tianfu’s planning office and chief planner at the Sichuan construction bureau, expects that the area will become a new growth engine for Chengdu and its neighbors.
The city is already among the most competitive cities in western China, with many of its indicators topping the charts in the region.
Qiu noted that a large number of inland cities in the West — Chicago, Detroit, Frankfurt andZurich, to name a few — are booming international metropolises. He said Chengdu’s advantage is its convenient transportation links, especially by air.
Last year Chengdu’s Shuangliu airport surpassed Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport in both passenger and cargo throughput for four consecutive months, making it the fifth largest airport in China.
Qiu added that Chengdu also has competitive advantages in high-tech industries such as electronics, automobile manufacturing, new energies, new materials and biomedicine.
“Tianfu’s positioning (as an international city) is based on global vision and the actual conditions in Chengdu,” he said.
According to Zhang Qiao, head of the Chengdu planning bureau, the new area will offer both industrial growth for economic wellbeing and a quality urban environment for its residents.
The plan calls for 35 residential areas each covering 20 to 30 sq km that provide homes to 200,000 to 300,000 people.
Each community will be clustered around a leading industry with complete residential facilities, said Hu Bin, president of Chengdu Urban Planning and Design Institute, who participated in the new area’s design.
The design will help forestall urban problems such as traffic congestion and pollution from auto commutes.
A number of ecological projects are also part of the Tianfu master plan.
Four projects in Ziyang to improve water quality in Sancha Lake will receive a total investment of more than 2 billion yuan ($317 million). Four similar projects in Chengdu will require 15 billion yuan.
Yet they are small part of the new area’s ambitious ecological improvement program.
More than 1,000 square kilometers of land, or over 65 percent of the total area, will be used as an ecological belt, ensuring that the residents can enjoy both modern urban civilization and idyllic rural life.
Even before the launch ceremony, the Tianfu project already attracted the attention of some of world’s top companies.
On Oct 21, an investment promotion fair for Tianfu was held in Chengdu for representatives of global top 500 companies, including GE, McKinsey & Company, Bosch Group, Siemens, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Intel, AP Moller-Maersk as well as successful Chinese businesses.
“The Tianfu project will obviously boost our development in Chengdu. We are recruiting every month,” said a representative from Maersk Information Processing (Chengdu) Ltd. Professor Dai Bin, director of Regional Economics and Urban Management Research Center at Southwest Jiaotong University, said attracting industry giants is crucial to building an international industrial hub because they can bring a complete industrial chain that can serve both domestic and overseas markets.
Chengdu already has experience in courting international business.
In 2003, Intel established a branch in Chengdu that in turn attracted both upstream and downstream enterprises to the city. In 2009, the IT giant made a third investment, totaling $75 million, that raised its combined investment in Chengdu to $600 million.
Shortly afterwards, Foxconn, Dell, Compaq, Lenovo, and Texas Instruments followed suit. According to the Sichuan provincial government, the Tianfu New Area will be developed by three stages.
The initial period until 2015 will focus on development of high-tech, modern manufacturing and high-end service industries. Its industrial revenue is projected to reach 250 billion yuan in 2015. By 2020, the new area’s revenue is expected to hit 650 billion yuan, making it a national-level modern industrial hub. And by 2030, its blueprint calls for it to be a modern industrial and business hub with international influence. About 150 large projects with combined investment surpassing 200 billion yuan are already under development or actual construction in Tianfu