DG Being a First-Tier City

Dongguan was deemed to be on par TO China’s LARGEST urban centers and the internet WENT WILD. Whether or not you agree, there may be some logic to the madness.WTDW

China has more than 600 cities, which are often categorized into four or five different tiers, based on various criteria. In a report published this May, 15 new first-tier cities were declared, including at least one highly surprising member: Dongguan.

Local news quickly went viral, stuffing a considerable amount of pride into Dongguan residents used to being second best. Others complained: “On what standard is the report based?” or “Does it really mean anything for Dongguan?”

The tiered system of Chinese cities has over 30 years of history, dating back to the 1980s, when the country opened to foreign investments. The goal was to first open a small part of China, focusing on coastal cities and newly defined special economic zones (SEZ) like Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Shantou and Xiamen.

Secondly, neighborhood areas around these test cities also were improved and transportation infrastructure boosted. Furthermore, resources from Western China were drawn and consolidated to support these strategically positioned coastal cities. The future intention was that economic development would gradually move westwards into mainland China.

Throughout the years, different cities have been entitled first-tier cities, according to the government’s development priorities. For example, in 1992, first-tier cities were: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing and Guangzhou. Entering the twenty-first century, and after more than 20 years of growth, several key regional economic areas were formed and continuing to develop.

Despite the fact that all government, industry experts and analysts are using the tiered city scheme, the government doesn’t provide an official definition for the standards of classification.

Later, it was clear that Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen had reached the top, in terms of population and GDP. In addition, from the perspectives of real estate development, commercial vitality and cosmopolitanism, these cities had grossly outperformed all others. For at least a decade, they’ve been the most widely used and recognized first-tier cities.

In 2015, the National Bureau of Statistics sorted 70 cities into three levels—based on property price—to research the country’s real estate market. Intriguingly, most market data is collected and organized by commercial-background institutes or publications instead of authorities.

Although modern China has made massive gains in advancement, the market is still quite imbalanced from region to region. The latest tiered city list definitely gives references and direction to entrepreneurs wondering where to point their marketing strategies. This is especially useful for foreign investors.

Different city tiers imply different consumer behaviors, income levels, local trends and business opportunities. They also demonstrate tacit forecasts for economic development.

In recent decades, many second-tier cities have become increasingly attractive to investors. Perhaps, this is the reason behind the creation of the “new first-tier cities” spectrum since 2013.

According to the publisher, China Business Network (CBN) Co. Ltd., of the latest list, the assessment is based on five indicators: concentration of commercial resources, city’s pivot ability, citizen vitality, variety of lifestyle and flexibility in the future. These metrics appear to be much more detailed criteria compared to the old concepts merely measuring population, size of economy and political ranking.

Dongguan, surprisingly, scored the best in variety of lifestyle measurement, with 62 points. The large number of restaurants, bookstores, movie theatres, gyms, video websites, flight tickets, Taobao orders and branches of international chains, such as Starbucks, seems to prove that Dongguan is advancing toward a highly livable city from its dusty history as the world’s factory.

Though Dongguan’s GDP output is lower than Foshan, Dongguan’s overall score is higher, showing that the ultimate judgment is not only limited to economic achievement. Dongguan’s second highest category (citizen vitality) reached nearly 62 points, which indicates that citizens enjoy diverse online and offline activities, such as food delivery, online shopping, movies, DiDi activity and job hunting websites.

Another crucial advantage for Dongguan is the relocation of Huawei’s headquarters from Shenzhen to Songshan Lake. The city already hosts several electronic giants like Oppo and Vivo and provides considerable job opportunities for IT talent. Dongguan entering into the new first-tier city list may actually help talent to make better decisions in choosing future job locations.

For now, let the people of Dongguan enjoy a new equivalence to Beijing. Who knows, maybe Xi Jinping will even move his camp down here one day. Only time will tell.