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Modi and Xi could make history in Wuhan, dubbed China’s ‘happiest’ city

It is rare for Chinese president Xi Jinping to host a summit outside Beijing but choosing Wuhan, a second-tier city, reflects his focus on emerging areas.

india Updated: Apr 25, 2018 19:05 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Wuhan summit,India,China
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will seek to chart a fresh course for bilateral ties on Friday and Saturday.(PTI/File Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will spend two days in arguably China’s happiest city, Wuhan, for his informal summit with President Xi Jinping.

A recent survey by state broadcaster CCTV showed the country’s happiest people live in Wuhan, the biggest city in central China and capital of landlocked Hubei province.

The city, located a little more than 1,000 km south of Beijing, is where the two leaders will seek to chart a fresh course for bilateral ties on Friday and Saturday.

It is rare — even unprecedented — for Xi to host a summit outside Beijing but choosing Wuhan, a provincial capital and a second-tier city, reflects his vision to focus on emerging areas, which many outside China will never have heard of.

In China, Wuhan is known for Mao Zedong’s villa on a lake, where he often went for a retreat. The city’s profile got an international boost in January when British Prime Minister Theresa May began her three-day China tour from there.

Vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou explained why Wuhan, located on the banks of the mighty Yangtze river, was chosen as the venue.

“We have taken multiple factors into account: Whether Prime Minister Modi has visited the city earlier, the bond of this place with India, as a representative city (for central China)... Wuhan is also an important hub for business, education, research and emerging industries. It is also a hub for inland waterway transport in China,” Kong told a news briefing.

In recent years, Kong said, Hubei province and some Indian states have intensified exchanges and expanded business cooperation.

“Prime Minister Modi has travelled to east, west, north and south of China but he is yet to visit central China. This will complete his tour of China,” he said.

And to top it all, Wuhan has emerged as China’s happiest city.

“CCTV’s ‘happiness index’ took into account factors such as governance, economic strength, urban infrastructure, and recreational activities. This year’s survey covered more than 100,000 households and 800 million internet users across China,” the Sixth Tone news website reported.

Wuhan is also an education hub, with reports suggesting it has the largest number of students among cities across the world.

“With more than 90 higher education institutions, including Huazhong University of Science and Technology, one of the country’s most prestigious schools, Wuhan is considered a hub for education and entrepreneurship, and has attracted considerable foreign investment,” the report added.

“In terms of investment in education and training, Wuhan outperformed all of its peers, including megacities Beijing and Shanghai – neither of which earned a spot in the top 10 for overall happiness.”

Happiness, a picturesque river bank and two leaders ready to shed make history: The setting seems about right. But whether Modi and Xi will emerge happier about the state of China-India ties from their summit in Wuhan, remains to be seen.

First Published: Apr 25, 2018 19:05 IST