NPR, on the bizarre redistricting projects that happen here:
Imagine a city like Los Angeles disappearing from the map completely. That’s exactly what happened to Chaohu, a city in eastern China’s Anhui province with a similar population — about 4 million. The people have remained, but the city has vanished in an administrative sleight of hand.
That was the Kafkaesque reality for Chaohu’s inhabitants, who went to bed one night and woke up the morning of Aug. 22 to find out that their city no longer existed. For many, their first inkling that something had changed was from the local news.
“Anhui province is today announcing the cancellation of Chaohu city,” the broadcast said. It went on to explain that the city once known as Chaohu had been divided into three. The nearby cities of Hefei, Wuhu and Ma’anshan each absorbed a piece of territory. The broadcast confusingly described the move as “an inherent need at a certain level of economic growth.”
“I’m unhappy about it,” says a man who gives his name as Mr. Luo. “Chaohu was great. Why did they get rid of it?”
Luo is busy gambling on cards — which is illegal in China — just yards from the police station. Among his fellow gamblers, this bemusement is common, followed by resignation.
In recent years, Hefei’s GDP growth has been an average of 17 percent. So this move serves the long-term aim of boosting Hefei’s competitive advantage by giving it land to expand, so it can challenge the more prominent cities of Nanjing and Wuhan.
In what used to be Chaohu, the city government offices are, for once, deserted.
There’s no sign at the gate, because Chaohu city no longer exists. The government buildings themselves are eerily quiet, since the local government, too, has been dissolved and no one can really explain what’s going on.
The imposing government building in the former city of Chaohu is now largely empty because the city ceased to exist last month. Government officials will be reassigned to the three other cities that have taken over parts of Chaohu.
“I’ve got no official ID, so don’t try to interview me,” an officious official tells NPR as he bustles around his office in the news division of Chaohu city’s former propaganda department.
He pretends to be busy dusting his shelves. In reality, he’s waiting — with all the other ex-Chaohu officials — to find out which of the three cities he’s been reassigned to.
Ah yes, ‘the inherent needs of a certain level of economic growth.’