Is Chengdu the place to be?

This article sure makes it sound that way.

Cheap labor and lower start-up costs are luring foreign companies to Chengdu, helping to revitalize an ancient city in western China determined to close the gap with the more prosperous east.

Chengdu, China’s western cultural and economic capital for centuries, has engineered a partial revival by raking in record foreign investment over the last six years, and vaunts the presence of 78 blue-chip companies.

Motorola, IBM, Intel, Coca Cola and Toyota have led the charge of top brands that together have poured hundreds of millions in new factories, with Swedish retail giant Ikea and German software giant SAP set to be the newest arrivals.

Chengdu’s economic boom can also be seen in the towering new five-star hotels which host a growing number of foreign trade delegations drawn to the river city, teeming with new restaurants and luxury retail boutiques.

“Companies are considering Chengdu because everything is cheaper here,” Wang Yi, an official with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, told AFP.

“The start-up costs are much higher in the eastern areas of China and the competition is fiercer.”

I have to admit, my curiosity is piqued. (Actually, I first became curious after one of my Taiwanese colleagues left the company because he wanted to live and work in Chengdu.) It’s now on my list for my next trip to China.

The Discussion: 16 Comments

Dude, you know my feelings about Chengdu! I love that place! Let’s go!

July 18, 2006 @ 1:22 am | Comment

Next time we’ll cover the western side of the country, including Kinmen, which I miss more than anyplace in China. I don’t know why, I just felt relaxed there. From what I’ve read, I’d probably feel the same way in Chengdu.

July 18, 2006 @ 1:56 am | Comment

was there in september. It became one big construction site since my last trip seven years ago, when it still had a quite layed back feeling. Has still some nice places though and the city government somehow managed to clean that river so I even saw herons there.

July 18, 2006 @ 2:05 am | Comment

I really wanna go see Kinmen. Apparently I’ll have to go around the long freakin’ way to do it, though for some large sum of money I can do a Fujian-based boat tour that gets you close enough to read hte billboards.

July 18, 2006 @ 2:06 am | Comment

I seriously considered moving to Chengdu, though my bias in favor of Beijing-accented Mandarin eventually convinced me not to. Really pleasant city, very laid-back vibe, lots of teahouses, the best food in China – plus tons of great street food, particuarly the addictive 豆腐花儿 silken tofu with chili sauce and roast soybeans – and one of China’s best underground music scenes. Also, the 三星堆博物馆 Sanxingdui Museum, about an hour outside of Chengdu in the grim little town of Guanghan, is for my money hands-down the best museum in China, better even than the Shanghai Museum.

I’d really like to go back, base myself out of Chengdu, and explore some of the rural areas around it, particularly around 康定 Kangding and 黑水县 Heishui County, which I saw some gorgeous photos of a while back.

July 18, 2006 @ 2:15 am | Comment

Dave, that was a typo on my part – I meant to write KUNMING, not Kinmen! But I hear Kinmen is well worth a visit as well. If you’re around Xiamen, you’re just 2.5 kilometers away from Kinmen! Let me know when you’re coming and we can meet up.

July 18, 2006 @ 2:21 am | Comment

Yknow, looking at that article I can’t help but be skeptical.

“Motorola, IBM, Intel, Coca Cola and Toyota have led the charge of top brands that together have poured hundreds of millions in new factories”

Great… wait a minute, exactly how many more Land Cruisers is China gonna buy?

“teeming with new restaurants and luxury retail boutiques.”

Teeming? I wonder… plus, Richard, you were the one who just posted on Shanghai’s boutique window dressing.

“taking advantage of cheaper production costs despite greater logistical challenges”

I’m not in the manufacturing biz, but last I checked JIT delivery just didn’t work out in the Western regions, and there was some doubt as to whether it would ever work for export production. If so, I don’t see any rivalry to the coast anytime soon.

“It won’t be easy for smaller companies to go so far away but European companies know China is one of the fastest growing markets and they know they have to be here.”

How many times and for how many years have we heard that one? Sure, there’s growth and there’s development, but this article reads more like a central government pseudo-article to bring on FDI rather than a sober assessment of the economic changes in Chengdu. And either way, is this really how you wanna plan your vacation?

July 18, 2006 @ 2:23 am | Comment

I have heard from people I know and trust that it’s a great place to visit, so I certainly do want to check it out, if only for two or three days.

Chengdu, I suspect, has a higher ratio of foreigners than a huge city like Shanghai, and that could help to sustain all those high-end businesses. Even so,
my guess is that a lot of those boutiques will be gone in a few years – in Chengdu as well as Shanghai and Beijing – once they’ve accepted that the China Dream is a mirage, at least when it comes to selling high-ticket luxury goods.

July 18, 2006 @ 2:39 am | Comment

Chengdu will prosper, thank to our goverment effort to modernise this city.

July 18, 2006 @ 3:42 am | Comment

Chengdu will prosper, thanks to government effort to modernise this city.

July 18, 2006 @ 3:47 am | Comment

Chengdu is still dotted with the half-built shells of skyscrapers from the last “boom”. The author also forgot to mention the problems of the local Coca Cola franchise that decided to go its own way after they’d invested something like $50 million!

Having said all that, it’s a great place, and has a long tradition of high tech/aviation industries. And it has Dave’s Oasis.

July 18, 2006 @ 3:55 am | Comment

Chengdu will prosper, thanks to government effort to modernise this city.

Oh, well if the government’s involved, it can’t go wrong!

July 18, 2006 @ 4:03 am | Comment

Hmmm, I was there in 04 – lots of building going on but still very relaxed. As for foreigners, it’s a hub on the backpacker’s circuit – but outside of that, I didn’t see many. Nothing like Beijing or Shanghai.

It was weird – lots of the old city had been torn down, but there was still the famous Chengdu Cantingm surrounded by skyscrapers and scaffolding – they serve “small dishes,” you can order the 25, 30 or 35 yuan version – just endless succession of little plates. Yummy!

Chengdu is the only place I’ve been to in China where cars stop at red lights and pedestrians wait to cross until it’s their turn.

And Brendan, what you said about the Chinese spoken there! Unlike Xiamen (and Shanghai these days) lots of the local dialect spoken.

July 18, 2006 @ 10:30 am | Comment

I lived in Chengdu for six months, married a Chengdu girl and now go back there once or twice a year (we since moved to Shanghai, after a year-long stay in Kunming). Chengdu is great, like many have said here, laid back, teahouses, people’s attitude is very focused on family, relaxation and good times more than working and getting ahead (Shanghai). Someday I’d like to move back there, it’s a great city. Yes, too bad there’s so much construction these days, and they’re building a subway now so that’s guaranteed to continue for a while, but it’s still a great place to be. And only an hour’s flight to Kunming ๐Ÿ˜€

July 18, 2006 @ 9:41 pm | Comment

I echo Rindy’s comments above. In fact, I just married a Chengdu girl as well.. ๐Ÿ™‚

July 19, 2006 @ 1:21 am | Comment

I echo Rindy’s comments above. In fact, I just married a Chengdu girl as well.. ๐Ÿ™‚

July 19, 2006 @ 1:23 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.