(June 3): Pieces of an electric car hang from the ceiling of a Chinese real-estate developer’s showroom, evoking an edgy installation at a modern art museum. In reality, they’re a symbol of the nation’s industrial ambitions.

Just down the neatly manicured road, about a dozen skyscrapers rise from the fields as Shunde New Energy Vehicle Town takes shape inside the southern city of Foshan, part of China’s manufacturing heartland. Local officials boast that their planned hub for EV production and research eventually could generate 100 billion yuan ($20.6 billion) in revenue for the hometown economy.

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