Zhengzhou

Located on the fabled Yellow River's southern bank, Zhengzhou is a sprawling metropolis and one of China's National Central Cities. Essentially, these core cities lead regional urban clusters and drive the country's economic strategy. Zhengzhou is a key commercial hub in Central China - just as Beijing is important in the east, and Chengdu is among the west's focal points.

Mining, agriculture and manufacturing are the city's main industries. On the mining front, the region has large reserves of coal and other minerals. Coal mining and electricity generation sustain the local economy. Its principal agricultural products include maize, apples, cotton and tobacco, while its footprint is very clear within China's manufacturing sector.

More specifically, it's been one of the country's major industrial cities since 1949. Today, Zhengzhou has a sizable network of tech parks and industrial zones. The city has large operations in IT, aviation, biomedicine, e-commerce and automotive production, and is home to 'iPhone City': the world's largest smartphone production site. Smartphones are Zhengzhou's most famous industrial enterprise.

Strategically speaking, Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan Province and the Central Plains Economic Zone's core area. The provincial and national governments view it as their chief touchpoint within the region, whether the conversation revolves around politics, economics, education or technology. The city is also an important transport hub for rail, airlines and highways in China. Its local network of buses, taxis and metro lines is very good too. That said, drivers are unlikely to speak foreign languages so travellers should ask hotel staff to write down important addresses in Mandarin.

Aside from business, Zhengzhou's appeal lies in its rich history, during which it was a Shang Dynasty capital (1700 -1100 BC). Though many of its historical sights didn't survive heavy bombing in the war against Japan, visitors can still enjoy some culturally and historically significant experiences. These include visiting the Shaolin Temple, which is a centuries-old Buddhist and martial arts institution, and touring the Yellow River (known as 'the cradle of Chinese civilisation'). Travellers can also see Songshan, which is one of China's five most famous mountains.