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No dilly Dalian— Dalian


Offering an alternative lifestyle to Shanghai and Beijing, Dalian is a vibrant student city with an easier pace of life. You might not have heard of it but this is one of the world’s biggest outsourcing centres.

China, Cities, Dalian, Urbanism

The manicured lawns, wooded hillsides and turreted towers of the Neusoft Institute of ­Information are so reminiscent of a Disney film that it would not surprise you if Cinderella emerged from the round grey brick building in its centre.

Hundreds of young Chinese students swarm across the campus to move between classes in graphic design, computer science, Japanese or English. Everything looks so clean and well ­ordered that it’s hard to believe this is a university in China.

The private university is funded by computer technology company Neusoft,…

Dalian’s clean up

Bo Xilai, the mayor who oversaw Dalian’s metamorphosis, is one of China’s princelings (the offspring of communist party veterans who survived the war against Taiwan’s Kuomintang in the 1930s).

Bo knocked down many buildings to create parkland and set up colleges to train IT graduates. “Not all the locals want to acknowledge what he did in Dalian, but he had the vision to change the city,” says Neusoft’s Dr Zhu.

He is now in the city of Chongqing, where this time he’s cleaning up by slamming gangsters behind bars and sacking corrupt police officers.

Live the life

Expats living in Dalian all agree they get more work done there than in Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. There’s plenty to do however: the woodland hills around the city are great for hiking and there are numerous Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese restaurants as well as a growing number of western establishments. The city is full of smart new apartment blocks, some with manicured gardens, and while locals complain rents are going up, for anyone moving here from Japan, Korea, or Beijing and Shanghai, rents seem cheap.


  1. Set up a one-stop shop for foreign-owned small business registration.

  2. Dalian still has some beautiful old colonial buildings, which give a sense of the city’s history. Stop knocking them down.

  3. Encourage use of public transport. Dalian’s roads are getting clogged.

  4. Create a climate for artists and designers to start businesses. Dalian lacks the lively art scene of Beijing, Shanghai or Chengdu.

  5. The launch of a Dalian-based airline, rumoured to be happening in 2010, would mean better flight connections around China.

Getting around

Dalian is a short hop and a jump from most places you would need to go in north Asia. There are daily flights to Hong Kong, which take two hours, or the cheaper alternative of the Chinese border city of Shenzhen. An hour by plane will take you to Beijing, while in two hours you can get to Seoul, or an overnight boat will take you to Incheon.

Connections to Japan are frequent with twice weekly flights to Osaka and Hiroshima and thrice weekly flights to Fukuoka and 22 flights a week to Tokyo. Trains are not so convenient as Dalian is at the end of a long peninsula, so while it is easy to get to cities in northeast China such as Changchun and Harbin, travellers need to change in Beijing to reach the rest of the country.


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