"British Media: Kunming is the next Shanghai" proclaims a story headline today on Kunming Information Hub, the municipal government-owned website charged with being Kunming's face to the world.
In truth, it is not "British media" but one magazine that has made such a claim. The Kunming Information Hub article is a translated story from the March 2009 issue of UK-based magazine Monocle, a self-proclaimed "briefing on global affairs, business, culture & design".
The original business story, written by Bangkok-based Monocle correspondent David Fulbrook and entitled "Kunming: The next Shanghai", is a snapshot of a handful of youngish foreigners doing business in Kunming [disclosure: your correspondent is one of the interviewees].
The feeling that one comes away with after reading the story – other than a Monocle editor having a penchant for sensational story titles - is that Kunming is a city with amazing potential, primarily due to being surrounded by vast resources and having good access to the high-growth economies of China, India and Southeast Asia.
Under the aegis of its current party secretary and Communist Party rock star Qiu He, Kunming has made much progress in improving its traffic, health and education infrastructure while reducing corruption and inefficiency.
Attracting investment from elsewhere in China - and the world - has also been made a priority during Qiu's time in Kunming. Attempts to bring domestic investment to Kunming have been largely successful, with companies in China's more affluent coastal regions agreeing to make substantial investments in the city's future.
Less successful have been the efforts to attract elusive large-scale foreign investment that other southwestern Chinese cities such as Chengdu and Chongqing have been able to land. Even Nanning in Guangxi seems to be challenging Kunming as Southeast Asia's gateway to China.
This begs the question: Why with everything it has going for it does Kunming lag behind other Chinese cities, even in southwest China, as a destination for foreign investment?
A sidebar in the Monocle story that wasn't translated and posted on Kunming Information Hub is its suggested 'fixes' for Kunming. In recent months, much progress has been made on the first suggestion – that Kunming add bilingual street signs so that residents and visitors can navigate the city.
The remaining four tips Monocle offers Kunming are to improve the traffic and taxi situation, stop demolishing historical buildings, work on its image/branding/promotions and also to get better English-language media:
The only daily English news source is gokunming.com. For a city with big international prospects, a daily English newspaper with good coverage of business in neighbouring countries and provinces is essential.
As for what Kunming residents think about the chances of Kunming one day becoming a major city on par with Shanghai, local BBS commenters seem split, with about half considering the story over-the-top Western reporting on China, and the other half hoping that Kunming does become more like Shanghai. In the words of one commenter:
"I hope the people of Kunming can liberate their minds the way the Shanghainese have."
For full the full Monocle story in English, check Andao Tea's website© Copyright 2005-2019 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.