Exploring China’s Most ‘Future-Proof’ Cities

As China enters a ‘new era’, its leading cities are becoming hubs of innovation, global interaction and influence. JLL has identified the 12 Mainland cities that are leading this change. These cities are ‘future-proofing’ successfully, assembling the essential ingredients for long-term success.

A New Model of Urban Growth

The new focus of the China12 cities is on ‘future-proofing’– their readiness to embrace change by building sophisticated innovation platforms, improving business operating environments and enhancing liveability – as they respond to shifts in the economy and society both domestically and internationally.

A New Evolution Curve

A New Evolution Curve

Source: JLL, 2018

Our research reveals four city types:

The ‘Global Contenders’

As Mainland China’s most globally connected cities, Shanghai and Beijing dominate the China12 with the highest ‘future-proofing’ scores. Beijing’s key strengths lie in its exceptional higher education offer, advanced innovation ecosystem and its evolving network of new, dynamic corporates; while Shanghai boasts superior liveability, environmental quality and access to a strong cluster of nearby cities in the Yangtze River Delta, alongside a highly dynamic business environment.

The ‘Enterprisers’

Shenzhen and Guangzhou are China’s ‘Enterprisers’. These entrepreneurial cities have deep talent pools, excellent quality of life and strong connectivity. Shenzhen, in particular, is carving out a position as a magnet for China’s top talent – with a concentration of dynamic firms and start-ups. In many measures, it is moving closer to Shanghai and Beijing. Guangzhou has an exceptional all-round offer, is prioritising development in R&D across the fields of biotech and IT, and is building up its financial services industries, all of which will provide strong momentum in the future.

The ‘Leading Powerhouses’

Hangzhou, Nanjing, Suzhou and Wuhan in the Yangtze River corridor also stand out and are well-prepared for the future. Hangzhou’s position is boosted by strong corporate presence, driven in large part by the presence of Alibaba, while Nanjing and Wuhan both possess strong higher education networks and hold key places in China’s infrastructure networks.

The ‘Powerhouses’

Chengdu, Chongqing, Tianjin and Xi’an have considerable scale, and have seen high levels of growth and investment in recent years, and have made progress climbing the value chain. There is a need, however, to gear their offer towards the innovation economy. They are exploring policies to cultivate and retain talent, battle pollution and support the growth of new, dynamic companies.