The East Is Rising

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Foreign Policy's index of the 75 most dynamic global cities contains more than a few surprises, but perhaps none more so than the fact that 29 of these cities are in China -- far and away the most of any country on the list. As part of its mad dash toward modernization, China has rapidly urbanized, spawning a slew of massive cities whose size is only tempered by the surprising fact that most people in the West have never heard of them. Despite their relative anonymity, these are the cities likely to drive the world economy during coming decades. Some are high-tech manufacturers; others are bathed in smoke produced by the factories that not long ago were a common sight in Western countries. Meet the 29 Chinese cities powering global growth.

Shanghai: Although Shanghai had no skyscrapers in 1980, it now has at least 4,000 -- more than twice as many as New York. In 2010, 208 million square feet of real estate, nearly 80 times the square footage of New York's massive One World Trade Center, was constructed in the city. Above, the Jinmao Building and Oriental Pearl TV Tower can be seen dominating the Shanghai skyline as its rises from the banks of Huangpu River.

Beijing: With the opening of its third airport by 2015, Beijing is expected to surpass London as the world's busiest air hub. Beijing Capital International Airport's Terminal 3 is already larger than all five terminals at London's Heathrow combined. Above, passengers walk through a terminal at Beijing's Capital airport in January 2011.

Tianjin: Tianjin is home to the world's largest military theme park, where visitors can stay at a hotel aboard a former Soviet aircraft carrier, the Kiev. Outside the city, the Chinese and Singaporean governments are building an environmentally friendly city from scratch. Known as the Tianjin Eco-city, it is expected to house 350,000 residents. Above, a pedestrian walks past a scale model of the planned Tianjin Binhai New Area CBD (Central Business District) in August 2011.

Guangzhou: Guangzhou, whose 2011 GDP of $190 billion eclipses Algeria's, anchors Guangdong province -- which, if it were its own country, would rank among the world's 25 largest economies. Chinese officials hope to link Guangzhou, already home to nearly 12 million people, and its sister cities in the Pearl River Delta to create a "megacity" of 42 million inhabitants spread across 16,000 square miles. Here, stranded passengers at Guangzhou Railway Station wait below a viaduct in January 2008. Fourteen provincial-level regions were struck by the historic cold weather, which paralyzed air, rail, and highway traffic and left over 150,000 rail passengers trapped in Guangzhou.

Shenzhen: A fishing village when it was selected as China's first special economic zone in 1979, Shenzhen hosts the world's largest electronics factory, "Foxconn City," famous for its iPhones. The facility employs an estimated 230,000 workers, fed by an average of 3 tons of pork and 13 tons of rice per day. Above, Chinese workers gather outside Shenzhen's Foxconn factory in May 2010 after a labor rights group announced it had found "deplorable" conditions at Apple suppliers in China.

Chongqing: The municipality of Chongqing, with 30 million people and a $160 billion GDP (comparable to Ukraine's), constructs 700,000 units of public housing annually, with 430 million square feet due to be completed within the next three years alone. New York, with a population of 8 million, has 180,000 public housing units. Here is a typical Chongqing social housing project -- part of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's aims to build 36 million low-cost homes by 2015 in an initiative estimated to increase local government borrowing by an estimated $307 billion.

Wuhan: The train from Wuhan to Guangzhou is the world's fastest intercity train, reaching top speeds of 217 miles per hour. Above, CRH380A high-speed trains are seen near the Wuhan Railway Station on Jan. 15, 2011. Chinese officials have invested billions of dollars in broadening and modernizing the country's rail network to keep pace with growing demand. Last year's 40-day spring festival travel rush attracted some 230 million new passengers.

Foshan: Foshan, which means "Buddha Mountain," is aiming for annual industrial output of $470 billion -- about Iran's entire GDP -- by 2015. As China's ceramics capital, Foshan produces some 70 percent of the country's ceramic products (read: toilets), and a recently opened factory promises to make the city one of the world's largest spandex producers. Above, a display of local wares on view in Foshan.

Nanjing: By 2015, Nanjing's province, Jiangsu, is expected to account for 35 percent of ship production in China, which is the world's second-largest shipbuilder after South Korea. This year, Nanjing shipbuilders won a contract to build the Titanic II, a modern replica of the ill-fated vessel that is scheduled to make its maiden voyage from London to New York in 2016. Above, Chinese workers construct a large ship at a shipyard in Nanjing in November 2009.

Chengdu: According to China Daily, Chengdu will soon produce 70 percent of Apple's iPads -- some 40 million tablets. Here, Chengdu factory workers labor on a cell-phone production line in February 2009. The global financial crisis threatened China's employment balance as demand for export products dropped, but demand has picked up once again.

Hangzhou: Hangzhou hosts the headquarters of Alibaba.com, China's largest online retailer and the company responsible for an estimated 60 percent of the packages sent within China. The Hangzhou-based e-commerce company operates Chinese-, English-, and Japanese-language websites for domestic and foreign trade.

Dongguan: This manufacturing hub is home to the world's largest shopping mall, a 9.6 million-square-foot vanity project built by homegrown billionaire Hu Guirong. Today, it sits largely empty. Designed to be the world's largest mall, with space for fun fairs, hotels, and luxury residences amid more than 1,500 stores, the complex failed to attract the necessary foreign investment.

Shenyang: In 1986, Shenyang became the first mainland Chinese city after the 1949 communist takeover to open a securities market and the first to allow a company to go bankrupt. Above, investors watch the electronic display board at a stock exchange in Shenyang in October 2009. 

Xian: As China ramps up its spaceflight program, Xian -- home to the famous terracotta warriors -- has emerged as the country's largest civil aerospace base and largest experimental center for liquid-propellant rockets. Here, a somewhat less technological launch, as lanterns are released into the sky for New Year's Eve.

Suzhou: Suzhou's industrial park, an innovative joint effort with Singapore, has helped make the city China's third-largest in terms of exports, with $167 billion in 2011 -- more than Norway. Despite breakneck industrial growth, Suzhou, known for its classical gardens, remains one of China's most livable cities, with 43 percent of its land devoted to green space, compared with 14 percent in New York. Above, a visitor to a traditional Chinese garden in Suzhou can be seen through a passageway.

Hong Kong: The former British colony has the highest concentration of Rolls-Royces of any city in the world. But it is also home to one of the world's most notorious slums, where 100,000 people live in units smaller than 60 square feet, including cages and cubicles. Above, an extended-wheelbase Rolls-Royce Phantom awaits, as the glittering skyline of Hong Kong shines in the background.

Dalian: China is reconstructing its first and only aircraft carrier, the Varyag, which was purchased from Ukraine in 1998, at a Dalian shipyard. The city was called Dalny ("faraway" in Russian) until the Russians lost it to the Japanese in 1905. Above, the Varyag aircraft carrier sits docked at Dalian shipyard in June 2011.

Wuxi: Wuxi hosts Suntech Power, the world's largest manufacturer of blue solar panels, with annual production capacity of 1,800 megawatts -- enough to power 360,000 homes. Here, factory workers can be seen assembling solar panels for Suntech on Feb. 27, 2012.

Ningbo: In 2010, China's third-largest port, Ningbo, processed 13 million containers -- about as many as Los Angeles and Long Beach combined. Above, workers prepare to load a waiting container ship at Ningbo Port on June 21, 2012.

Jinan: This provincial capital hosts the Lanxiang Vocational School, which trains computer scientists for the Chinese military and is the reported origin point of several recent cyberattacks on U.S. companies, including Google, and Chinese human rights activists. Above, new soldiers of the Jinan Military Area Command take part in a drill in January 2011.

Xiamen: With 30 million tourists generating $6 billion in revenue in 2010, Xiamen hopes to become the "Miami of China." Home to the first mainland bank jointly funded by Taiwanese capital, the city is also positioning itself as a regional financial hub, breaking ground on a $4.8 billion financial services center this year. Here, Taiwanese tourists gawk from a pleasure boat at the front-line island separating Taiwan and China's Xiamen in July 2006. An important base for cross-strait trade, Xiamen is separated from Taiwan by only a narrow strip of water.

Qingdao: Qingdao boasts the world's longest sea bridge, which spans 26.4 miles across Jiaozhou Bay and cost more than $1.5 billion to build. Here, Qingdao Jiaozhou Bay Bridge can be seen three days before its June 30, 2011, opening.

Harbin: The biggest city in China's frigid northern Heilongjiang province, Harbin is famous for its annual, month-long ice festival, which each year brings in 14 million tourists -- nearly twice the population of metropolitan London -- and an estimated $1.4 billion. Above, visitors at the 30th Harbin Ice Lantern Festival admire some of the more than 2,000 ice and snow buildings and sculptures on display in December 2003.

Changzhou: Changzhou hosts the world's tallest pagoda, the Tianning Temple, which, at 153.79 meters tall, is "7.2 meters closer to the heavens than the Khufu Pyramid in Egypt," China's state news agency boasts.

Hefei: Although Hefei is one of China's lesser known and smaller cities (by Chinese standards), disposable income growth in the metropolis of 4.9 million is on track to be seven times that of London this year. Above, China's nuclear fusion device is photographed at the Hefei Institute of Physical Science in May 2007. Nicknamed the "Artificial Sun," the structure is the world's first full superconducting tokamak device and could offer highly effective, safe, and unexhaustable energy in the future.

Xuzhou: This local transportation center in the eastern province of Jiangsu is home to XCMG, manufacturer of the world's largest crawler crane. The crane has a lifting capacity of 3,600 tons, or the equivalent of about 60 M1 Abrams tanks. Here, a worker labors on the production line at XCMG in March 2008.

 

Changsha: Hunan Broadcasting System, the TV station that produced the wildly popular Super Girl series, is based in Changsha. After the American Idol-like show peaked in 2005 at 400 million viewers, government censors shut it down in 2011, reportedly concerned by its democratic voting system. Above, producers film Hunan Satellite TV's popular singing competition Super Girl Voice in June 2006.

Fuzhou: Xi Jinping, the Chinese heir apparent who is expected to become president this year, can trace his rise to this city, which he helped govern during the late 1990s. If all goes according to plan, Fuzhou will be home to the first undersea communications cable linking Taiwan to the mainland since 1949. Here, a Chinese man watches swimmers in Fuzhou's Minjiang River in May 2006.

Tangshan: A coal-mining center east of Beijing, Tangshan has in recent years emerged as a center of iron and steel production and will open 21 blast furnaces just in 2012 -- compared with the 27 blast furnaces operating in the entire United States. Above, steel H-beams come off a production line at the China Oriental Group Co. steel plant in August 2009.

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