China’s New Tomorrowland

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In the fast-growing megacity of Chongqing, another bridge is under construction across the Yangtze River. There were no bridges before the 1960s; now there are more than a dozen in the downtown area.

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Old barges, new yachts, and tour boats pass in front of Chongqing's skyscrapers.

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A $200 million futuristic opera house, heralded by city leaders anxious for a signature building on par with Beijing's CCTV tower, has drawn criticism from locals for its resemblance to a "giant green tank." Here, a woman with an umbrella passes in front.

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A fisherman casts his net into the muddy waters of the Jialing River, which flows into the larger Yangtze in downtown Chongqing.

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New office and residential towers are rising quickly. The local government receives one-fourth of its annual income from the sale of property-development rights.

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Most of the time, Chongqing's sky is grey with fog and smog, but on clear days people fly kites and play badminton in public plazas.

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Arhat Temple, one of the few ancient structures still standing in Chongqing, is now surrounded by skyscrapers.

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Billboards advertise utopian visions of Chongqing's future. Here, a sign touts peaceful development.

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The People's Liberation Monument, built in 1945 to mark the end of fighting with Japan and rededicated in 1950 after the Communist victory in China's civil war, was until the 1980s the tallest building in Chongqing. Now it's dwarfed by modern skyscrapers.

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Geography has long defined the city of Chongqing, nestled in between mountain bluffs on the banks of the Yangtze River. Today a jagged skyline rises through the smog.

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A display of the city at Chongqing's Urban Planning Exhibition hall erected only two years ago is already hopelessly out of date.

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The swirl of construction dust and sound of jackhammers can be overwhelming during the day. Some say the city looks best at night.

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Chongqing has commercial centers on both sides of the Yangtze River, and cable cars complement the system of bridges.

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Chongqing, which is sometimes called "the Vertical City," is an example of Chinese high-rise sprawl.

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The skyscrapers of central and southern Chongqing rise above the blue rooftops of small factories that dot the surrounding hillsides.

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Although the city is growing rapidly, its residents are hardly rich. At just $3,300, the annual per capita income in Chongqing is a third of Beijing's.

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One aim of Chongqing Party Boss Bo Xilai is to create more green space inside the cramped and bustling city.

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"Chongqing is a city of bridges and tunnels," residents say. Car ownership is growing rapidly.

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As in every fast-growing city in China, the city leaders of Chongqing are eager to construct showcase buildings and create a recognizable skyline.

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In Chongqing's northern New District, rows upon rows of apartment blocks stand where five years ago there were only fields.

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Chongqing's GDP growth is nearly twice that of China's national average.

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Older apartment buildings in northern Chongqing will soon make way for newer megablock developments.

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Megablocks line the hillsides of Chongqing. The city expects to absorb 1 million urban residents each year for the next 10 years.

  • For more on Chongqing, read "Chicago on the Yangtze," Christina Larson's reported essay from China's western gateway.
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