Where will business opportunities in urban China arise as a result of rapid increases in populations, incomes, infrastructure and economic activity? Five years ago, The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) looked to answer that question. The EIU devised an emerging city rankings index and published a report on the subject, CHAMPS: China’s fastest growing cities, which highlighted the rise of inland Chinese cities. It identified 2007 as a pivotal year for the economy, when inland China started to grow at a faster rate than the more developed coastal region. The aforementioned CHAMPS came not from the east, but from north-eastern, central and western parts of the country: Chongqing, Hefei, Anshan, Maanshan, Pingdingshan and Shenyang.
But five years is a long time for any economy, especially one changing as quickly as China’s. In the period since The EIU published CHAMPS, a new national leadership has been installed, with a different set of priorities. In 2010, the government was still in stimulus mode, focused on responding to the events of the 2008-09 global financial crisis. Now, the priority is unwinding the credit bubble and excess industrial capacity that formed during that period. The government has promised structural reforms to put the economy on a more balanced, sustainable path, with growth driven by consumption rather than investment.