The future is going to be bright and dynamic for urban China, says Foreign Policy’s August Cities issue. Cities issue- actually it’s more like the China issue. There’s articles and slideshows galore of Chinese cities. The articles include one apiece on Beijing and Shanghai, one on Guangzhou, Shenyang and Kashgar as cities with unique characters, and even one damning Chinese cities. The last one slams Chinese cities as plain, uniformly ugly, and bad to live in, and it kind of goes against the article on Guangzhou and the 2 other cities. On a negative note, I have to say this collection of articles represents the two extremes of China reporting- deeming China as the next superpower, as the country of the future, the one with the world’s most dynamic cities, – and conversely, blasting China for being crude, ungainly, and dirty. I can’t quite agree with his general criticism. I haven’t spent much time in China but I felt that Beijing and Nanjing and Hangzhou and Shanghai all have their different charms and character. It’s true there’s a tremendous lot of massive, gray, concrete buildings, but then modern Chinese architecture and city planning is slowly progressing.
Don’t get me wrong, I think in general the articles are pretty good, so go read the articles because they’re quite interesting and will probably stimulate your brain a bit. To top it off, there’s even an interview with everybody’s favorite Chinese scamp, Ai Weiwei. To be honest I’m not totally sold on this man. I do think he speaks some sense, and his bluntness and directness is good, but then he also seems a bit full of himself and he’s a bit on the hyperbolic side. I can understand that after all he’s gone through, even having his head cracked, why he’s a bit bitter and cynical on his country though.
The articles aren’t actually all about China of course, though the China presence is overwhelming. The reason why I wrote the headline and the first sentence is that the magazine lists 75 cities as the most dynamic of 2025, and 29 of them, over 40 percent, are in China. The 29 are led by Shanghai and Beijing, predictably, with Guangzhou, Tianjin, and Nanjing also there. However even provincial cities like Wuxi and Dongguan make the list, as did lowprofile provincial capitals like Hefei (capital of Anhui province) and Jinan (Shandong).
Nothing would make me happier if predictions like these came true and Chinese cities would be the most dynamic in the world (as Shanghai is right now), but I still think these kinds of articles are too optimistic and it’s necessary to keep grounded.