The Xiang River is home to a lot of things. One of the surprising things that it’s about to become home to is a brand new city with a history dating back since 1st century BCE. Even though this obvious paradox is confusing, it’s all simply due to history and the Xiang River. The new city is in Hunan and it will be a combination of Changsha, Hunan’s capital, Xiangtan and Zhuzhou tentatively called “Changzhutan” or长株潭 by the locals. Don’t believe me? Head over to the new city’s site (Chinese only). Some are even calling it the “Changzhutan golden triangle.” The population of all 3 cities has a combined population of 13 million and accounts for about one fifth of the overall population of Hunan.
In 2005, a plan was laid out by the China Urban Planning and Design Institute and the Hunan Development and Reform Commission to section off various areas of land, “to promote connectivity between the three cities in the cluster. These include highway and rail-based expressway projects to connect Xiangtan to Zhuzhou and ring roads around each of the three cities.” Basically this means that in addition to the Beijing-Guangzhou Railway which connects Changsha to the other two cities, several other modes of transportation will be built to make everything more accessible. When you throw in that all 3 cities have been growing and industrializing at an alarming rate, you soon have one of the largest metropolises in China.
Fast forward to 2009, and we can see the progress that this plan is making. Changsha just recently opened up a second train station and building on the expressway is commencing. It’s safe to say that both the locals and the foreigners are excited about this project. “I think it’s great,” a Xiantan expat told me, “without going downtown and taking the old busses, we can simply get on the new super-fast subway and have a night in Changsha for something like 10 kuai…probably.”
The head of Hunan Provincial Development and Reform Commission Jiang-bin said that highway, railway networks, inter-city main roads, light rail and underground are all being built. For air transportation, the Changsha Huanghua International Airport has been expanded and airport peripheral area economy and industry are developing. The Xianing port and 4 other harbors are under construction to promote and facilitate marine traffic. In order to adapt to the economic globalization and regional integration trend, the central region is ready to establish a comprehensive free-trade zone and an export processing zone.”
The city isn’t all just bells and whistles either. According to the Hunan Government’s English language site, Changzhutan “will act as a key role in the economic uplift in central China.” The region is rich in technology, labor and other essential factors. “In 2007, the gross national product in this region accounted for 37.9% of the total GNP of 14 cities in Hunan province. The GNP ratio in this region is estimated to reach 45% in 2012.” Essentially these 3 cities are taking the brunt of the work load for 14 Hunan cities, which is a key factor for the central part of the country.
But what do the Chinese locales think of the three cities merging? A Xiangtan student originally from Shaoyang remarked, “If Changzhutan can be integrated, obviously, it will do good to the development of Xiangtan and Zhuzhou since both are less developed than Changsha.”
Even though a large majority agrees with the plan, there are a select few lurking in the shadows on the internet that show dissension.
"I think all this talk Changzhutan is just hype,” complained one Chinese netizen, “except for entertainment, other aspects are not good at all, especially Xiangtan having such high housing prices…when compared with cities like Wuhan, Nanjing, Xi'an and Chongqing it’s all just empty talk.”
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