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Old 12-05-2018, 09:44 PM
 
Location: Miami-Jax
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Those of you with more intimate knowledge of the PRC or "Mainland" China, was hoping you could share some insights into the various cities. I have spent time in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shenzhen and Zhuhai, so these are the only reference points I have.

In particular I am wondering what might be the Chicago or Philly versions of China. Ie, you obviously have Beijing, Shanghai, and perhaps the other Tier 1s that offer a vast, almost limitless, amount of amenities and opportunities. But these often (esp Shanghai) come at a cost. So what are the alternate options that offer nearly the same but at a far more affordable price tag?

At first blush when one doesn't really have experience or an understanding of the landscape, looking strictly at population and economic growth, etc, it seems there are dozens of options that may fit the bill. So I would love some help in deciphering beyond the numbers. In particular, it would be great if the more affordable version still maintains a level of cosmopolitan and international feel.

Just trying to learn more about China as I've always sort of brushed it off due to my preference for the SARs and Taiwan. TIA!
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Old 12-05-2018, 11:04 PM
 
Location: Tulsa
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Nanjing - Philly

It's a major city not too far from Shanghai, definitely more affordable. Like Philly, Nanjing was once the capital city, a lot of history. But Nanjing isn't near the same as Shanghai, just like Philly isn't comparable with NYC.

Guangzhou is pretty cosmopolitan too, and culturally richer than Shenzhen. Since you've spent some time in Shenzhen and Zhuhai, you have probably already known that.

Xiamen is China's South Padre Island, unknown to foreigners but popular among domestic budget-minded travelers.
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Old 12-06-2018, 05:33 AM
 
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Nanjing and Guangzhou are good ideas. They still have an international and very urban feel, but don't come with the same price tag as Shanghai or Beijing.


There are a bunch of good second tier cities that are nice enough for foreigners to live in, but don't have the hefty price tag like Shanghai.


Dalian and Qingdao are also good cities, as is Chongqing and Chengdu out west.
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Old 12-06-2018, 07:43 AM
 
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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I have a friend from Xi'an. Never been there myself, but might fit the bill for you. I've been wanting to go there the past couple years, but never can find the chance (it's rather far from Shanghai where I normally end up.)
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Old 12-06-2018, 08:43 AM
 
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Perhaps, the Five Furnaces.
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Old 12-06-2018, 11:12 AM
 
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A lot of second tier cities around Shanghai that are nice. Suzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, and the list goes on. Those all have quite a few foreigners in them now as well. I haven't been to Guangdong, but I imagine there are similar nice cities around Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

I'm not sure if I would put Xian in the nice second tier city list, perhaps near the bottom of the second tier, but maybe not quite third tier. Not many interior Chinese cities are very nice. I did like Chendgu as a city, it plays second fiddle to Chongqing, but I would prefer it.
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Old 12-06-2018, 02:40 PM
 
Location: Miami-Jax
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Thanks for all the replies folks!

So I am looking at a list like this?

Nanjing
Guangzhou
Dalian
Qingdao
Chongqing
Chengdu
Xian
Wuhan
Nanjing
Chongqing
Nanchang
Suzhou
Hangzhou
Ningbo

Well, to varying degrees of course. Just to clarify, I am not asking which cities are "nice," but rather which ones offer the kind of big city amenities (presumably pretty much all of them since they're very big cities) AND cosmopolitan/international feel that you would find in a major metro, but for a slightly discounted price tag. Like Chicago and Philly in the US.

It's just so dizzying cause China has sooo many major urban agglomerations with great transit, massive skylines, huge population and job growth, etc. But I can't tell how international they are. I hope to travel much more throughout China in the future, but even if I do it's way too large to do it very thoroughly or satisfactorily given the amount of time I think I will have
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Old 12-06-2018, 02:48 PM
 
Location: Miami-Jax
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoodHombre View Post
Nanjing - Philly

It's a major city not too far from Shanghai, definitely more affordable. Like Philly, Nanjing was once the capital city, a lot of history. But Nanjing isn't near the same as Shanghai, just like Philly isn't comparable with NYC.

Guangzhou is pretty cosmopolitan too, and culturally richer than Shenzhen. Since you've spent some time in Shenzhen and Zhuhai, you have probably already known that.

Xiamen is China's South Padre Island, unknown to foreigners but popular among domestic budget-minded travelers.
Thanks I will definitely look at Nanjing, and Guangzhou should be easy enough someday since it isn't too far from so much of my wife's family in Zhongshan and Zhuhai. Xiamen could be quite intriguing as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JakeinChina View Post
Nanjing and Guangzhou are good ideas. They still have an international and very urban feel, but don't come with the same price tag as Shanghai or Beijing.


There are a bunch of good second tier cities that are nice enough for foreigners to live in, but don't have the hefty price tag like Shanghai.


Dalian and Qingdao are also good cities, as is Chongqing and Chengdu out west.
As in it's comfortable for expats, or is it more than that. Like cosmopolitan and worldly feeling? Not saying Shanghai-level, but just enough to have lots of foreigners around, tourists, arts and cultural groups on tour (ballet, symphony, etc)

I did spend 2 weeks in Chengdu and liked it a lot, but I was there for a school program so while I did get to see some parts of the city I was also inside a building for 10 hours a day so I didn't truly experience that much of the city.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mattks View Post
A lot of second tier cities around Shanghai that are nice. Suzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, and the list goes on. Those all have quite a few foreigners in them now as well. I haven't been to Guangdong, but I imagine there are similar nice cities around Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

I'm not sure if I would put Xian in the nice second tier city list, perhaps near the bottom of the second tier, but maybe not quite third tier. Not many interior Chinese cities are very nice. I did like Chendgu as a city, it plays second fiddle to Chongqing, but I would prefer it.
I hear ya. It's just so dizzying how many major cities there are in China. Same question: Cosmopolitan and worldly feeling? Not saying Shanghai-level, but just enough to have lots of foreigners around, tourists, arts and cultural groups on tour (ballet, symphony, etc) Or would that eliminate a lot of the places you are referring to?
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Old 12-06-2018, 04:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by projectmaximus View Post
Thanks I will definitely look at Nanjing, and Guangzhou should be easy enough someday since it isn't too far from so much of my wife's family in Zhongshan and Zhuhai. Xiamen could be quite intriguing as well.



As in it's comfortable for expats, or is it more than that. Like cosmopolitan and worldly feeling? Not saying Shanghai-level, but just enough to have lots of foreigners around, tourists, arts and cultural groups on tour (ballet, symphony, etc)

I did spend 2 weeks in Chengdu and liked it a lot, but I was there for a school program so while I did get to see some parts of the city I was also inside a building for 10 hours a day so I didn't truly experience that much of the city.



I hear ya. It's just so dizzying how many major cities there are in China. Same question: Cosmopolitan and worldly feeling? Not saying Shanghai-level, but just enough to have lots of foreigners around, tourists, arts and cultural groups on tour (ballet, symphony, etc) Or would that eliminate a lot of the places you are referring to?
Talking about inland cities, Chengdu is the most international (with consulates of the US, France, Germany, Australia, India, Israel etc). Wuhan, Xi'an and Chongqing are not far behind. All of them have sizeable international communities, but most are students and temporary workers.

Along the coast, Dalian, Qingdao, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Xiamen are all nice tier 2 cities with international influences.
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Old 12-06-2018, 05:37 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by projectmaximus View Post
Thanks I will definitely look at Nanjing, and Guangzhou should be easy enough someday since it isn't too far from so much of my wife's family in Zhongshan and Zhuhai. Xiamen could be quite intriguing as well.



As in it's comfortable for expats, or is it more than that. Like cosmopolitan and worldly feeling? Not saying Shanghai-level, but just enough to have lots of foreigners around, tourists, arts and cultural groups on tour (ballet, symphony, etc)

I did spend 2 weeks in Chengdu and liked it a lot, but I was there for a school program so while I did get to see some parts of the city I was also inside a building for 10 hours a day so I didn't truly experience that much of the city.



I hear ya. It's just so dizzying how many major cities there are in China. Same question: Cosmopolitan and worldly feeling? Not saying Shanghai-level, but just enough to have lots of foreigners around, tourists, arts and cultural groups on tour (ballet, symphony, etc) Or would that eliminate a lot of the places you are referring to?
I'd guess only a tiny tiny handful of 2nd tier Chinese cities feel international in a diversity sense. Cosmopolitan and Chinese cities don't really go hand in hand. If you are looking for diversity, Kunming is likely one of the better options in China. The region has a lot of minorities, around 34% of the population in Kunming itself. Most 1st and even 2nd tier cities in China are majority Han, like 98%+ Han. Something that has to be understood is that the Chinese census is based on the Hokou and China has a large migratory population, despite it being quite difficult to "legally" move to other cities, so that may skew some demographic statistics, but I doubt more then 1-2% in most cities. A few manufacturing hubs in Guangdong may be the exceptions where it is majority Cantonese with large amounts of Han workers.

Xian is 99.1% Han according to China's census, I don't think anyone would describe that as cosmopolitan.

Definition of cosmopolitan before people start arguing about it. I don't think that really describes any Chinese city or town to be honest.
https://www.dictionary.com/browse/cosmopolitan
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