The quality of Guangzhou’s infrastructure has lagged far behind its rivals Beijing and Shanghai but recent efforts have done much to improve the efficiency and cleanliness of south China’s leading city.
Afew years ago, Guangzhou was known for its numerous dilapidated buildings, polluted air and rivers, illegal hawking and traffic chaos. Living in this run-down capital of Guangdong province was no fun, even though its residents were the richest city in China in terms of per capita GDP and disposable income. Only 27 per cent of the 10,000 local residents interviewed in a 1998 government survey said they were ‘satisfied’ with the living environment.
Today, Guangzhou is a different city – more orderly, more efficient and cleaner. Traffic has greatly improved, thanks to the completion of a ring road, expressways and a modern subway. The air and the famous Pearl River that runs through the city have become cleaner. Many illegal structures erected in neglected public spaces have disappeared, replaced by trees and flowerbeds. Long-time residents confirm a marked improvement in the environment. “I used to get a headache from the bad air whenever I walked down the main Huaxi East Road. It has gotten much better,” says Dan Rebecca, who runs a local wholesale bakery business and is head of the American Chamber Commerce in Guangzhou. According to Steve Lewis, branch manager of the transportation company Santa Fe: “It used to take two hours to get from the airport to the city centre; now, it is much faster.”