Tiers for Fears

As most of the people reading this blog will likely only have a macro view of China, we wanted to deep-dive and give a taste of what life is like in a lower-tier city before reaching the western province of Xinjiang. To give context, there are three tier-one cities in China – Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Then population size, economic potential, government function, and general breadth of influence will dictate where a city is listed on a tiering scale of 1-6.
Interestingly enough, however, and despite this classification being widely used by everyone doing business in China, there is no official definition of  these tiers, or at least the world wide web could not provide us with one. In view of this lack of official framework on which to base our study,  we have come up with a personal classification of tiers that we believe is pretty accurate*. For future reference:
A tier 6 city is a city with at least one fake Apple store.

Rouzhou's official fake Apple Store

The official fake Apple Store

A tier 5 city has the above and at least one Starbucks coffee copycat whose name is usually composed of 3 random letters (e.g USB coffee, SDT coffee etc.)
A tier 4 city has the above and at least one KFC
A tier 3 city has the above and at least one McDonalds
A tier 2 city has the above and at least one (real) Starbucks
A tier 1 city has the above and at least one (real) Apple store.

Today we are going to take the best bits of all the Tier 6 cities we have been through and present the ultimate Tier 6 town. Introducing Rouzhou….

The beginning of all cities like Rouzhou is marked by a random statue. Be it a horse on a plinth (to bring power and energy) or comrades in arms struggling to progress their city to a better life, the statue is the gateway to civilization.

"This, Comrades, is 50 Cent's latest album Get Rich or Die Tryin'"

“This, Comrades, is 50 Cent’s latest album Get Rich or Die Tryin'”

Rouzhou is still in a state of change. There are many new buildings, a pedestrian street with the usual brands of SeptWolves, K-Boxing and Bosidao, and of course, as McDonald’s does everywhere else in the world, Dico’s stands proudly to say “this town is international” (despite being a Chinese company).

Only an Epoisses Fromagerie could produce adverts with greater stink than those of Rouzhou High Street

Only an Epoisses Fromagerie could produce adverts with greater stink than those of Rouzhou High Street

From the interior design to the contents of the menu, Dico's is almost identical to KFC though perhaps with even less real chicken

From the interior design to the contents of the menu, Dico’s is almost identical to KFC though perhaps with even less real chicken

However, behind every gleaming new boulevard there is a building site, sometimes with no sign of work taking place, waiting for the next round of investors to decide what type of shopping mall should be built.

Translation of wall sign: "Better City, Better Life (for real estate owners)"

Translation of wall sign: “Better City, Better Life (for real estate owners)”

Indeed, most businesses cannot afford the luxury of advertising and their marketing budget is made up of a lick of paint and a road (supplied by the government).

"Hey, I just met you.  This is craaaazy. So here's my number, I can do all sorts of odd jobs, so call me maybe"

“Hey, I just met you. This is craaaazy. So here’s my number, I can do all sorts of odd jobs, so call me maybe”

All roads in Rouzhou lead to the centre square and the main meeting ground for the city residents. This large public space is spotlessly clean and noticeably free from old chewing gum stuck to the pavement.  Towering overhead is the government administrative building. Disproportionately large for the duties it surely has to do in a city with only 200,000 people this is nonetheless a reminder of who is boss.

In the regional My Police Bureau is Bigger than your Police Bureau competition, Rouzhou came in a respectable 15th place

In the regional “My Police Bureau is Bigger than your Police Bureau” competition, Rouzhou came in a respectable 15th place

This does not put people off though, through the day and into the evening the square is full of people participating in group activities. From board games, to exercise machines to people doing synchronized sword wielding, this is a place where the young and old come together to play in whatever way they please.

The Rouzhou Dons mull over the good ol' days of long countryside marches, great leaps and the glory of Red China

The Rouzhou Dons mull over the good ol’ days of long countryside marches, great leaps and the glory of Red China

Katy Perry or Lady Gaga.  Fierce debating ensues as the Rouzhou Pole Dancing Association's (RPDA) annual general meeting discuss the lead song for their summer performance

Katy Perry or Lady Gaga. Fierce debating ensues as the Rouzhou Pole Dancing Association’s (RPDA) annual general meeting discuss the lead song for their summer performance

Pet dogs are very much a part of the scene which, for a country that still has a love for inviting their furry friends to the dinner table, is somewhat of a strange new trend and one that must be hard for the older generation to swallow. One minute it’s a dog chop, the next that same little beast is prancing around in pink booties and a body-warmer.

Best marinated in soy sauce, ginger and honey, cooked on low heat for seven hours, and served with haricots verts. Woof woof.

Best marinated in soy sauce, ginger and honey, cooked on low heat for seven hours, and served with haricots verts. Woof woof.

One thing that is clear though is that China’s dream of a harmonious society shows itself here in full colours – no one is causing trouble or getting drunk, there are no scruffy youths intimidating people outside the corner shop, and perhaps the most striking thing is that there is no sense of it being uncool to be in the same vicinity as the older generation.

Security cameras capture the moment just before police make their first ever arrest of a juvenile delinquent in Rouzhou's 25 year history

Security cameras capture the moment just before police make their first ever arrest of a juvenile delinquent in Rouzhou’s 25 year history

And with harmony (or lack thereof) in mind, Rouzhou would not be complete without the array of KTVs on offer for the nighttime entertainment. Karaoke clubs are dotted around town in abundance. Lighting up almost every street corner with its neon lights and the sound of wailing cats coming from the windows, anyone that has not experienced a KTV night simply has not lived.

Like many things in life, beautiful from afar but far from beautiful

Like many things in life, beautiful from afar but far from beautiful

So this is Rouzhou and along with the 400 or so other tier 6 cities in China, it is THE place to be in the future. Next time you come to China make sure you drop by to say hi, but remember, make sure you check intio the Police Station within 24 hours of arriving.

*The data collection for this study has absolutely no methodology

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