On March 14, 1997, when the Chinese government officially made Chongqing, known as China’s “Mountain City,” into the country’s fourth municipality, it was claimed to have become China’s—and even the world’s—largest city.
Located in the southwestern province of Sichuan, with a population of over 30 million, it covers 31,660 square miles. However, this area is comprised of rural counties and other large cities such as Wanxian. The actual urban area of Chongqing is much smaller than either Shanghai or Beijing and has a population of only 3.1 million (1994 official census). Situated on the upper portion of the Yangtze River, it is the juncture at which economically developed eastern China meets western China with its rich natural resources. The government’s plans are that Chongqing will act as the bridge between these two regions. As a municipality, it now comes directly under the Central Government allowing it direct access to various resources and the attention of the government in Beijing.
An ancient city with its first wall built about 320 B.C., it served as a capital at several times during its history. Its commercial development was related closely to the progress of steam navigation. The conquest of the 400-mile Yangtze Gorges by British and Chinese shipping companies in the late ’20s opened the way for commerce to expand. In 1937, during the Sino-Japanese War, many factories followed the move of the Chinese government from Nanjing to Chongqing resulting in its becoming a thriving industrial city.
During World War II, bombings virtually leveled the city so that after the war a new, modern, industrial city was built to replace the previous city core. Airports, roads and rail systems were constructed linking the city to numerous other cities. Chongqing became the gateway to Sichuan province.
Modern industries have continued to develop and now, as a municipality, the city is strategic for speeding economic development in the central and western regions as well as lessening the development gap between eastern and western China.
Chongqing is also seen as instrumental in the resettlement of both people and industries being displaced by the Three Gorges Dam Project. Currently 1.07 million of the 1.2 million people displaced by the project reside in Chongqing Municipality.
At present, the city is in the midst of a “face-life” campaign to rid itself of slum areas. Old, shabby houses are being replaced by modern apartment buildings. Those benefiting from this campaign are the urban poor who have been living in diaojiaolou or “the houses with dangling feet,” so called due to extensions made to them using logs on upper stories. In the past three years, close to US$3.6 billion has been put into apartment buildings and offices and 4,700 people have been moved.
Spiritually, Chongqing is a very needy area. According to TSPM sources, there are at least 200,000 Christians in the new municipality. About 100,000 of these are in the Greater Chongqing area of 16 million people and another 100,000 are scattered over largely rural and mountainous areas. Across the large region there are only 56 approved meeting-points that are served by 49 church workers. Without doubt, as Chongqing becomes involved with extensive economic development as well as the challenge of relocating a large population, the church will be in a strategic position to minister in an area of rapid social change.
“A Profile of a Mega City in China, Chongqing—The World’s Largest City,” David Gray, Dawn of Asia, Pacific Rim Foundation, Hong Kong, December 1999.
“Facelift Benefits the Poor,” Wen Chihua, China Daily, 9 May, 2000, pg. 9.