Guangzhou in a global city’s perspective

August 10, 2018 / By  

As one of the three key cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, Guangzhou will share the responsibility of the region’s integration, growth and industry upgrading. To serve these purposes, Guangzhou will likely need a stronger attraction to businesses and a larger global influence.

In JLL’s recent research report  , Guangzhou is identified as an ‘enterprise city’, as it has a solid talent base, high quality of life and good connectivity – making it a suitable location for innovation and entrepreneurship. To further elaborate on Guangzhou’s competitive edge in attracting business from a global city’s perspective, we conducted a study comparing Guangzhou with six major cities around the globe by five sets of metrics that are deemed important to business attraction. I would like to share some findings of this research, and highlight a few of Guangzhou’s bright spots.

Human Capital

  • Guangzhou is the home to about 80 universities and colleges, and houses over 700,000 college students, many of which will stay in Guangzhou after graduation. It provides highly-productive employees at a comparatively lower cost, making Guangzhou ideal for skilled, labour-intensive businesses. However, it’s worth noting that Guangzhou lacks top universities, hence the quality of its higher education still needs improvement.

Source: Statistics Authorities of New York City, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen;
Education Authorities of Singapore, Hong Kong, London and New York State; Brookings Institute.
Note: The data on number of students enrolled in higher education do not include students enrolled in
post-secondary vocational schools, except the case of Shenzhen.


  • As the most important transportation hub in South China, Guangzhou boasts comprehensive infrastructure. Guangzhou’s regional significance is most evident in its air traffic and connectivity. It comes only after London, New York and Shanghai in this sub-metric. On a different note, in metro traffic and total length, Guangzhou is only after Shanghai in metro traffic even though its total metro length is far lower than Shanghai, London and New York, suggesting high efficiency/capacity of the Guangzhou metro.

Source: Statistics Authorities of Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Singapore and Hong Kong;
Port Authority of New York & New Jersey; Civil Aviation Authority (UK).

Source: Statistics Authorities of Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong;
Transportation Authorities of New York City and London; SMRT Trains Limited.


  • Business Cost: Guangzhou has a unique advantage in office occupancy cost. These advantages partially come from abundant land resources. Enterprises can take advantage of this and allocate business lines that are less sensitive to city location but require more office space to Guangzhou. Actually, given GBA’s promising prospect, a few enterprises are already consolidating some business lines and relocating to the newly .
  • Economy and Population: Guangzhou has been performing strongly in economic growth and is now at par in terms of its size in relation to Hong Kong. The city also possesses a great mass of population which provides a huge consumption market.
  • Quality of Life: Guangzhou achieved of 0.869 in 2015, top of all mainland China cities.

Source: JLL

Apart from the above-mentioned strengths, the prospects of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area will be the fundamental driver for Guangzhou’s future development. The region’s integration shall further optimise the allocation of economic factors and resources, creating more synergies between Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong which will improve productivity of all cities within.

Guangzhou’s infrastructure will be essential to regional integration, while its higher education will serve as a powerhouse in generating future manpower. Also, Guangzhou’s high liveability shall continue to attract talented young generation as well as enterprises to settle down. These strengths will help the city tap onto its potential to become a ‘world contender’.

Note: This article is based on the results of a JLL research project commissioned by the Tianhe District Government of Guangzhou.

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