Chengdu has beaten all major cities in China, including Shanghai and Beijing, to be named the city with the best economic performance by a United States-based think-tank.
Sichuan province's capital city secured top 10 positions in seven of the ranking's nine components, in areas such as job growth, wage growth and foreign investment.
Shanghai clinched the No. 2 spot, with Tianjin third. Beijing came in a distant 13th among the 34 large cities in the Milken Institute's Best-Performing Cities China index. This is the first time the institute has released a report on the ranking of Chinese cities.
Mr Perry Wong, co-author of the report, told The Straits Times that Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing were the three main "surprises".
"Being so big, it's hard for Shanghai to be ranked too high up on the index. So it's a good surprise that it came in second," said Mr Wong, who is also the managing director of research at the think-tank.
Shenzhen, at No. 10, was also a surprise for the central government has paid very little attention to the city in the past 20 years, he said.
Mr Wong attributes its economic success to its diverse population hailing from various parts of China.
"It's probably the most aggressive city in China," he said.
With a thriving information technology industry, Mr Wong thinks Shenzhen has the most potential to be China's Silicon Valley.
But the biggest surprise was Beijing, whose poor showing was due to lower job growth and significantly less foreign investment inflows.
Top city Chengdu's key strengths lie in its established aerospace-related industries and the more recently developed electronics manufacturing sector, said Mr Wong.
And its large pool of engineering talents and strong central government support are other key drivers of its economic success.
Other big cities that did well include Dalian, Nanjing, Hefei, Xiamen and Changchun.
Chongqing, at No. 9, along with Chengdu, are the only two inland cities in the top 10 list for big cities.
The institute studied a total of 266 Chinese cities at the prefecture level and above.
It classified them into two groups - big or first- and second-tier cities, and small and medium-sized or third-tier cities.
Suzhou emerged top in the list of smaller cities for its longstanding partnerships with foreign investors, which have begun to reap dividends.
Mr Wong singled out Suzhou's collaboration with Singapore in developing the Suzhou Industrial Park in the 1990s as instrumental in transforming its industrial structure.
Like Suzhou, seven of the top 10 best-performing smaller cities are in the coastal province of Jiangsu.
They have benefited from being close to Shanghai, as well as from an influx of talent and technology.