‘Central China’ does not describe an established region so much as a cluster of provinces that defy placement in China’s more integrated economic areas. Nevertheless, central China—comprising the provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Jiangxi, Henan, and Anhui—has a population of approximately 400m, greater than the population of all but two countries in the world. Though endowed with natural resources and transport advantages, central China lacks the economic development of the coastal provinces as well as the links to foreign markets enjoyed by provinces in the northeast, northwest, and southwest of the country.
In 2004, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced the “Rise of Central China”, an initiative calling for increased development in the region. The major role of the Yangtze River (see section 7.10) in daily life attests to the many advantages central China offers as a transport hub, particularly in marquee cities such as Wuhan. In addition, coal production in north-central China—centred round Shanxi Province—has an enormously significant impact on China’s energy supply.
Central China’s location astride many of China’s key trade routes presents significant opportunity in logistics. Transport modes linking China’s natural resource sites in the west to population centres in the east traverse central China, indicating a need for modern logistical support. The city of Wuhan, central China’s largest, has established major facilities in road, rail, air, and river freight, and other major capitals have followed suit with investment in modern logistics centres.
The Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest public works project, will significantly lower the cost of shipping goods from Chongqing in southwest China to the Yangtze River Delta in the east. Heightened trade along the world’s busiest river could have a major effect on the logistical outlook of central China.
Logistical capabilities in the region still lag behind that of the coastal provinces, and even that of some south-western cities such as Chengdu and Chongqing. However, the region’s relatively well-educated, low-cost labour force implies a tremendous incentive for logistics providers to base themselves in cities such as Wuhan, Changsha, and Zhengzhou.
- The completion of the Three Gorges Dam project will significantly reduce the cost of transporting goods along the Yangtze River and central Chinese cities located along the river could assume far more important logistical roles
- Coal production—and its distribution– in north-central provinces such as Shanxi play a major role in a country which relies heavily on coal-powered energy resources.
- A city cluster centred on the Hubei capital, Wuhan, intends to pool the region’s resources together in order to create a new economic region to rival that of the PRD, YRD, and Bohai Bay areas.