Chongqing the biggest city?

Reno, Nevada claims to be “The Biggest Little City in the World”. Chongqing is simply known for being “the biggest city in the world”. For Chongqing, just like for Reno, this epithet may be slightly exaggerated.

Yes, on paper, Chongqing looks like a giant: 30 million people officially live in Chongqing and the city is as large as Austria. A city that big would be very hard to live in.

The reality is a bit different. The municipality of Chongqing should be considered only an administrative level, as it covers both rural and urban lands. The “urban city” is still huge compared to European ones, with central districts covering 1,400 km² and home to 4.5 million inhabitants.

Chongqing is still “big” in China for several other reasons. Firstly, Chongqing is considered a strategic hub for energy, water (with the three gorges reservoir) and river transportation.

Furthermore, Chongqing is one of the engines that will bring growth to Western China. Beijing is trying to reduce regional inequalities and rebalance development between eastern and western provinces and Chongqing has a role to play in this plan. Chongqing aims to attract more foreign investments with low labour costs.1

The city is more and more connected to the world, illustrated, for example, by Finnair operating a direct route from Europe to Chongqing since 2012.

Chongqing is also a laboratory for reform. It is in Chongqing where some of the most advanced policies regarding land reform have been implemented with, for example, the establishment of the first rural land exchange centre in 2008. It is for this reason Chongqing was chosen as one of the cities where UrbaChina members should conduct research on urbanisation in China.

  1. Luo Wangshu, Ji Jin (2014). Foreign investment eyes Chongqing’s connections. China Daily, 21 January 2014, accessed 19 May 2014 from http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2014-01/21/content_17247691.htm. []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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