By Willian Antholis
In early February last year, Wang Lijun, the police chief of the Chinese megacity Chongqing, drove 200 miles through the night to seek refuge in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, the capital of neighboring Sichuan Province. Wang’s escape was part of a shadowy intrigue that became a sensational public scandal involving murder, money, power, adultery, fist fights, car chases, and disguises. It triggered tension between two Chinese provinces, nearly pulling the United States into the middle of a Chinese domestic political crisis, and, ultimately, led to the downfall of Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing party chief, now a fallen star who just last month was sentenced to life in prison.
For 18 months the world was riveted by this story in all its sensational and gory details, but few took notice of one of its more anomalous features. The municipality of Chongqing—which has the standing of a province—is China’s largest city, home to 30 million people. That is roughly the population of Canada, packed into an inland territory roughly the size of South Carolina. If it were a country, Chongqing would be the 41st largest in the world. That means there would be over 150 countries that are smaller; yet almost all of those countries have U.S. embassies in their capitals, and many have additional U.S. consulates in other cities. Chongqing hosts dozens of American businesses and exports about $7 billion a year. Yet it has no U.S. diplomatic representation. That was why Wang Lijun had to drive over three hours from China’s largest city to find an American diplomat.
Above: China's megacity Chongqing, population 30 million, sits at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers. Wikimedia Commons / Oliver Ren
Below: Narendra Modi, Gujarat's chief minister, addresses supporters in Dokar village during an election campaign rally in 2012. Reuters / Amit Dave
Flash to the other side of the Himalayas—around 2,000 miles from Chongqing—to the Indian state of Gujarat, where Narendra Modi is chief minister (equivalent to governor). His star still rising after ten years in power, Modi has helped Gujarat become India’s leader in manufacturing and exports. Domestic and foreign corporations have flocked to Gujarat because of the business-friendly environment Modi cultivated. In early September, he was designated by the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), the main opposition party to the Congress Party-led current government, to be its candidate for prime minister in next year’s parliamentary elections.