China’s most understated prefecture-level city, the money is only its protective color

China's most understated prefecture-level city, the money is only its protective color

“Brilliant moment anyone has, don’t take a moment as permanent.”

Wuxi people must have a deeper understanding of this phrase than many others. Wuxi is not afraid to seek a new way out by scraping the bones.

Not long ago, with the release of the seventh census data, the national GDP per capita of major cities also came out accordingly. Wuxi broke Shenzhen’s record of leading the pack for 35 years and ascended to the top spot.

As one of the few non-administered, non-provincial, non-planned cities in the top ten, Wuxi topped the list, so many foreign netizens “can not understand”.

Even among the “Thirteen Tai Bao” in Jiangsu Province, Wuxi’s GDP is now only the third highest, but it is surprising that it has overtaken the North, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in the “GDP per capita” category.

In 2017, Wuxi’s GDP exceeded one trillion yuan for the first time, making it the third city in Jiangsu to join the “trillion dollar club”. In the same year, the first company with revenues of 100 billion yuan was born in Wuxi – Hailan House.

“Wuxi is a modern-day city that has created 1.2% of China’s GDP on 5% of the country’s land and 5% of its population.

Many people only know that Wuxi has a long history of affluence, but they do not know that historically, Wuxi’s GDP was more than double that of Nanjing, the provincial capital, and was known as “Little Shanghai”.

Wuxi, has been very good, has been very low-key.

“The brilliance and transformation of “Little Shanghai

GDP per capita quietly climbed to the first in the country, and this is not the only achievement of Wuxi can be praised by outsiders.

At present, in this city with a population of only 6.553 million, there are already 14 Chinese top 500 enterprises, 26 Chinese top 500 manufacturing enterprises, 18 Chinese top 500 service enterprises, and 26 Chinese top 500 private enterprises, ranking first in Jiangsu Province in all four indicators.

Looking at the number of listed companies, which is the “wind vane” of the city’s economic development, by the end of 2020, Wuxi has 90 listed companies with a total market value of 1.2 trillion yuan. There are 3 companies with 100 billion level, more than Nanjing, Changsha, Chongqing, Chengdu and other popular second-tier cities.

On May 21, the Walden School of Economics released its “Top 100 Cities in China 2021” ranking, and Wuxi “squeezed out” the municipalities of Tianjin and Chongqing to make it into the top 10.

When Liao Lun, the governor of Wuxi in the late Qing Dynasty, wrote the words “Inclusive of Wu and Yue” at the edge of Taihu Lake, he also engraved a vast and majestic development trend in the historical genes of Wuxi.

With the Yangtze River to the north and Taihu Lake to the south, Wuxi is located in the geometric center of the Yangtze River Delta, which gives it the courage to think and fight. The Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal runs through the city, and Wuxi has been the home of fish and rice since ancient times. The four major terminals of rice, cloth, silk and money have contributed to the economic prosperity of Wuxi.

China's most understated prefecture-level city, the money is only its protective color

Wuxi is located in the heart of the Yangtze River Delta.

More than a century ago, the foreign affairs movement made Wuxi stand out in the southern part of Jiangsu Province, and overnight Wuxi became the cradle of Chinese national industry and commerce, and manufacturing became the lifeblood of Wuxi, hence the name “Little Shanghai”.

In 1983, Fei Xiaotong formally proposed the “Southern Jiangsu Model” in his “Small Town – Re-exploration”: farmers rely on their own strength to develop township enterprises, which are mainly collective economies, with the township government leading the development and market regulation as the main means.

In 1989, the value created by rural enterprises in southern Jiangsu accounted for 60% of the total output value of the rural society, and in 2003, all nine counties (cities) under the jurisdiction of the three cities of Jiangsu, Wuxi and Chang were In 2003, all nine counties (cities) under the jurisdiction of the three cities of Suzhou, Wuxi and Chang were included in the list of top 100 counties in China.

Looking at the history of urban development in recent decades, Wuxi can not be said to be a miracle. However, the road ahead for any city cannot be smooth, and behind the economic miracle of Wuxi, there is a quiet pen of imbalance in the industrial structure later.

According to a report released by the Jiangsu Provincial Bureau of Statistics, after the 1990s, Wuxi’s heavy industry developed rapidly, and by 2007, the proportion of heavy industry had reached 76%, with a heavy industrial structure, weak high-end manufacturing, and great pressure for transformation and upgrading.

The most typical case is the bankruptcy and restructuring of Wuxi Suntech.

As one of the world’s four largest photovoltaic enterprises, China’s photovoltaic industry, the absolute big brother, Wuxi Suntech Solar Power Co., Ltd. share price in 2008 once rose to $ 90 mark, the chairman of Shi Zhengrong jumped to become the new richest man in China.

However, after 2011, Suntech’s external environment became more and more tense as Europe and the United States set up many barriers to the PV industry, gradually losing major markets in Europe.

In order to save this leading industry, which had brought tens of thousands of jobs to the local market, Wuxi was not unsupportive, with policy subsidies, financial support, and even land allocation and construction of industrial parks, but ultimately failed to save the local PV industry from declining.

The cyanobacteria pollution in Taihu Lake was also an event that left a deep impression on Wuxi people during that period.

In May and June 2007, a serious outbreak of cyanobacteria pollution in Taihu Lake caused a serious shortage of tap water and drinking water throughout Wuxi. Some people described that they could smell the stench of the water from the water pipes and sewerage for several kilometers across Taihu Lake, and residents had to go to supermarkets and stores to buy buckets of water for washing and cooking.

It is widely believed that one of the major causes of pollution in Taihu Lake is the large number of chemical plants around the discharge. Since then, the city, which thrives on industry, has begun to accelerate its transformation. During the decade, thousands of chemical companies were shut down in the Taihu Lake basin, and numerous livestock farms were dismantled, banned and relocated.

“Anyone can have a moment of glory, don’t take a moment as permanent” – Wuxi people must have a deeper understanding of this phrase than many others. Wuxi is not afraid to seek a new way out by scraping and picking its bones.

One of China’s most bullish prefecture-level cities, just a retirement mecca?

For ordinary Wuxi people, few care about the false name of “Little Shanghai”, and few have the sense of superiority of the first GDP per capita in the country, their hometown is more like an extremely livable, suitable for retirement “town” in their eyes.

Yangshan peach, Ganlu green fish, Taihu Lake three white …… Wuxi people will never treat themselves in the matter of “food”.

In April 2018, drops, Meituan and hungry launched a takeaway discount melee, the preferred place is Wuxi.

The first LV store in Jiangsu Province, the first Apple Store, also chose to station in Wuxi, rather than the provincial capital of Nanjing and economic indicators more bright Suzhou, proving that Wuxi has been treated in the eyes of the consumer power – the city’s people, know how to spend money, but also know how to live.

Hongdou Group and Hailan Group made their fortunes here and grew stronger; Brain Platinum and Golden Partner came out of here and became legendary products in the early years of Chinese television advertising …… This is all evidence of Wuxi’s deep savings in the garment and textile industry and pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Wearing a full set of “Hailan House”, weekend to enjoy the cherry blossoms in soft-shelled turtle head, home by the way to buy a few boxes of platinum and gold partner, Wuxi output is a set of lifestyle.

When the mood strikes, you can also play around Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai. Wuxi happens to be located in the center of the iron triangle of Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou, and it takes just over an hour’s drive by high-speed rail to Shanghai and Hangzhou, and only a 50-minute drive to Nanjing. Everyone boasts that they are the “back garden of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai”, Wuxi undoubtedly has more confidence.

There is no doubt that providing residents with the most suitable home is the ultimate value that the city can give us. It is interesting to note that Suzhou, next door, has also been selected as one of the most livable cities in China, and like Wuxi, is also known for its advanced economy. The bottlenecks faced by these two cities are in many cases similar – the status of ordinary prefecture-level cities.

After the publication of the list, some locals calmly analyzed: the reason why Wuxi’s GDP per capita is the first in the country is inseparable from its own industrial development on the one hand, and “thanks to” its small population on the other.

According to the First Financial’s combing of the net population inflow of 42 key cities in China, Wuxi has a net inflow of 1,563,200 people as of 2019, compared to Shenzhen’s net inflow of 7,931,700 people, five times that of Wuxi.

It can be said that many Wuxi people are “averaged out” by macroeconomic data. Although Wuxi’s GDP per capita in 2020 has reached 165,800 yuan, exceeding the developed country threshold of $20,000, the disposable income of the population is only 57,589 yuan.

This figure is certainly not low, but compared to its neighbors, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Nanjing, which break the 60,000 yuan mark, Wuxi’s economic attractiveness to foreigners is slightly dimmer.

Why is Wuxi a weak attraction for foreigners? At the end of the day, to a large extent, the relatively low income and relatively high consumption levels, the average salary is not outstanding, but the consumption level is not much lower than Nanjing and Suzhou, a young people from outside the Yangtze River Delta is easy to vote with their feet.

On December 8 last year, the “Wuxi City Household Registration Entry Registration Regulations” officially came into effect. The new regulations significantly lowered the threshold for settling in foreign populations and completely removed the restrictions on settling in groups such as graduates from universities and vocational colleges, returnees from overseas, and skilled workers, in the hope of introducing educated and skilled personnel.

With popular cities across the country joining the war for people, it remains to be seen how effective Wuxi’s new regulations will be. But what is certain is that this city, which has come from 2200 years of history and has engraved commerce and industry in its bones, will never easily put down its ambition to transform itself again and again, and it will intersect and collide with new answers in the rising tide of the times.

How to keep young people in Wuxi, a livable city?

As the two leaders of the “Southern Jiangsu Model”, Suzhou and Wuxi have often been compared together. In recent years, the two cities have been gradually adjusting their urban coordinates to compete and win together in a constant comparison.

Suzhou’s GDP surpassed Nanjing’s in 1997, and in 2011, it surpassed the trillion dollar mark, five years ahead of Nanjing and six years ahead of Wuxi.

Wuxi is also rising to the occasion. Last September, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce released the “Top 500 Private Enterprises in China 2020”, and Wuxi and Suzhou tied for first place in the province with 26 companies on the list.

The year 2020 was also the best year for Wuxi in terms of attracting major industrial projects, with a total of 33 projects of over 5 billion yuan introduced and the contribution rate of science and technology rising from 63% to 66%, remaining the first in the province.

In the same year, the number of declared, recognized, net increase and effective number of high-tech enterprises in Suzhou also hit a record high, with the effective high-tech enterprises approaching 10,000 at the end of the year, continuing to be the fifth in the country, second only to the four first-tier cities.

In terms of investment and technological innovation capability, Suzhou is still the absolute big brother in the province.

In terms of culture, Gusu has always been a paradise on earth for thousands of years, with Suzhou-style gardens forming a school of their own; Kunqu is known as the “mother of all operas” and has been listed as a “masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of mankind” by UNESCO; Tang Bohu has made his name here, and Mo Xie is here. It is also the place where Tang Bohu made his name, and where Gan Shifu made his sword.

In contrast to Suzhou, Wuxi is more pragmatic and aggressive.

When Gu Xiancheng wrote the couplet “The sound of wind, the sound of rain, and the sound of reading are all heard; family affairs, national affairs, and the affairs of the world are all cared for” in the Donglin Academy, it invariably laid down the city spirit of Wuxi people, and later nurtured such modern literati as Qian Zhongshu and Yang Jiang, who studied across the world.

Today, Wuxi stands on the median line of development – a median line between a typical Jiangnan water town and a modern industrialized city. Its urban vitality is becoming increasingly tangible in the form of real consumption patterns, details of life, and cultural achievements, which are condensed into the spiritual temperament of the city through the lives of every single person in Wuxi.

Where is the future of Wuxi heading? This question needs to be answered by the people living in Wuxi themselves.

While all major cities have made the attractiveness of foreign population a new indicator of development, we talked to a few “new Wuxi people”.

Chen Hui, who came to Wuxi by mistake after graduating from university, does not feel that Wuxi is his home, but he sees it as his best choice to “escape from the north”. At the same time, he also occasionally worried that the 9 to 5 job and the slow pace of life would completely derail him from the big city.

Coron, who has been working in Wuxi for nearly three years, has come to see Wuxi as his second home, with a comfortable living atmosphere and relatively low prices, so he has begun to consider buying a house in Wuxi. In his opinion, Wuxi is a city that is both suitable for retirement and can inspire you to struggle, the key is that the young people who come here know exactly what they want.

It’s up to the wisdom of Wuxi, a city of a thousand years, to keep these young people of all shapes and sizes and continue to build new prosperity.


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[2] “Bulk Jiangsu’s hard power:” Thirteen Tai Bao “are more than three hundred billion, the province’s sprint for ten trillion” First Financial. 2020-02-14

[3] “Chengdu exceeds Guangshen, Zhengzhou exceeds Wuhan, Wuxi exceeds North, the city pattern reshuffle” City War.2021-05-21

[4] “Wuxi per capita GDP is the first in the country, why house prices can not catch up with many counties expensive? Big Bowl Property Market.20221-05

[5] “Heavy list! Shenzhen and Shanghai completely fire: market value increased wildly 8 trillion 9 big cities market value exceeded 1 trillion for the first time” China Fund News.2021-01-17

[6] “2021 China’s top 100 cities list” Huaton Economic Research Institute

[7] “A Study of Government Behavior in Institutional Change: A Study of the Southern Jiangsu Model” Ye Qinliang. 2005

[8] “Wuxi’s Accelerated Awakening, Still Worry about South Jiangsu Falling Behind? Daily Economic News. 2020-09-17

[9] “Wuxi Industry Transformation to Advanced Manufacturing Industry Achieves Remarkable Achievements” Jiangsu Bureau of Statistics. 2008-10-14

[10] “The relationship between government and market from the bankruptcy restructuring case of Wuxi Suntech” CPC Party School of Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province.2016-08-02

[11] “The government’s hand behind the rise and fall of Suntech” New York Times Chinese.2013-04-03

[12] “Taihu Lake pollution treatment ten years of pain: “chronic disease” should be how to heal”

[13] “Wuxi, a city with amazing prices” Luso.2018-09

[14] “40 big cities per capita income: 7 cities over 60,000 yuan, the Yangtze River Delta is the richest” First Financial.2021-04-13

[15] “Suzhou, Wuxi and Chang “talent war” Where is the opportunity for Wuxi? CricBigDataWX.2021-03-15

[16] “The city that picks on each other” He Shuqing

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