When we look back, 2011 saw lots of changes in the city: There might still be a general construction and business-opening frenzy in Chengdu, but the region is also seeing a more mature phase of development focused on culture, preservation, and environmental awareness; at the same time, Chengdu solidified its intent to become a global car center, replete with automobile production and a car culture of its own. Lastly, the 2008 earthquake is still in the minds and hearts of the Sichuanese;
Chengdu showed a remarkable number of signs of development on many front in January. The city made history by becoming the first Chinese city to air commercials in international media; it ran commercials featuring—what else?—pandas on CNN and the BBC to promote itself as a tourist destination around the world. Japanese convenience-store chain 7-11 announced it would open 350 shops in Chengdu over the following five years, 50 of which would open by the end of 2011. We haven't counted, but it looks like they followed through with their plan. French hypermarket chain Auchan also announced that it would open seven more stores in Chengdu in the same time frame. Lenovo began construction on what is planned to be a 100,000 sqm production center capable of manufacturing more than 10 million computers annually in Chengdu.
Aviation fanatics turned their eyes to Chengdu when photos of China's J-20 stealth fighter making its first flight appeared online. The aircraft was developed by the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group. Peugeot broke various speed records at Chengdu's military air base with writer Han Han behind the wheel of its EX1 electric car. Information was released on a vacuum-tube high-speed train that will travel at speeds between 600 and 1,000 kmph and is under development by the Southwest Jiaotong University.
In more local news, the scenic Anren Old Town started service on its circular tram route, the first in southwest China, and the Chengdu Metro Co. announced that it would make a long-awaited value-added transport pass available to passengers. Some of China's wealthiest citizens announced they would team up to donate money to fund the entire 100,000-hecatare Sichuan Nature Conservation Foundation. And finally, looking back, 17 ancient tombs were unearthed in a newly discovered burial site in Qilong Village in Huayang.
Chengdu's plans to become a global car center came a few steps closer to reality with the announcement that the Chengdu Volvo plant would begin operations in 2013, producing 125,000 units annually, and the completion of a production shift to Toyota's Chengdu production site.
The Chengdu Metro Co. installed metal detectors at all subway stations, marking the beginning of a new era in subway-security measures and making Chengdu the first Chinese city to implement such devices. Chengdu also announced new limits on property purchases within the downtown area: Registered residents are allowed to purchase up to two properties; non-registered city residents may purchase only one. Finally, the Jialing prison, which occasionally appears in the news for its social programs, offered prisoners the opportunity to participate in a foot-washing ritual in time for the lunar new year. By washing the feet of family members they have shamed, they hope to symbolically clean themselves of their past.
There was the highbrow: The Bookworm hosted its fifth annual Literary Festival, a month-long "celebration of literature and ideas in China," pulling in bigger names than ever—David Sedaris#, Peter Hessler, Jonathan Watts, and Annie Wang, to name a few.
And then there was the lowbrow: Physical fights broke out between players during what was meant to be a friendly match between Chengdu Sheffield United and Sichuan Football Club, and McDonalds announced that Chengdu would become the first city in west China to boast McDonalds food delivery —fast food at your doorstep within 30 minutes.
Sichuan University and Hong Kong Polytechnic University joined teams to set up the Training Institute on Disaster Management and Reconstruction, which offers doctoral degrees in disaster management and is the first program of its kind in China.
The Volvo China Open golf tournament was held in Chengdu for the first time; the city announced its plans to build an extensive "greenbelt" connecting outlying suburbs and towns to the city via 800 km of recreational pathways; and the Netherlands announced that it would open a consulate in Chengdu.
The global semi-finals of the 2011 World Supermodel Contest were held in Beichuan, coinciding with the unveiling of the Shifang Quake Ruins Park and earthquake-memorial wall.
A rare and very well-preserved Ming Dynasty tomb was unearthed in Longquan during preparations for construction on the Chengdu-Chongqing bullet train tunnel. Chengdu announced that it would be officially pushing for new investment from global brands, after hitting milestones in its output of both electronics (1.2 million iPads per month) and the automobile industry.
With its week-long labor holiday, May is usually a month for cultural activity, and May 2011 was no exception.
For the third time, Zebra Music Festival brought its signature three days of fun and music to Chengdu over the May holiday, with Edison Chen headlining and making a comeback after his 2008 sexy-photo scandal. Later in the month, the third Intangible Cultural Heritage Festival opened, this time in its very own International Intangible Cultural Heritage Exposition Park. The Insect Museum of West China, with Asia's largest butterfly collection (more than 700 species) opened at the foot of Qingcheng Mountain on China's Children's Day. Several interesting statistics on Sichuan appeared in May—namely, 7 (the number of Sichuanese billionaires named to Forbes' "The World's Billionaires" 2011 list) and 1 (the countrywide ranking of Sichuan province in terms of number of divorces in the first quarter of 2011). Sichuan also announced several proposed bans: on smoking in public buildings and on street hawking and begging, and announced that drivers who cause serious accidents while under the influence of alcohol would have their driver's licenses revoked for five years and those caught driving after drinking will be fined and their licenses suspended for six months.
The 200,000-passenger-capacity East Train Station opened, confusing a number of passengers who went to the wrong station to catch trains, and shortly thereafter launched a campaign to provide service so good that not one passenger would file a complaint. Sichuan Airlines launched new routes to Saipan, the largest island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, with stopovers in Guangzhou and Shanghai. A 270-exhibit-strong quake-memorial museum opened in the Jianchuan Museum Cluster in Anren Town to commemorate the tens of thousands of victims of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake.
An explosion at Foxconn's Chengdu iPad2 factory killed three workers and injured 16, and a gas blast in a coal mine in Xinsheng killed six and injured 27.
In odd news, a mysterious creature that was described as looking like a cross between a dog and a mouse was discovered in the remote Dujia Village, Tianhui Town; and construction on a center for giant panda rescue and disease prevention began.
South Korean marine troops opened fire at a passenger Asiana Airlines flight just miles from the DPRK border on its way from Chengdu to Seoul after mistaking it for a North Korean military vessel. Poppy-seed pods were on a list of the Ministry of Health's 64 commonly used food additives that would be banned; Chengdu authorities quickly said that no parts of the poppy plant would appear in large or medium-sized hotpot restaurants, but that smaller restaurants were harder to regulate. A special talk and series of educational activities on sexual health was initiated for primary-school students in Jinniu District. The Panda Census, which is held every 10 years, took place in 2011, employing 70 workers who tracked panda droppings in the wild to bring back to the lab for studying. A 2,000-year-old Eastern Han Dynasty sarcophagus was found in a stone coffin at a road construction site in Yibin. Construction began on a 7-km tunnel along the Sichuan-Tibet Highway, which will be the world's highest at 4,380 meters at its highest point. Chengdu boasted that it had spent RMB70 million on genuine software in a bid to promote itself as a "Copyright Protection Model City" and announced that it planned to double parking fees to up to RMB10 per hour within the First Ring Road. At the end of the month, a wave of storms triggered flooding that left 26 people dead and 10 missing.
In an unusual weather phenomenon for the time of year, snow poured down on Highway 318, leaving the road blanketed in white.
The Chengdu Museum of Contemporary Art opened in the Tianfu Software Park with 2,000 sqm of exhibition space on two floors, and Sichuan province announced that it would make spitting in public a crime; offenders would be fined RMB50 to 200. Chengdu continued its global image promotion campaign, opening up official accounts on social-networking sites Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, and Flickr, and Xinhua rented airtime on one of the LCD screens hanging over Times Square in New York to promote China abroad (via, among other methods, Chengdu's pandas). At the same time, Chengdu came in second place as "the city with the most Chinese culture" in an online poll run by the State Council, the Culture Bureau, and the China Travel Service. Once the world finds out about the awesomeness that is Chengdu, where will all those visitors stay?
At Chengdu's first self-proclaimed "six-star" hotel, the Fairmont, which announced its plans to build a property in Chengdu. Just as long as they don't arrive before its projected grand opening in 2014.
A few high-profile American visitors headed to Chengdu in August—namely, U.S. vice president Joe Biden, who held a speech at Sichuan University in addition to attending to other diplomatic duties, and basketball star LeBron James, who visited as part of a China-wide NBA-promotion program.
Sichuan's largest cosplay and anime festival, Comiday, upgraded its venue to the New Century Exhibition Center, attracting some 20,000 cosplay and anime fans—many of whom donned costumes—to its eighth annual event. In the meantime, the Big Love Music Festival, initially scheduled for October in Mianyang, announced that it would postpone its event until 2012 and move its location to Chengdu. Female city-management officers were instructed to wear inline roller skates while on duty in order to, according to the China Daily, "adopt a more moderate approach to law enforcement." The city's largest bus station (10,000 sqm and a capacity of 38,000 passengers daily) opened at the end of the month at the new East Railway Station, and China Eastern Airlines started Chengdu-Hawaii flights, routed through Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Beijing. A late-summer heat wave in Sichuan saw temperatures in Luzhou hitting 43.8 degrees Celsius and making for Chengdu's hottest summer in five years. But that didn't stop the rain from pouring down, leading to cracks and the eventual collapse of a bridge on the Chengdu-Ya'an Highway.
Software giant Apple told a Sichuan noodle and flour producer to change its logo or else. The demand was made on claims that Fangguo Food Co., Ltd.'s three-quarter apple with a leaf was too similar in concept to that of Apple and thus infringed on the latter's trademark.
Chengdu hosted five teams in the Wall Lords Asia graffiti battle. While flooding killed 13 people and toppled 2,000 homes in Guang'an, 41 cities in nine counties were affected by droughts that began in the summer according to provincial civil-affairs authorities; an emergency response was launched to combat the shortage of water. Sichuan Electric Power Co. painted a dire picture of Sichuan's power supply in the years to come due to increased demand and insufficient supply. PetroChina announced its intentions to pump shale gas out of the Sichuan basin in 2015. Sichuan Airlines announced a new semiweekly flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with a stopover in Nanning, Guanxi. Chengdu announced that it has ambitions to become the country's fourth largest international air hub with the completion of a new terminal at Shuangliu Airport. A sinkhole in Deyang swallowed a taxi whole, injuring two people, and a tourist bus rolled over in Songpan, killing seven passengers and injuring another 30. Six piglets were cloned from the DNA of Zhu Jiangqiang, the pig made famous after surviving more than a month while trapped in the rubble of the 2008 earthquake.
The October Golden Week national holiday saw the opening of the highly anticipated Chengdu East Music Park in the northeast of the city.
The large outdoor entertainment, shopping, and dining complex hosted the fifth Chengdu Biennale art exhibition, which was open for free to the public for the first time, as well as the Panda Electronic Music Festival, which coincided with the opening of the Xiongmao club's second and larger location.
After the buzz of the first week, most people seemed to lay low for the rest of the month, but Italian actress and Bond girl Maria Grazia Cucinotta made an appearance in the city with co-star Huang Bo to look at locations for and stir up media interest in their upcoming film There Is Always a Reason.
A woman who jumped off a bridge over the Third Ring Road into fast-moving traffic below survived—but the incident was caught on video that was later posted online. The video showed that none of the drivers who witnessed the incident pulled over to help the women, sparking a debate among Chinese netizens over the moral state of Chinese citizens. The transportation bureau announced that the city taxi system would receive a makeover with a new ranking system. The ranking is meant to encourage better service among taxi companies, including drivers who speak Mandarin and basic English as well as an upgraded vehicle fleet. A 26-year-old wheelchair-bound woman sued Chengdu Airlines after the company forbade her from boarding a flight departing from Kunming, allegedly due to her wheelchair. Zhu Lanying's plight caught the attention of rights-advocacy groups around the world. Chengdu's Southwest Jiaotong University welcomed the opening of the China Railway High-speed testing center, which is able to test the safety of high-speed trains at speeds of up to 600 kmph, the fastest in the world. Sichuan Airlines announced that it would begin offering three weekly flights from Chengdu to Vancouver in 2012, while Air China said that it would begin offering Wifi on some of its flights in December. Honolulu and Chengdu became sister cities, anticipating that the future would bring more educational exchanges between the two cities as well as a direct flight. A wildlife expert collected five tons of panda poop in hopes of cultivating a tea with a "unique aroma," which he thinks will fetch prices of up to RMB50,000 per kg.
Closer to home, CHENGDOO citylife Magazine celebrated the release of its board game issue (No. 49) with a board game release party. Good times were had.
A video of a Chengdu police officer clutching onto the windshield wipers of a car while being driven around on its hood at high speeds went viral after it appeared on a video-sharing site. The driver had been unsuccessfully trying to make a traffic stop when the driver, in an attempt to dodge the law, caught the officer on the hood of the car and continued driving, reportedly at speeds of up to 150 kmph for 5 km around the city.
The Chengdu Metro Co. announced its aggressive five-year plan, which includes having 104.1 km of track laid out over nine subway lines. The Yibin government sent 70 "model workers" among its estimated 15,000 city sanitation workers to Singapore and Malaysia for a sanitation study-abroad session. The city's finance bureau covered costs, estimated at RMB4,800 per person. Chengdu ranked as the 144th most expensive city in the world, up 21 places from last year, it was announced, alongside the news that the prices of expatriate-targeted goods and services have risen by 9 percent during 2011. Six construction workers suffocated to death while working on a tunnel that will be part of the Chengdu-Chongqing railway. Welders had accidentally ignited flammable materials, releasing toxic fumes into the tunnel. Etihad Airways launched the first flight between the United Arab Emirates and southwest China. The flight departs four times per week and flies between Abu Dhabi and Chengdu. A panda in the Wolong preserve was caught on film eating the remains of an antelope carcass that experts believe it had scavenged. Experts said that although it is widely believed that pandas eat a strictly herbivorous diet, they will eat meat if it is available. Tiantian, a Sichuan-born panda, was named to BBC's "Faces of the year 2011 – the women," causing an uproar among bloggers who were offended that pandas were put on par with women. The BBC responded by saying that animals had appeared on their "Faces of the year" lists previously.