Welcome to China's China

A second wave of growth in big interior cities such as Chengdu has companies scrambling for position

Wang Li may live deep in China'sĀ interior, in a city you may never have heard of--the provincial capital of Chengdu--but that doesn't stop her from shopping like the big spenders of Tokyo, Hong Kong or Shanghai. One Friday evening, Wang, 28, trolls down Chunxi Street, a jam-packed thoroughfare of flashing neon signs, McDonald's restaurants and boutiques, looking for the latest fashions she's admired in Cosmopolitan magazine.

First stop is a store selling oddly streaked jeans, next a shop with frilly jackets and flowery coats. After two hours of hunting, she finally plunks down $24 on a pair of brown shoes at...

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