Friday, April 23, 2010

Exodus From Beishangguang

First, talent moves up the urban hierarchy. After finding success, it moves down. In China, workers with established careers are seeking geographic arbitrage opportunities in second-tier cities:

Young, well-qualified workers living in BSG say they are frustrated with unaffordable homes, high stress levels, and increasingly uncongenial living conditions that include air pollution and traffic jams. Smaller cities, they are beginning to discover, might offer lower pay packages, but a higher quality of life- fresher air, bigger apartments, higher social status.

'I used to think Beijing was the city of my dreams. I had to die in Beijing and my child had to be a Beijinger,' said TV news editor Li Hanjing, 33, who moved to the country's capital in 2004. But in a chance outing to Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, she fell in love with the eastern city. She now lives in Hangzhou and said the slower pace of life has made her feel less irritable.

This great urban migration could spur further development of already booming second-tier cities and usher in for them a renaissance of sorts, experts said. Already, smaller cities, long troubled by the brain drain, are feeling the positive effects of the new incoming talent. Official figures show that second-tier cities such as Hangzhou and Tianjin, as well as Dalian and Shenyang in Liaoning province, posted growth figures higher than 16 per cent in 2008.

For those not interested in the bucolic lifestyle of the suburbs, second-tier cities are a viable urban option. You cut your teeth in an alpha global city and then find another downtown sporting all the amenities without the usual drawbacks. US shrinking cities could benefit from this trend, building an urban environment that attracts this demographic.

However, what happens in China won't necessarily happen in the United States. As Paul Krugman recently remarked, the economic geography of the two countries couldn't be more different. My analysis is that this kind of migration is a global trend. Des Moines ascendant.

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