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WWhat is the name of the world’s fastest-growing city? No idea? Here’s a clue: It lies roughly 1,100 miles southwest of Beijing, 1,000 miles west of Shanghai. Still not sure? No wonder. Chongqing is China’s biggest enigma. The name of the city means “doubled celebration”. It’s a special economic zone. A city state. The largest metropolitan region in the world. Its size? It measures almost 300 miles from east to west, 280 miles from north to south. Fifty-two million people live in this vast region at the center of the Middle Kingdom, 36 million in the Chongqing City administrative district, more than four million in the city itself, and just in this very moment these figures have already been surpassed. Chongqing grows by four inhabitants every minute. By 250 every hour. By 6,000 each day. No other megacity in the world can keep pace with this compelling dynamic. But what are the reasons behind it? It’s not so much to do with the legendary hotpot restaurants and countless snack bars with their extra-spicy dishes for which Chongqing is known throughout the country. Rather, it’s the decree of the government in Beijing that has turned Chongqing into the new high-tech center of the People’s Republic. Today, every third laptop on the planet is already produced here, and per the authorities in Beijing, Chongqing should therefore not only serve as a site of production but also as a place of ideas for even more dynamic growth. The goal is to replace Silicon Valley in its significance as the epicenter of the New Economy. The results of Chongqing’s early success and rapid wealth are widely visible in the city where the Jialing River flows into the largest river in China, the Yangtze: breathtaking skyscrapers, glittering entertainment districts, thrilling suspension bridges, squeaky-clean shopping malls — and an insane amount of cars, including an exclusive number of very special ones. J “Just call me Harry,” offers Zhang Yuhao. “That’s my first name translated into English.” The 32-year-old is fun-loving, friendly and fashion-conscious. He studied economics and management in New Zealand and has been living in the Yu Bei district for six years in an 1,800-square-foot condominium on the twenty-fifth floor of Palm Springs, one of Chongqing’s many affluent residences. Palm trees line the entrance. Security monitors the complex around the clock, and residents, authorized passersby or vehicles are saluted when they pass. Harry sits smoking on the balcony and gazes into the distance. He runs a small design agency, an online mail-order company and a store that sells baby food, vitamin supplements and other health products. A total of 30 employees. He lives alone in his apartment with a view of a park, an artificial lake, high-rise buildings, millionaires’ villas and the mountains, often shrouded in mist, on the horizon. Is he single out of conviction? “Not really,” he replies, grins and runs his hand through his waxed hair. “I’m already in love. Very much so. But with a creature with four wheels and a sumptuous sound. It’s down below. In the garage.”I In the sparkling clean underground parking garage his Mercedes-AMG A 45 is parked — snow-white exterior, aerodynamics package, sports exhaust. Harry stops three feet away from the vehicle, pauses for a moment, enjoys the view. Then he opens the driver’s side door and swings himself behind the steering wheel with one fluid movement. He starts the engine. He steps on the gas pedal while still idling — and leans back, relaxed. “This sound always sends a tingle up and down by spine,” he says. “You know, I don’t just drive an AMG. I’m a red-hot AMG fan.”W What triggered his passion was a commercial. The Mercedes-AMG A 45 would have the most powerful production four-cylinder turbo engine in the world, it said. Interesting, thought Harry. Mercedes meant something to him, sure. Until this point, however, he had never heard anything about AMG. But, whatever the case, he had no intention of driving anything other than a Japanese car like most of his friends. Nevertheless, he arranged a test drive — which had a resounding effect. “An AMG drives quite differently from any other car I know. It’s comfortable but still fast — a compact work of art that even fits in small parking spaces. In short, a dream car. My decision to have fun with this car was already firm after the first ride.” T That didn’t change either when quite a few of his friends tried to discourage him from purchasing a Mercedes-AMG. A vehicle bursting with that much energy and without an economy minded price tag to boot wouldn’t be sensible. Indeed, it would be downright irrational to drive such a car. “But what’s wrong with a bit of irrationality?” Harry asks. “I like to be irrational. I’m used to going my own way.” Soon Harry met like-minded people. “We AMG drivers are connoisseurs,” he says. “We enjoy the driving experience and the rich sound. And that welds us together.” Less than two years ago, he founded the FFAC, the Forty Five AMG Club of Chongqing. As the name suggests, only owners of 45s — which is to say, Mercedes-AMG A 45, CLA 45 and GLA 45 models — are accepted. Harry has to see to a couple of business appointments, and it’s high time he did so. He takes us across three-, four-, five-lane streets into the asphalt jungle of Chongqing. He travels through 38


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