Peer through the haze of winter – whether smog or construction dust – to see a glimmer of hope: Shenzhen, Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou are officially the “most livable” cities in China, Xinhua reports.
Shenzhen knocked Guangzhou off its perch as the most livable of the country’s urban areas, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and its Chinese Cities Livability Development Index.
Shenzhen scored 0.706 and Shanghai followed in second place with 0.662, just beating Beijing in third place at 0.660 – a huge turnaround from the capital’s 2016 rank (in a different survey) as least livable city. Guangzhou is fourth, at 0.631.
Xiamen, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Xi'an and Suzhou rounded out the rest of the top 10 cities, in that order.
Of course, the devil’s in the details.
All top four cities fared pretty poorly in the measure of 'livelihood' – the ability to buy a house, access to quality education and medical care, or perceived quality of life – which you’d think a livability index would prize. Of the four, Guangzhou ranked the best (at 50 out of 287) and Beijing the worst (in 156th place).
Environmental quality was more of a mixed bag. Shenzhen’s verdant forests and ocean breeze helped the young metropolis rank a respectable fifth, much better than the industrial capital of the province (sorry Guangzhou, you’re 63 out of 287). Shanghai and Beijing? Air quality problems dragged them down to 80th and 137th respectively.
What the index really rewarded was economic development (Shenzhen #1, Guangzhou #2, Shanghai #3 and Beijing #7), innovation (Beijing #1, Shanghai #2, Shenzhen #3, Guangzhou #9), and 'social governance.'
The last category includes social insurance, public security, social tolerance and public perception of social harmony, and the big four all fared well: Shenzhen was again #1, Shanghai #2, Beijing #3, and Guangzhou #6.
So if you live in one of the lucky four, congratulate yourself on how dynamic your city is and maximize that sense of social harmony by sharing the good news with all your friends.