The announcement of a new mega infrastructure project or a new city in China is so commonplace these days that they seem to blend together. However, what is happening with Chengdu in Southwest China has really caught my attention. It was the advertising on CNN International that first caught my eye a few months ago. This was part of a high-profile campaign launched in 2010 to attract more tourists. But now, this effort to brand Chengdu as ‘The Home of the Panda’ has been superseded by the need to position the city in global investments markets. This will take more than cute pandas.
The campaigns featuring pandas have been successful, but leaders have now turned to global agencies for advice in transitioning to a more competitive identity. They have also announced the creation of a tiny pocket city that will be constructed on the outskirts of Chengdu. The master plan for this innovative city is being designed by Chicago firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. To be constructed next to crowded Chengdu, the new city, called The Great City will host 30,000 families, or approximately 80,000 people. The amazing thing is that the entire Great City will cover just 0.5 square mile. This is the approximate area of just 245 football fields. Given this small area, the plan is for the city to enable you to walk anywhere within 15 minutes.
The competition between China’s Tier 2 cities for international tourism and investment is intense. It’s going to be interesting to see how Chengdu repositions itself beyond pandas and continues to invest in infrastructure and urban development on a massive scale to support its repositioning.