China Business

The Hardest Hardship Posts: China Cities Performing Badly.

Qingdao China

A reader just sent me an email link to a Business Week article [link no longer exists] pointing out how difficult Chinese cities are in which to work and live. The article is fascinating, but it definitely left me wondering about its methodology.

Its slide show ranks the cities as follows, from most difficult to the 20th most difficult:

1. Lagos, Nigeria
2. Jakarta, Indonesia
3. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
4. Almaty, Kazakhstan
5. Mumbai, India
6. New Delhi, India
7. Nairobi, Kenya
8. Bogota, Colombia
9. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
10. Chennai, India
11. Hanoi, Vietnam
12. Guangzhou, China
13. Tianjin, China
14. Suzhou, China
15. Qingdao, China
16. Shenzhen, China
17. Bangalore, India
18. Cairo, Egypt
19. Kiev, Ukraine
20. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

According to the report, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Suzhou, Qingdao, and Shenzhen qualified for this list for the following reasons:

Guangzhou
Overall Grade: High Risk Location
Severe Problem: Pollution
Other Problems: Disease & Sanitation, Medical Facilities, Physical Remoteness, Communications, Culture & Recreation
The capital of southern China’s Guangdong Province, Guangzhou is the largest city in one of the world’s most important industrial areas. Not surprisingly, Guangzhou’s biggest drawback is the severe pollution that often blankets the city in smog. Guangzhou is just a short train ride away from one of the world’s most dynamic cities, though, and ORC writes Guangzhou’s “proximity to Hong Kong is a major plus.”

Tianjin

Overall Grade: High Risk Location
Severe Problem: Pollution
Other Problems: Disease & Sanitation, Medical Facilities, Physical Remoteness, Culture & Recreation
Like so many other Chinese cities, Tianjin has a severe pollution problem. The city is also less cosmopolitan than other Chinese cities where foreign managers might live. “With limited availability of international flights, Tianjin can feel remote,” according to ORC’s analysis, “and there is little for Westerners in the way of cultural and recreational opportunities.”

Suzhou
Overall Grade: High Risk Location
Major Problems: Pollution, Culture & Recreation Facilities
Other Problems: Disease & Sanitation, Medical Facilities, Education Facilities, Availability of Goods and Services
While Suzhou is famous among Chinese as a beautiful garden city, ORC analysts are less impressed. The eastern Chinese city near Shanghai “can be a difficult place for expatriates” because of the pollution and the limited opportunities for culture and recreation.

Qingdao

Overall Grade: High Risk Location
Major Problem: Pollution
Other Problems: Housing, Disease & Sanitation, Medical Facilities, Education Facilities, Physical Remoteness, Communications, Culture & Recreation Facilities
For many people in the West, this city in northeastern China is famous as the home of its namesake beer, Tsingtao. (The company uses the old-fashioned way of Romanizing the city’s Chinese name.) Problems include pollution and limited facilities for medical care. Foreigners who don’t speak Chinese have difficulty living in the city, too.

Shenzhen
Overall Grade: High Risk Location
Severe Problem: Pollution
Other Problems: Disease & Sanitation, Education Facilities, Communications
Shenzhen is just across the border from Hong Kong and is home to some of China’s most successful export-oriented companies–and the country’s largest golf course. It’s also part of southern China’s industrial heartland, though, and the pollution problem is severe. Still, “the city’s proximity to Hong Kong is a major plus and greatly improves overall conditions in such areas as medical facilities, international travel, culture and recreation, and the availability of goods and services.”

I am surprised by these China cities having made this list. Of course, it is hard to compare cities without really knowing the methodology used, but I just do not see any of these Chinese cities as being all that difficult. I also have spent considerable time in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city and I did not find either of those cities terribly “difficult” either.

What do you think? What’s going on here?

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