China: China wiped one of its own cities off the map. Physically the city of Chaohu is still there; officially it no longer exists. It’s a city of about 4 million people, located about 200 miles west of Shanghai. People of the city are still trying to figure out exactly what that means and why.
The land of the former Chaohu has been divided and distributed to three neighboring cities. It’s a municipal shakeup that surprised many residents, who hadn’t been advised or consulted about the plans. The move, it seems, is driven by a desire for growth. Economics professor Jiang Sanliang from Anhui University explained the thinking behind the decision: “Chaohu’s development hasn’t been good, but Hefei is industrialising and urbanising. It needs land, so absorbing Chaohu will benefit Hefei. The government hopes that redistributing the land will improve the entire province’s GDP.”
In recent years, Hefei’s GDP growth has been an average of 17 percent. So this move serves the long-term aim of boosting Hefei’s competitive advantage by giving it land to expand, so it can challenge the more prominent cities of Nanjing and Wuhan.
The state of California recently considered a plan to do something similar in the economically troubled — and some say corrupt — city of Vernon. That plan was rejected by the state legislature, mainly over concerns that its passage would harm the local economy further. It’s tough to say what the exact result will be in the newly enlarged Hefei, but even a modest reduction in the city’s 17 percent growth rate would be hard for Chinese officials to worry about.