Does anyone know what the following nine cities have in common with Nanchang, China?

The Star Of Nanchang Ferris Wheel in Nanchang,...
The Star Of Nanchang Ferris Wheel in Nanchang, Jiangxi, China (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, I really do not know either, beyond that Newsweek International just named Nanchang and these other nine cites as the “ten most dynamic cities” in the world.”  Problem is that I could not find how Newsweek made its determinations on dynamism.  Oh well, it nonetheless gives us an excuse to post on one of our favorite themes:  China’s second tier cities rising.  For some of our previous posts on China’s second tier city phenomena, see “China is Expensive — NOT. Go Second Tier and Life Will Be Good,” “China is Expensive — NOT. Go Second Tier and Life Will Be Good, Part II,” “Chinese Cheeseheads Accurately Reflect China’s Consumer Spending,” and “Tianjin, China — Second Tier City With A Bright Future.”  The All Roads Lead to China Blog also has a good post on this, entitled, “Chengdu: If you built it they will come.

I am surprised Nanchang is the Chinese city on this list.  I have never been there, but I have heard it is somewhat gloomy.  Our clients almost never mention it as a potential location for their China businesses.  It is nowhere on this list of the 100 cities in the world expected to have the greatest population growth between now and 2020, which lists Beihai, China, at number one and Wenzhou at number 56, Wuhan at 58, Changsha at 65, Heze at 68, Shantou at 70, Zhanjiang at 82, and Shenzhen at 91.  Nanchang is number 198, making it only the 26th fastest growing city (predicted) in China.  Now I realize these are only predictions that there is no direct correlation between a cities “dynamism” and population growth, but come on.

Why Nanchang?

It must be the Ferris wheel:

A star marks the unlikely epicenter of china’s second-city explosion.

The Star of Nanchang is, unofficially, the world’s highest Ferris wheel at almost 162 meters. At night the wheel lights up blue and red with giant neon characters that read, “Nanchang WELCOMES YOU!”

It welcomes a lot of people. Nanchang is one of the hottest cities in China, which boasts more fast-growing cities than any other nation by far. Thus the gawdy star marks the epicenter of the global rise of second cities, none more surprising than Nanchang. Though rich in history — a towering seventh-century imperial pavilion rises not far from the Ferris wheel of Nanchang, but it had all but fallen off the economic map before China’s investment boom began to move inland from the coast a decade ago. Today it is still the gritty capital of Jiangxi, China’s poorest central province, but that’s changing as foreign dollars and migrant workers pour in. Cows graze near five-star hotels on the Gan River, and there are almost as many construction sites as buildings.

More likely, it is Nanchang’s auto industry, which industry is rapidly becoming hugely important to China, both economically and culturally:

The turning point dates to 1995, when Ford bought a stake in local Jiangling Motors, which recently posted a 173 percent rise in quarterly profit. Soon after Ford announced plans to add 2,000 new workers in China this year. Its success in Nanchang has rippled across the city, to suppliers like the Nanchang Gear Co. The maker of steering columns and transmissions is growing at double-digit rates, says company regional manager Gui Qunhua Gui. “It’s not just the automotive industry,” adds Gui, gesturing to a jet plane and a pyramid of beer bottles at a recent local trade show. “Every industry in Nanchang is prospering.”

He predicts that because small Chinese cities like Nanchang can grow faster than large rivals, they will begin attracting more speculators and investment. Albert Hawk, founder and chairman of Corstone Capital, couldn’t agree more. The U.S. firm has been buying distressed loans and real estate in Nanchang for two years, and Hawk sees huge potential in “these second-tier cities that are only now beginning to take off.”

I am skeptical of Nanchang as the “epicenter” of China’s second city explosion, but I will now put it on my radar.

I would love to hear from anyone who has been to Nanchang, particularly if you went for a spin on its Ferris Wheel.

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