Liveable, Sustainable, Connected – the
'Softer' Side of Competitiveness

China's leading cities have matured rapidly on the back of major economic growth and high levels of investment into new infrastructure. Now, however, their evolution is entering a new phase – with the focus shifting to improvements in liveability and the environment and the development of integrated 'clusters' of cities.

The changing approach to urban development

China's New Urban Growth Model

China's New Urban Growth Model

Source: JLL, 2018

The softer side of 'city competitiveness'

Southern and Eastern cities, namely Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou are emerging as the China12's most attractive places to live and work, combining quality of life and better quality environments. Climate, green space, sustainable buildings, nightlife and the cultural offer all contribute to these cities' strong performance.

Air quality has dominated debates around China's cities, and continues to pose problems, in particular for Northern and Western cities, like Beijing, Xi'an, Tianjin and Chengdu. Concrete steps are being taken, with Beijing showing firms signs of improvement in the winter of 2017-18.

Housing is emerging as another key debate among China's cities. Cities we identified as most 'liveable' also tended to have the highest housing costs. Guangzhou and Chengdu are the lone examples where good quality of life is paired with relatively affordable housing.

Building connections between cities

'Clusters' of cities, developing complimentary niches and strong connections, are being touted as the next phase of China's urban development. Three regions stand out: the Yangtze River Delta, including Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Suzhou; the Greater Bay Area centred on Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Shenzhen; and the Jing-Jin-Ji region, anchored by Beijing and Tianjin.

On a national scale, China's leading cities are becoming increasingly inter-connected through the Chinese high-speed rail network, which is by far the world's largest. Wuhan and Nanjing, in particular, are becoming key nodes in the network, with rapid access to many of the country's biggest economic centres.