China is facing the largest migration in human history of 400 million people moving from rural to urban areas in the next 10 years. Urban areas especially along the coastal areas promise higher wages and a better standard of living as compared to the interior of China. To manage this mass migration, the Chinese government has made a high priority the development of cities interior to China to stem the flow to coastal areas. In some cases, this accelerated thinking has led to interior cities which are heavily built out with shining apartments and office buildings but has a feel of a ghost town.
On an invited visit to a Technology Park in the Yixing area of China (a city 1 hour west of Shanghai) some of this was painfully obvious. Wide streets, massive buildings, large beautiful courtyards, tree lined gardens but with a scattering of people walking around. This particular Technology Park was recently recognized as a National Research Park by the Government in which only a handful have been given this honor. The officials who ran the Park enthusiastically welcomed our conversation around bringing internet and IOT technology into the Park.
As the government continues to invest heavily into building out these innovation parks the question for this strategy is whether these gleaming towers will attract and grow the right innovative companies or whether its just putting some lipstick on a pig. What is for sure is that the approach being taken in investment models, company management and technology development is uniquely Chinese with no shortage of ambition to build out this next phase of China’s growth.