November 13, 2020 - 3:00 pm


Veysel Tekdal
Department of International Relations
Eskişehir Osmangazi University
Unlike eastern China, the industrial upgrading from resource-based industries to technology-intensive ones remains a challenge in most of western China. That said, some cities in the region have much progressed in industrial upgrading over the past decade. Chongqing, Chengdu, and Xi’an, in particular, stand out with their performance in nurturing advanced manufacturing sectors. Apart from these three large cities, Guiyang, a middle-sized city from the region, has also achieved stable growth in relatively advanced manufacturing sectors. On the other hand, some other cities such as Lanzhou have largely failed in their attempt to upgrade the industrial structure and continue to rest disproportionately on the resource-based industries. This talk aims to shed light on the factors behind Lanzhou’s failure by comparing it with successful cases from the region. The main argument here is two-pronged. It finds indications that the local leadership in Lanzhou did a poor job in triggering industrial upgrading. On the other hand, the local leadership’s neglect of industrial upgrading was tolerated, if not encouraged, by the central-level factors. First, macroeconomic policies stimulated the growth of traditional manufacturing sectors and construction in Lanzhou, which lessened the urgency of industrial transformation for the local leadership. Second, the cadre promotion system that prioritizes short-term tangible achievements and stability seems to have provided disincentives to pursue a path-breaking industrial strategy, which is, by nature, fraught with risks and uncertainties.