Top 50 Chinese Cities by Investment Potential

Posted by Reading Time: 6 minutes

By Julia Gu

Feb. 3 – At the eighth annual World Famous Brands Assembly (WFBA) recently held in Jakarta, Indonesia, the U.S.-China Economic Trade and Investment General Chamber of Commerce, the Europe-America-Asia Cooperation Union for Investment in Industry and Commerce, and the World Cities and World Business Research Association jointly released a list of the “2011 Top 50 Chinese Cities with Strongest Investment Potential.”

The results are as follows:

WFBA is a non-profit international professional conference which has been successfully held in Hong Kong, Macau, Bangkok, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur for seven years since 2004.

Chow Kong Shan Kwan, president of the WFBA and chairman of the U.S.-China Economic Trade and Investment General Chamber of Commerce, said that the conference was aimed at promoting cooperation between Chinese cities and European, American and Asian business communities. Kwan hopes such dialogue will facilitate innovation through interaction to help cities and enterprises pursue brand internalization and diversification.

Beijing topped this year’s list, taking the place previously held by Shanghai in 2010. According to statistics from Beijing Customs, the city’s trade value last year amounted to US$389.5 billion, up 29.1 percent from 2010. The city’s exports came in at US$59 billion for an increase of 6.5 percent, while imports grew 34.2 percent to a record US$330.5 billion.

Mainland China’s financial center Shanghai slipped to second place, according to the rankings. Shanghai’s exports rose 18.1 percent year-on-year to US$499.96 billion in 2011, while imports grew 19.5 percent to US$312.35 billion, Shanghai Customs said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Shanghai’s trade deficit increased 145 percent year-on-year to a record US$17.86 billion in 2011, widening from US$7.3 billion in 2010.

“The trade deficit showed China’s opening-up has brought increased market opportunities for foreign businesses,” said Luo Zhisong, an expert with the Shanghai municipal commission of commerce. “It also showed the strengths of China’s economic growth and consumer spending.”

In terms of specific items that contributed to the trade deficit, Shanghai Customs said that the agricultural sector’s share was US$7.6 billion, an increase of 21.67 percent from 2010. Shanghai imported 129,000 tons of pork in 2011, 2.9 times more than the levels seen in 2010. The city also significantly increased imports of wine, olive oil, chocolate and fruit, as well as other expensive luxury products such as cars, jewelry, clothing and watches.

Shanghai’s general trade grew 18.6 percent year-on-year to US$812.3 billion last year. Of particular interest, Shanghai’s trade with the European Union, the United States and Japan increased to US$178.18 billion (+15.6 percent), US$136.02 billion (+15.3 percent) and US$108.5 billion (+18.4 percent), respectively. The city’s trade with ASEAN, Latin America and South Korea was a respective US$86.11 billion (+24.8 percent), US$49.34 billion (+32.5 percent), and US$45.4 billion (+8.4 percent).

Chongqing remained in fourth place for the second consecutive year, attracting US$10.5 billion in foreign direct investment last year (up 65 percent from 2010). Chongqing’s import-export trade nearly doubled year-on-year to US$35 billion, which accounted for 1 percent of China’s overall imports and exports. At the same time, Chongqing invested US$6 billion in overseas projects in 2011.

West China has long been considered less attractive to foreign investment when compared with the coastal provinces, however Chongqing has always been one of the beneficiaries of certain preferential policies, and its ties with Urumqi have helped link the city to Central Asia as well as Europe.

In June 2011, the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe International Railway was put into operation. The line, which starts from Chongqing and ends in Duisburg, Germany, connects Chongqing with cities in West China such as Xi’an, Lanzhou, and Urumqi. More importantly, covering over 10,000 kilometers, the international railway links Chongqing to the Central Asian and European countries of Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany.

At present, Chongqing has reached customs clearance agreements with all five countries along the railway. According to Xinhua News, the route cuts travel time to Europe from around 36 days by cargo ship to only 13 days by freight train, which is apparently more efficient compared to the traditional sea trade routes that depart from coastal cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Officials noted that the international railway provides convenience for internal and external trade as the route will be used to link South China’s Pearl River Delta manufacturing hub and the country’s southwest industrial belt with Europe.

Tianjin municipality dropped two places from its 2010 rank to fifth overall in 2011. The city’s imports and exports increased 25.8 percent to US$103.27 billion last year, among which exports totaled US$44.5 billion, up 18.8 percent year-on-year, and imports reached US$58.75 billion, showing 31.7 percent growth.

Statistics show that Tianjin’s exports to ASEAN and Latin America grew 52 percent and 35 percent, respectively – a significant achievement in exploring new markets. The city has been developing new energy and new materials industries, which realized an output value of RMB81.48 billion in 2011, surging 34.8 percent from 2010. Officials said the city is expected to achieve output value worth RMB250 billion in new energy and materials sector by 2015.

Shenzhen and Guangzhou
Shenzhen and Guangzhou climbed up to a respective sixth and seventh place in last year’s rankings, even though the two cities didn’t perform very well in external trade during the period. According to data released by Shenzhen Customs, the city’s imports and exports last year came to US$414.1 billion, up 19.4 percent compared to 2010. Meanwhile, Guangzhou’s trade totaled US$115 billion, with an increase of 11 percent.

In an attempt to transform itself into a high-tech industry hub in the south, China’s major export processing zone of Shenzhen announced that the city plans to move 15,000 low-end firms to neighboring areas within the next five years to provide roughly 7,500 square kilometers for more advanced new industries which will help upgrade its local industrial structure.

The Guangzhou city government said it will continue to stimulate internal consumer expansion and will accelerate the development of consumption hot spots in the city. At the same time, the city will further optimize its industrial structure so as to improve urban functions, including building new towns, counties as well as villages.

Other key cities
Henan’s provincial capital of Zhengzhou dropped from 23rd in 2010 to 29th place in the new rankings. However, the city’s total trade experienced a “great leap forward” in 2011. According to the Zhengzhou Commission of Commerce, Zhengzhou’s imports and exports last year reached US$15.34 billion, up 237.9 percent from 2010. Imports jumped 388 percent to US$5.94 billion, while exports increased by 182.9 percent to US$9.41 billion. The city’s trade growth rate was 162.6 percent higher than the 2011 national average, ranking seventh after the major trading hubs of Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Fuzhou, Chengdu and Wuhan.

Macau, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Weihai and Zhangjiakou represented new entries to the 2011 edition of the WFBA Top 50 list, while Henan’s Kaifeng, Fujian’s Quanzhou, Guangdong’s Zhanjiang, Jiangsu’s Nantong and Yancheng, as well as Xinjiang’s oil center Qaramay were dropped from the rankings.

Dezan Shira & Associates is a boutique professional services firm providing foreign direct investment business advisory, tax, accounting, payroll and due diligence services for multinational clients in China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore and Vietnam. For further information, please visit the firm’s web site or contact them at

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