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Why Chengdu is a beautiful, rich, well-planned city

The Philippines can perhaps learn, relearn from this Sichuan capital's long-term planning.
By Lynda C. Corpuz |

URBAN PLANNING AT WORK. Chengdu Planning Exhibition Hall boasts four floors of changing landscape of the sub-provincial city as seen through old and current maps; large, detailed, 3D scale models of present and future plans; and an audio-visual presentation. Photo by Lynda C. Corpuz / Entrepreneur Philippines

 

An exhibition hall dedicated to the city's urban planning—you can tell that China, through its local government, is serious about making Chengdu in Sichuan province a smart, innovative, southwestern city in the country and to be on a par to the rest of the world's rich cities.

 

Located at 88 Jinhui Xiyi St., Hi-tech (South Zone), Chengdu Planning Exhibition Hall boasts four floors of changing landscape of the sub-provincial city as seen through old and current maps; large, detailed, 3D scale models of present and future plans; and an audio-visual presentation—all put together to show the outside world that it has what it takes to realize its long-term, urban-rural coordinated development plan.

 

Based on the exhibit hall visit on Wednesday, April 6 (and what this writer has seen and learned in her 3-day stay as part of the Huawei invitation to visit this model city and its campus in Shenzhen), the Philippines can perhaps relearn the following from Chengdu's planning:

 

DETAILED. Even the sand model and audio-visual presentation look as detailed as Chengdu's planning. Photo by Lynda C. Corpuz / Entrepreneur Philippines

 

Long-term planning

That is the key to Chengdu's planning, it is for the long haul. Not overhauling a master plan whenever a new figure is elected or assumes the highest position in the country. For example, under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, projects aimed to develop the Philippines' infrastructure with private sector involvement was called build-operate-transfer.

 

When President Benigno Aquino III assumed post in 2010, the "term" was updated to public-private partnership (PPP). Now that the election is nearing, interested bidders (the same big Filipino corporations or conglomerates bidding for those big-ticket PPP projects), are on a wait-and-see mode.

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As expressed by those interested in the P123-billion ($2.65-billion) complicated Laguna expressway dike project, they would wait first what would be the thrust of the next president and proceed from there than go ahead now only to be halted mid-way because a new administration would implement changes with the current processes to participate in PPP projects.

 

Related article: No takers for Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike project

 

GRAND PLAN. Chengdu aims to become a comprehensive, affluent society with high living standards, a core growth hub for western China, and an international regional center by 2020. Photo by Lynda C. Corpuz / Entrepreneur Philippines

 

Clear vision-mission

Along with long-term planning comes the vision and mission that the government is cascading to the nearly 15 million locals of Chengdu: To become a comprehensive, affluent society with high living standards, a core growth hub for western China, and an international regional center by 2020. Its gross domestic product (GDP) is also expected to triple by that year, as its 2014 nominal GDP already hit CNY1.006 trillion ($155.56 billion).

 

And Chengdu is not sacrificing its important role in early trade and commerce via the Silk Road route, along with its rich ecological resources (as home to the giant pandas, world heritage sites, and scenic spots) simply to be a truly modernized city. It masterfully integrated such elements to achieve its futuristic plan. And proof of such plan is already dotting Chengdu's landscape now.

 

 

Wholistic approach

Chengdu is undeniably an economic, financial, commercial, cultural, transportation, and communication center in Western China, with a history of more than 3,000 years.                                                      

 

And Chengdu is not sacrificing its important role in early trade and commerce via the Silk Road route, along with its rich ecological resources (as home to the giant pandas, world heritage sites, and scenic spots) simply to be a truly modernized city. It masterfully integrated such elements to achieve its futuristic plan. And proof of such plan is already dotting Chengdu's landscape now.

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INTEGRATED. Chengdu is dotted by old and new buildings, showing how its planning integrates the past, present, and future of the city. Photo by Lynda C. Corpuz / Entrepreneur Philippines 

 

Toward the "new" Silk Road

If Chengdu was mainly into trading silk, tea or lacquer before, it is now known as as one of China's major Information Technology (IT) bases, producing a significant amount of those chips for Intel and Apple iPads and Macs.

 

It is also home to enterprising sci-tech startups and more than 260 Fortune 500 companies. Furthermore, it aims to create a conducive environment "for innovation and entrepreneurship, invest an increasing amount of money in science and technology, and ensure faster commercialization of the fruits of scientific research," China Daily reported.

 

Its spot in the new Silk Road will be further cemented as the government committed to invest more than CNY230 billion ($35.59 billion) to develop its transportation network of air, railways, and roads, the city’s authorities announced in January this year. Chengdu's Shuangliu International Airport, for instance, is one of the 30 busiest airports in the world, while the Chengdu Railway Station is one of the six biggest railway stations in China.

 

Chengdu also wants to become an international shopping paradise in the next 15 years. Based on the city's plan, added Chengdu’s service sector value will hit CNY900 billion ($139.23 billion) in 2020, with yearly retail sales of consumer goods forecasted to reach CNY850 billion ($131.49 billion). Income generated by tourists is also seen to account for 30% of total tourism revenue.

 

Wanda Cultural Tourism City in Dujiangyan, Chengdu has started in September, with a proposed investment of CNY55 billion ($8.51 billion). The project is eyed to host 30 million visitors and generate revenue of CNY5 billion ($773.66 million) yearly when it opens in 2018.

 

Chengdu is also planning the Tianfu District Great City. Being designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture, the city is envisioned to become self-sustaining. It would also discourage the use of cars.

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Being proud

The 1,200 square meters of exhibition area dedicated to highlight its urban planning efforts means Chengdu is not scrimping on efforts that it is open and ready to do more business to the rest of the world.

 

The tour guide at the Chengdu Planning Exhibition Hall said the government is open to hear the locals' opinions about the plan, especially those that are or might be affected in zones like Tianfu new town; Chengdu-Meishan; Longquan high-end manufacturing; industrial innovation and research and development; and Southern modern agricultural zones.

 

But the tour guide said herself—she is proud of her government's plan for Chengdu. A collective nod from fellow tourists at the exhibit hall showed agreement to what the tour guide said.

 

And now if the Philippines or its key cities and provinces relearn the key ingredients to what makes urban planning work, like how Chengdu does it, then perhaps most Filipinos would also say they are truly proud of what their government is doing for their sake.

 

*****

Lynda is the editor in chief of Entrepreneur.com.ph. Follow her on Twitter, @lyndaccorpuz and LinkedIn, https://ph.linkedin.com/in/lyndacorpuz.

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