Chaohu city in China has been canceled. It wasn’t a small city. In fact the population of more than 4 million is comparable to Los Angeles, the Phoenix metro area, and the whole of South Carolina, but that is now irrelevant data, since Chaohu’s official city status was annihilated on August 22. Although buildings and inhabitants remain as proof of a once-coherent city plan and living organism, the land has since been divided into three parts and absorbed by its neighbors, Hefei, Wuhu and Ma’anshan.
Situated in eastern China’s Anhui province, about 200 miles west of Shanghai, the idea was to strip the dead wood and make the surrounding cities more competitive, which, unlike the former Chaohu, are rapidly industrializing and urbanizing. In a recent interview for NPR, economics professor Jiang Sanliang from Anhui University explained: “Chaohu’s development hasn’t been good, but Hefei … needs land, so absorbing Chaohu will benefit Hefei. The government hopes that redistributing the land will improve the entire province’s GDP,” he says. It turns out, according to this report, Hefei’s average growth of 17 percent was enough of a reason to dissolve an entire city.
Though it is an unusual scenario, there are some benefits to the new divisions. For years the city’s namesake, Lake Chaohu, has been undergoing an intensive clean-up effort to meet the countrywide agenda to cleanse its badly polluted lakes. In the new arrangement the lake falls under Hefei’s administration and has more chance of getting the funding it needs to meet the Government’s 2030 deadline.
However, there is no doubt that the move is at odds with other city-planning approaches in China; in August we reported on a new kind of utopia in Chengdu. Designed by a New York architect and local developer, it was one that aimed to foster connections and strengthen communities rather than amalgamate and alienate them. Indeed, instead of public consultation and even public announcement many inhabitants of the former Chaohu learnt about its abolishment from local news on the morning it happened; the striking off happened overnight. No ceremony. No funeral. No Chaohu.