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Four most desirable cities to live in
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Chinese City Brand Value Report compiled and recently issued their choices based on five indicators: suitability for living, industry, business, tourism and learning. Beijing and Shanghai zoom to the top two on this list. But they bomb out in the most suitable for living category. City planning expert, Professor Chang Honglin, also believes that the first tier cities are now unfit for living because of their unchecked expansion.  
According to the 2006 Report on the Index of China Cities Suitable for Living published by the Horizon Research Consultancy Group, the top four most desirable cities to live in are all second tier cities.

Dalian: green city

Dalian is located on the southern tip of the Liaodong Peninsula with the Yellow Sea on the east and the Bohai Sea on the west. It is neither extremely cold in winter nor extremely hot in summer. The average yearly temperature is 10℃. Dalian covers an area of 12574 sq. km., with a green coverage at approximately 42.8 percent. The city population is 6 million; the pillar industry revolves around the software and information industry.  

Gao Xiaomin, software engineer, was born and grew up in Dalian. After touring several cities, including Beijing, Tianjin and Nanjing, Ms. Gao finally got married and settled down in her hometown of Dalian. She grew tired of the dust and foul air in big cities like Beijing.

In her eyes Dalian is a city that only exists in people's imaginations, surrounded by both mountains and sea. It is clean and tidy, more like a Western European city.  

"I can enjoy the fresh sea freeze and watch stars in the sky in Dalian. But this is not available in either Beijing or Shanghai." She loves Dalian's fresh air, sea and extensive green gardens. She lives not far from her office and each day she can enjoy the green scenery along the roads by walking to her office. After work, she goes to the beach to have barbecue with her friends, listening to the waves lapping at the shore and watching sea birds hovering about now and then. "This is the life I want," exclaimed Ms. Gao.    

A foreign friend of Ms. Gao, Sandy, also believes Dalian is a unique and pleasant city. Dalian's beautiful landscaping, orderly traffic and romantic constructions fascinate her. "Dalian's beauty and neatness can be seen not from just one place. It is everywhere."  

This young city, famous for its industry, is now known globally for its clean streets, beautiful ecological environment and large stretch of grassland. The green coverage rate of the whole city reaches 42.8 percent and continues to rise by 0.5 percent per year. Dalian was rated as the one of the "most desirable Chinese cities to live in" by the United Nations.      

The data of Dalian Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Bureau shows that 38 Global Top 500 businesses have established software development branches in Dalian. Of the 600 software and information enterprises that have settled in Dalian, 200 are foreign companies.

Dalian has made great progress in international software & information service outsourcing exploration. It is certified as "Software Industry Internationalization Model City", "State Software Industry Base", "State Software Export base" and "National Europe/US Software Export Project Experimental Base". In August it was chosen as the first "Base City of Service Outsourcing in China".

Huizhou: new life

Huizhou sits in the southeast of Guangdong and at the northeastern tip of Pearl River Delta, facing Daya Bay, a part of the South China Sea. Hong Kong and Shenzhen are her neighbors. The city has a land area of 11,200 sq. km. and a sea area of 4520 sq. km., with a population of 3.21 million. 

Li Jie is doing research and development (R&D) in a company. She once worked in Shenzhen and then moved to Huizhou. She has lived in Huizhou for two years. Li Jie said that, compared with Huizhou, one has more chances in Shenzhen but the cost of living is higher there.

Li Jie's current income isn't enough to purchase a house in Shenzhen. She was able to buy a small one-bedroom apartment with her total savings after working 15 years in Shenzhen. But Huizhou's house prices are only one third of those in Shenzhen.

Li Jie felt more relaxed after she relocated to Huizhou. She now lives a very comfortable life: sometimes she goes to bars, she buys whatever things she likes without considering the price, she has enough money to travel during holidays and she has bought her own house. 

Living costs in second tier cities like Huizhou are relatively low. But the space for development is rather limited. Huizhou's pillar industries are processing and manufacturing industries. Enterprises there are basically traditional labor-intensive manufacturing industries with low level science and technology. Li Jie works as an R&D engineer. But in Huizhou, there is not much R&D to do. Her job is repetitive: she monitors and checks the function and safety of company products. "This is not a-creative job," Li said.      

Li Jie expects that when the Huizhou-Shenzhen railway goes into operation she will be able to work in Shenzhen and live in Huizhou.

This is the fashionable 5+2 living style: living in big cities from Monday to Friday and in adjacent second tier cities on the weekends. Experts explained that, "The house prices rose rapidly in the first tier cities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen over the last few years. However affluent people want to improve their living conditions and surroundings. Actually, many white-collar workers wish to live the 5+2 living style, which allows them to have a decent job in one location while enjoying their life in another.  

Chengdu: no one who comes to Chengdu is willing to leave

Chengdu is an important center in southwest China with a long history. With its breathtakingly beautiful mountain landscapes, Chengdu is called "the country of heaven". It has an area of 12346 sq. km. and a population of 10.44 million.   

Wang Ling is a civil servant. She came to study in Chengdu six years ago and decided to live here forever.

The famous director Zhang Yimou once made an advertisement film called A City That You Don't Want to Leave If You Get There.

New Weekly once described: In Chengdu, time is life. Chengdu people live much more easily and comfortably than people in other Chinese cities. The celestial city endows people there with a leisurely and carefree life.

Leisure is the characteristics of Chengdu in nature and an indispensable quality of Chengdu people.  

This is completely true with Wang Ling. Chengdu's leisure can't be matched by any other cities. Wang Ling's schoolmate Xiaoli went to Shanghai after graduation. Her 10-hour work and three hour commute to and from her office really wear her out. She has to get up at 7:00 in the morning and ride one and a half hour bus to work everyday. But Wangling never worries about being late. It only takes her 20 minutes to get to her office.    

Wang Ling is lucky to stay in Chengdu. There are numerous tea-houses and casual chat. She may spend a whole day with a cup of tea and a piece of newspaper in a teahouse; she never fears that she'll be shooed away. Currently Chengdu has more than 3,000 teahouses, ranging from luxury ones to small ones along the streets.   

Wuhan: merciful beauty

Wuhan is the largest city in central China with a population of 8.58 million and an area of 84.6711 million sq. km. It has been called the "Thoroughfare to Nine Provinces" since Ming and Qing Dynasties.    

Wuhan is not a beautiful city. It has neither fine weather nor the most developed economy. But only local people really truly apprehend the wonder of Wuhan. 

Maybe it is because Wuhan has been called the "Thoroughfare to Nine Provinces" -- every day hordes of people come and go to Wuhan from all directions. Wuhan has got accustomed to absorbing everything, both the good and the bad. Rich and poor may equally create their own life style in Wuhan. Both favorable and unfavorable factors have been incorporated into this city.   

In Wuhan people move their bamboo beds onto to the street and have dinner on them. They drink wine, snacking on green soy beans and duck necks on Jiqing Street or go to the Small Concert Hall of Wuhan Orchestra to listen to concerts. Sometimes they warmly help strangers who are lost and sometimes they swear loudly in the street.   

Yuanyuan is an editor who was born and grew up in Wuhan. She has live in Wuhan for more than 20 years but she still feels it still has more treasures to be dug out and more novelties and secrets to be explored. She may experience different kinds of feelings, taste all kinds of snacks from different parts of the country and meet all sorts of people in Wuhan. The city is very tolerant. But Wuhan also has some obvious defect: it's difficult to manage such a big city. And there are always roads to be mended and old sections of the city that require renovations. Still, Wuhan is full of vitality. One may find it has changed into a completely new face one day.   

The four above-mentioned second tier cities each have their own particular attractions. One thing they all hold in common is that they all offer a comfortable lifestyle. Unlike bigger cities: Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, life in these second tier cities is rather relaxed and easy. People there don't have to rush to work and they can enjoy more leisure time, which has become unavailable in the first tier cities because of increased urban pressures. Therefore, if you want an authentic life, come to the second tier cities.

( by Zhang Ming'ai, October 31, 2007)

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