Good connections add to spring in Kunming tourism
Kunming, the Spring City, has experienced a remarkable economic transformation in recent years.
Fuelled by revenue from its vibrant tobacco and tourism trade, the city has posted average annual growth of more than 14 per cent since the mainland introduced economic reform policies in 1979.
Much of Kunming's progress has resulted from central and provincial government investment in rail, road and airport construction.
These ambitious infrastructure projects have linked Yunnan's centrally located capital not only with the mainland's other southwestern cities, but also with Southeast Asian neighbours.
The latest achievement was the completion in December of the 899-kilometre Nanning to Kunming railway, an electrified lifeline cutting across some of the mainland's most mountainous and impoverished landscapes.
Economic progress will depend on the growth of these ties, as well as the city's ability to rehabilitate its under-capitalised and struggling state-owned sector.
Kunming's factories make everything from steel and cars to textiles and packaged foods, but at least 30 per cent of the province's state-owned companies are loss-making.
Reform will require workforce restructuring that could sideline as many as 70,000 of the more than 200,000 Kunming workers on state payrolls.
To meet the challenges of the next decade, the southwestern growth centre is betting its natural endowment of climate, minerals, flora and culture will provide a winning combination that will raise this one-time provincial crossroads to the status of regional metropolis.