The Spring City landed on a list of the most desirable Chinese cities in the eyes of foreigners this week. A canvass of expats ranked Kunming squarely in the middle of a top-ten list headed by Shanghai.
The survey included only cities considered prefectural-level or larger and excluded the non-mainland metropolises of Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei. Kunming was ranked above Qingdao, Xiamen, Tianjin, Hangzhou and Nanjing as determined by respondents ranking such criteria as environment, job opportunities, schools and administrative policies.
Results of the opinion poll were compiled from expat-only responses gathered last year. According to a People's Daily article the poll:
... was conducted during September-December 2012. A total of 175,400 expats, including Nobel Laureates [sic], recipients of the Chinese Government Friendship Award and foreigners working in China [who] participated in the survey through both paper and online voting.
Beating out Kunming were Suzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai. Natural environment, a category where Kunming perhaps has a competitive advantage over its eastern brethren, did not carry enough weight to move the Spring City higher in voters' eyes. The top three cities all lost points when it came to environmental concerns.
Kunming was singled out for perceived deficiencies in both education and healthcare. Surprisingly, traffic in Yunnan's capital was not mentioned, possibly reflecting the severity of gridlock in other municipalities.
Despite shortcomings such as being labeled a backwater by many expats and Chinese, Yunnan's viability as an alternative to the densely populated east is growing. A recent Businessweek article chronicled the growing trend (requires proxy) of middle-class Chinese fed up with big city life. Many are pulling up roots and moving to Kunming, Dali and Lijiang, which they see as offering simpler and healthier living conditions.