33 Cities in China are over World Bank standard of global high income and the Foshan City development model could be key for future growth

Urbanization pressure is being felt by the top 100 (out of 600) Chinese cities, which housed 714.3 million residents — 52.8 per cent of the total population — and generated 75.7 per cent of China’s GDP in 2016.

Of those 100 cities, six recorded GDP growth above 10 per cent last year, compared with the national average of 6.7 per cent; 82 recorded GDP growth between 6.7 per cent and 10 per cent; and just 12 grew by 6.7 per cent or less.

Perhaps more significant, per capita GDP in 33 Chinese cities is higher than US$12,475 (S$17,492), meaning that, by World Bank standards, they have attained high-income status. Four years ago, only 16 Chinese cities had crossed that threshold.

A new book, China’s Evolving Growth Model: The Foshan Story, offers a case study of one of those cities.

In recent years, Foshan has transformed itself from a rural county outside Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, into the most dynamic industrial city in China, with per capita income reaching US$17,202 in 2016, compared with US$16,624 for Beijing and US$16,251 for Shanghai.

In 2015, Foshan’s GDP grew by 8.3 per cent, compared with 6.7 per cent in Beijing and 6.8 per cent in Shanghai, with industry accounting for 60 per cent of the city’s GDP.

The key to success has been the authorities’ flexible approach, guided by close monitoring of market signals. Thanks to such monitoring, Foshan’s municipal- and county-level governments recognised a dramatic restructuring in global supply chains and responded accordingly, such as by improving housing and healthcare, providing such social services even to migrant labour, and addressing excessive pollution.