urban explosion

Photos: Inside China’s mega-city you’ve never heard of

Throughout 2014, the official population of Chongqing grew by over 4,000 people each week.

Tim Franco, a Paris-born photographer now based in Shanghai, has spent the past five-plus years documenting the intense change that urbanization has brought to the Chinese mega-city of Chongqing.

Until 1997, Chongqing was a neglected city in the poor Sichuan province. It is two hours by plane to any of China’s richer and better-known cities like Beijing, Shanghai, or Shenzhen. It clambers for space between mountains and rivers – the massive Yangtze tears a winding path through the city – and for much of its history, the city was left alone because its geography meant trade with even the rest of China was difficult.

Since 1997, though, it has benefited from the government’s elevation to the rank of “municipality”, which means it enjoys special status among Chinese cities and extra investment opportunities.

Today, Chongqing is the spearhead of one of the government’s biggest domestic projects; to bring wealth and opportunities to the hundreds of millions of people that live in western China, the majority of the country that does not yet benefit fully from the immense wealth generated on the east coast.

Throughout 2014, the municipality’s official population grew by over 4,000 people each week to 29.9 million (link in Chinese). Officially, Chongqing’s central urban population is almost 8 million, but unregistered laborers push the official figure up substantially. Last year, Chongqing’s GDP grew by 12.3% – well above China’s national average 7.4% – to 1.3 trillion yuan ($204 billion), or roughly the size to Qatar’s.

Franco’s images, which will appear in his forthcoming book, Metamorpolis, capture Chongqing’s massive urbanisation, and detail how that intersects with the city’s population, whether indigenous or recently resettled. (Note: I contributed some of the text in Franco’s book.)


Many of Chongqing’s residents were resettled in the city after their villages and towns were flooded by the creation of the Three Gorges Dam, which dispersed over a million people. Many of their old homes are now underwater.


Those who are young enough to acquire new skills have a chance to thrive in the city, which is known for its automobile manufacturing, but also relies heavily on its natural resources industry. But those who are too old resort to what they know best: Farming on a small plot of land.


Chongqing has been described as “the biggest city you’ve never heard of”, “China’s Detroit”, “Chicago-on-the-Yangtze”, and “the fastest-growing city in the world”. Despite the immense urbanisation, life continues in some corners as it has done for centuries.


Unlike China’s sprawling, flat cities like Beijing and Shenzhen, Chongqing is a high-density city. Its mountains and rivers mean it is harder to build on, and so there is a greater need to build up, and pack high rises in every available space.


In the background of this image above, taken in 2012, is Jiefangbei, the city’s main downtown. In the foreground is Shibati, a working class neighborhood and the first place many migrant labourers found a home when they arrived in Chongqing. It was a melting pot for regional migrants, but today the Shibati neighbourhood is no longer; luxury riverside high-rises will soon take its place.


Chongqing sits at the confluence of the Yangzte river (on the left of this picture) and the Jialing river (right). In the middle is the Yuzhong peninsula, home to Jiefangbei and the heart of the city.


The scale of the city is immense. Chongqing is home to some of the largest bridges in the world,  which in most western cities would be landmarks. In Chongqing they are simply tools for the daily commute.


Construction also never stops. The creation of new bridges, tunnels, and subway lines means that the physical and cultural geography of the city is always in flux. Neighborhoods disappear overnight and without fanfare, and new ones are created almost as quickly with the opening of new access roads.


A subway and traffic travel over the Jialing river. In the background is an undeveloped section of Chongqing’s central Yuzhong district.


Jiangbei district, a new part of town north of the Jialing river, was largely farmland just 15 years ago. Amid huge building sites, farmers continue to plant on the few remaining plots not yet seized for construction.

All photos credited to Tim Franco.

This article was originally published on qz.com.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

Harvard Business School’s HBX brings the future of business education to India with online programs

HBX is not only offering courses online, but also connecting students to the power of its network.

The classic design of the physical Harvard Business School (HBS) classroom was once a big innovation – precisely designed teaching amphitheaters laid out for every student to participate from his or her seat with a “pit” in the center of the room from which professors orchestrate discussions analyzing business cases like a symphony lead. When it came to designing the online experience of HBX—the school’s digital learning initiative—HBS faculty worked tirelessly to blend these tenets of the HBS classroom pedagogy with the power of new technology. With real-world problem solving, active learning, and social learning as its foundation, HBX offers immersive and challenging self-paced learning experiences through its interactive online learning platform.

Reimagining digital education, breaking the virtual learning mold

Typically, online courses follow a one-way broadcast mode – lectures are video recorded and reading material is shared – and students learn alone and are individually tested. Moving away from the passive learning model, HBX has developed an online platform that leverages the HBS ‘case-based pedagogy’ and audio-visual and interaction tools to make learning engaging.

HBX courses are rarely taught through theory. Instead, students learn through real-world problem-solving. Students start by grappling with a business problem – with real world data and the complexity in which a business leader would have to make a decision – and learn the theory inductively. Thus even as mathematical theories are applied to business situations, students come away with a greater sense of clarity and perspective, whether it is reading a financial report, understanding why a brand’s approach to a random sample population study may or may not work, or how pricing works.

HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program
HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program

“Learning about concepts through real-life cases was my favorite part of the program. The cases really helped transform abstract concepts into observable situations one could learn from. Furthermore, it really helped me understand how to identify situations in which I could use the tools that HBX equipped me with,” says Anindita Ravikumar, a past HBX participant. India’s premier B-school IIM-Ahmedabad has borrowed the very same pedagogy from Harvard. Learning in this manner is far more engaging, relatable, and memorable.

Most lessons start with a short 2-3 minute video of a manager talking about the business problem at hand. Students are then asked to respond on how they would handle the issue. Questions can be in the form of either a poll or reflections. Everyone’s answers are then visible to the ‘classroom’. In the words of Professor Bharat Anand, Faculty Chair, HBX, “This turns out to be a really important distinction. The answers are being updated in real-time. You can see the distribution of answers, but you can also see what any other individual has answered, which means that you’re not anonymous.” Students have real profiles and get to know their ‘classmates’ and learn from each other.

HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort
HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort

Professor Anand also says, “We have what we call the three-minute rule. Roughly every three minutes, you are doing something different on the platform. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Anyone could be called on to participate at any time. It’s a very lean forward mode of learning”. Students get ‘cold-called’ – a concept borrowed from the classroom – where every now and then individuals will be unexpectedly prompted to answer a question on the platform and their response will be shared with other members of the cohort. It keeps students engaged and encourages preparedness. While HBX courses are self-paced, participants are encouraged to get through a certain amount of content each week, which helps keep the cohort together and enables the social elements of the learning experience.

More than digital learning

The HBS campus experience is valued by alumni not just for the academic experience but also for the diverse network of peers they meet. HBX programs similarly encourage student interactions and opportunities for in-person networking. All HBXers who successfully complete their programs and are awarded a credential or certificate from HBX and Harvard Business School are invited to the annual on-campus HBX ConneXt event to meet peers from around the world, hear from faculty and business executives, and also experience the HBS campus near Cambridge.

HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand
HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand

Programs offered today

HBX offers a range of programs that appeal to different audiences.

To help college students and recent graduates prepare for the business world, HBX CORe (Credential of Readiness) integrates business essentials such as analytics, economics, and financial accounting. HBX CORe is also great for those interested in an MBA looking to strengthen their application and brush up their skills to be prepared for day one. For working professionals, HBX CORe and additional courses like Disruptive Strategy, Leading with Finance, and Negotiation Mastery, can help deepen understanding of essential business concepts in order to add value to their organizations and advance their careers.

Course durations range from 6 to 17 weeks depending on the program. All interested candidates must submit a free, 10-15 minute application that is reviewed by the HBX admissions team by the deadlines noted on the HBX website.

For more information, please review the HBX website.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of HBX and not by the Scroll editorial team.