China cities special report: History-making Hangzhou is China’s best city
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China cities special report: History-making Hangzhou is China’s best city

Its famous West Lake has been celebrated by poets and writers since the ninth century. Now Hangzhou – which will host the 2022 Asian Games – has been named Best China City 2015 in the first survey of its kind by Euromoney.

by Simon Parry

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Cities in China face a constant dilemma as they race to improve their infrastructure to keep up with their country’s astonishing pace of economic development. How do they modernize without sacrificing their heritage and liveability?

In the rush to be economically competitive, some cities risk being overwhelmed by change and losing their character, sometimes seeing their historic districts lost beneath urban pollution and the wrecking ball of progress, their citizens’ lives diminished.

By careful and intelligent planning, however, many more cities escape this fate. One Chinese city in particular that has impressively maintained its quality of life in the face of great change is Hangzhou, winner of the inaugural Euromoney Best China City 2015 survey.

The capital of China’s southeastern Zhejiang province, Hangzhou has been celebrated by poets and artists since the ninth century for its stunning West Lake, which features islands, temples, pavilions, arched bridges and the 1,000-year-old, five-storey Leifeng Pagoda.

At the same time, it has created a healthy economic environment that welcomes investors and provides outstanding conditions for businesses and residents alike – putting people ahead of infrastructure to ensure its continuing success.

“This history-laden city is moving well with the times, attracting investment from around the world and receiving praise from citizens for several aspects of day-to-day life in the city,” Euromoney managing director Christopher Fordham said at a presentation ceremony.

Top marks

Four other cities were given top honours in the awards, which were described by Fordham as an authoritative ranking of the best cities in the country. Shenzhen was named best city for Innovation Technology and also won the Best City for Environment award. 

Shanghai, meanwhile, was named Best City for Financial Competitiveness. Suzhou won the award for Best City for Forward Visibility of Tax Liabilities while Chengdu, capital of western Sichuan province, won the award for Best City for healthcare.

The winners were chosen on the basis of hard data and executives’ opinions from a broad variety of sources to produce definitive rankings in what will become an annual survey to identify the best Chinese city. Cities were judged on a broad spectrum of categories. Hangzhou was ranked top in a number of fields including law and order and security, mass transport, tax system, ability to attract foreign investment, technological infrastructure and promotion of green policies.

This country has forged an incredible growth pattern and the continued success of all major cities is expected

Christopher Fordham, Euromoney

Beijing scored best for education, with Hangzhou in second place, and also received the highest score for hard infrastructure and availability of city employees. Shenzhen was ranked top for sustainability, followed by Hangzhou.

Shenzhen was a runaway winner in the environment category, scoring 83.6 out of 100 to second place Hangzhou’s 49.6, with Shanghai in third place on 47.9. In technology and innovation, Hangzhou was also second to Shenzhen, with Suzhou in third place ahead of Beijing and Shanghai.

Beijing scored highest for long-distance travel, followed by Shanghai and Hangzhou, while Chengdu got the top score for roads and driving experience followed by Hangzhou and Shenzhen. In the final overall rankings, Hangzhou finished top in a field of six ahead of Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Suzhou and Chengdu.

Sporting chance

At a ceremony attended by more than 500 delegates from over 30 countries, Fordham said China was the natural choice for a new programme of city surveys. “China’s cities are as diverse as they are exciting,” he said. “This country has forged an incredible growth pattern and the continued success of all major cities is expected. Competition in all the categories of these awards was strong.”

He concluded: “I believe that the best years are ahead for China, for the province of Zhejiang and the city of Hangzhou. As China’s economy continues its transition into a world-class one, this affluent region with its innovative mindset and established advanced manufacturing base offers the most ideal conditions in all of China for more domestic companies like Alibaba and Geely to rise and flourish from.”

Hangzhou’s success comes at a time when it has been confirmed as host of the 2022 Asian Games – a showpiece event that will further raise its profile and will play a key role in the future development of the city, according to its mayor, Zhong Hongming. Beijing will host the Winter Olympics in the same year.

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