China's Rapidly Expanding Inland Cities

The mostly unfamiliar cities of China's vast inland territories are growing at an exponential rate, attracting global businesses, infrastructure investment, and residents in search of opportunities.
August 12, 2012, 9am PDT | Andrew Gorden
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It has a population larger than that of New York City, and its GDP is expected to double in five years. With business booming, China's city of Wuhan, located about 750 miles deep into China's hinterland, is seeing explosive growth, putting a strain on its infrastructure and environment. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, "A variety of factors are driving that growth, everything from cheap land prices and low-cost labor to the tremendous demand for infrastructure...These days, the city feels like an open construction site as the local government tries to put in its first three subway lines. Many citizens can't wait."

Wuhan's evolution into a metropolis is similar to that of many other inland Chinese cities. Seen as a place for business to escape the increasingly expensive east coast cities, like Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong, inland cities are attracting both rural Chinese, who continue to flock to cities, and, increasingly, foreigners. Lower costs for business are giving incentives to foreign firms to move to inland China. "U.S. companies in Wuhan include the giant engine manufacturer Cummins, General Electric and TRW Automotive. According to Corum, they will soon be joined by General Motors," says Langfitt. "The French automaker Peugeot-Citroen has two factories in Wuhan. Pfizer has a research and development facility here as well."

Still, the rapid development hasn't been without problems. With a single light rail line, Wuhan's traffic is horrendous. Also, "[e]arlier this summer, a yellow, post-apocalyptic smog enveloped the city," reports Langfitt, "sparking fears that there had been an industrial accident." And for some residents, says Langfitt, Wuhan still cannot match the high life in the more cosmopolitan and developed east coast.

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Published on Tuesday, August 7, 2012 in NPR
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