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05/06/2018

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Focus China, the new issue on the South West riot

The new issue of Focus China is online (click here to read it) and it is dedicated to the development of the South West of the country.

China is increasingly urbanized and the growth of new engines of development is based on the major centers, a trend exemplified by the capitals of the provinces of the South-West: Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming and Guiyang. This part of the People's Republic is gaining increasing importance alongside the three traditional centers of China's economic geography, which are headed by Beijing-Tianjin, the Yangtze Delta (Shanghai) and the Pearl River Delta (Guangzhou).

Identifying the borders of the South-West is a controversial operation that brings together areas with deeply different characteristics. From a geographical point of view, a possible synthesis consists of limiting oneself to the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and the Chongqing municipality. In some cases, these are some of the most remote areas of China that contain some of the most dynamic cities in the country. This is the result of the analysis of the Milken Institute, an American think tank that analyzed the Best performing-cities of 2017 indicating all four cities in the South-West in the top 10 at the national level with Chengdu, Chongqing and Guiyang even on the podium and Kunming in eighth position, surpassed only by centers of major economic tradition such as Shenzhen, Nanjing, Shanghai and Zhengzhou. This is an extraordinary result that, however, deserves an area that is at the center of multiple development policies of the Chinese government. The urban focus, moreover, allows better understanding of local dynamics that, interpreted at the provincial level, do not allow to capture the evolution of these provinces, given that Guizhou and Yunnan rank in the last places in terms of GDP per capita and the Sichuan positions just above, at the twenty-second place on thirty-one administrative units at the provincial level. In fact, the per capita GDP figure at the city level is in countertendency and places all four capitals above the national average.

After the experience of the industrialization of the early 60s within the Third Front campaign, which aimed to transfer heavy industry to militarily strategic areas, the government's attention to this area has had a significant moment in the years '90, when Chongqing broke away from Sichuan by acquiring municipal status. This choice anticipated the promotion of the Go West policy that promised to develop all the western provinces. But this area is also involved in plans with a wider geographical scope. On the East-West axis there is the Yangtze River Economic Belt, a region which, including the South-West administrations, includes 9 provinces and 2 municipalities integrated by the traditional fluvial connectivity and the Shanghai-Kunming and Shanghai high-speed lines. Chengdu traveling along the two banks of the river. On a city level and on the North-South axis, in 2009 the realization of the West Triangle Economic Zone was promoted, combining Chengdu and Chongqing with Xi'an, located further north. After the successful integration of these three centers, in 2015 the extension to South towards Kunming was proposed with the intention of transforming the triangle into a diamond. However, the connectivity and integration of this area is not limited to the domestic level, but has important international ramifications thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, which sees Chengdu and Chongqing as the main ports towards Eurasia and Kunming as a gateway to Southeast Asia.

The importance of the South-West in Xi Jinping's present and future development of China is evident also from the political dynamics. It is precisely here, in fact, that have succeeded some of the most promising politicians of the last decade, albeit with mixed fortunes. The center of it all is Chongqing, which was led by Bo Xilai and Sun Zhengcai who, as the secretary of the local CCP, after having aspired to positions at the national level, have fallen under accusations of corruption. To replace them, however, was indicated another politician indicated as a possible successor to Xi Jinping, Chen Min'er. Chen, who led Guizhou for five years, failed to crown Xi Jinping's successor at the Nineteenth Congress - also because Xi plans to extend his term - but is still considered one of his loyalists and his presence will guarantee Beijing's attention to the region. An element also confirmed by the fact that Xi Jinping chose to be elected delegate to the National People's Congress in representation of Guizhou, a political signal that wants to underline the determination of the Chinese President to eradicate poverty in the province.

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