Shanghai to Become An International Metropolis

Shanghai has been developing rapidly in recent years, and both the Shanghai people and local government are determined to construct it into an international metropolis. During the Fourth Session of the Ninth National People’s Congress (NPC) which concluded in Beijing recently, Xu Kuangdi, NPC deputy and Shanghai mayor, explained to CIIC reporter about the city’s blueprint.

Sound Environment for Investment

An international metropolis should provide a good environment, which can attract foreign investment, said Mayor Xu.

By late last year, 22,000 foreign invested projects had been approved in Shanghai, with contracted value being US$43.5 billion. A total of 90 countries and regions have invested in Shanghai, an increase of 19 from the 71 recorded in 1995. Foreign-funded enterprises have obtained satisfactory turnover with a sharp increase in profits. During the ninth Five-Year Plan (1996-2000) period, foreign-invested enterprises achieved gross profit of 59 billion yuan.

Shanghai is likely to witness a bigger inflow of foreign capital because of the improvement of the investment environment, optimizing resources allocation and heightening market expectations, Xu said, pointing out that, "Currently, 256 multi-national companies have established branches in Shanghai."

To attract more foreign funds, the city will continue to improve the comprehensive environment, making foreign investment in Shanghai highly profitable. More sectors will open to foreign investment, which include finance, trade, water transportation, logistics, tourism, and intermediary consultative service.

The municipality has adopted proactive measures to attract more foreign accountancy and law firms to set up intermediary institutions in the city. The government has approved foreign retail enterprises to establish branch stores in Shanghai and the neighboring region, while empowering joint venture and foreign-owned consultative companies to do foreign-related project. A pilot project will be launched to run a travel agency with Chinese-foreign joint venture.

Mayor Xu Kuangdi specifically mentioned foreign financial institutes in Shanghai. A total of 156 have so far entered Shanghai, with 62 setting up branches, and 27 being permitted to engage in Renminbi business. With China's entry into the WTO, foreign banks will gradually engage in the deposit and loan business of Chinese enterprises and residents. Shanghai's economic operations will be further globalized.

Since last year, several dozen foreign banks, including National City Bank of New York, and Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, have begun to shift their business management functions in China to Shanghai. This significantly contributes to the shake-up of Shanghai financial center and enhancement of the financial functions of Pudong Lujiazui Central Business District. A batch of international bank conglomerates are now doing business in Lujiazui, accounting for over 50 percent of the total assets of foreign banks in China.

Shipping Center and Information Pivot

The 150-year-old Shanghai port is China's premier port with an annual throughput capacity of over 200 million tons, and is listed as the world's 6th largest in terms of container shipping. There are 16 shipping routes throughout the world linking with the port. Shanghai, in fact, is the biggest in container shipping throughout the world.

A well-developed port will surely attract more shipping companies, individual shippers and import & export companies. Xu said, "It will contribute to flourishing commercial trade that is a pre-requisite for an international metropolis.”

Back in early 1990's, Shanghai announced its "Three Ports Goals" ---information port, deep-water port and airport. The urban informatization process is a priority and a basic strategy to Shanghai's development, according to the mayor

In 1996, the construction of Shanghai’s information port formally broke ground. On January 5 last year, its mainframe building was completed and started operation, so that a high bandwidth, high speed and multifunctional information port has basically taken shape. According to the Shanghai municipal government’s plan, Shanghai is expected to realize an information level for the national economy and society at large equivalent to that in developed countries.

After the international information port based on an information resource network is constructed, Shanghai will become the world's information pivot for China. Consequently its comprehensive service function and radiation function will be greatly enhanced, with big advantages in lowing trading costs and widing business opportunities.

Excellent Inhabited and Cultural Environment

People visiting Shanghai in recent years often say: "The urban scene is getting more and more beautiful." A steel concrete building forest had apparently become the past of the city. As more skyscrapers appear, public greenbelts also increase in the same time. Per capita public greenery in Shanghai is expected to reach 5.2 square meters (it is now 4.6) with an expected 600-800 hectare increment this year. By the end of 2005, the number will climb up to seven square meters. This needs great efforts because of the high cost for establishing greenbelts--12,000 yuan per square meter.

"Besides construction of the hardware environment, Shanghai also pays attention to improving its cultural environment," he said. "An international metropolis should also be an international cultural center."

Shanghai Grand Theater has become a resort for top class artists to stage their gifted talents. Last year, the opera Aida, involving Chinese and foreign artists, set a new record in terms of performance scale, and artist and spectator numbers.

Now, people often find spectators from Japan, Korea and Hong Kong coming by air to watch amazing performances in Shanghai. Many transnational enterprises, with branches in Shanghai, choose the city to hold the board of directors meetings.

The other highlight is the Shanghai Museum, which was ranked as the fourth in the world only after the British Museum, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Louvre Museum in Paris. Famous international sports competitions are also held frequently in Shanghai.

Shanghai will try to achieve what an international metropolis should do in terms of urban infrastructure construction, science and technology development and education, environment protection index and gross domestic product per capita, according to the mayor.

International Conference and Exhibition City

The construction of Shanghai International Convention Center filled a blank in the city’s large-scale convention facilities. The center has an exhibition hall and hotel facilities with a 10-floor main building and an 11-floor annex.

There is a banqueting hall big enough for 3,000 guests, a main speech hall for 800 people, two convention halls for audiences of 200 each, and 24 medium and small meeting halls and reception rooms. All communications, translation and projection facilities are of advanced technology. There are 600 parking spaces. These facilities mean the facility can host large-scale international conventions.

Just a month after its inauguration, the Shanghai International Convention Center hosted the 1999 Fortune 500 Forum, which attracted global attention.

According to Xu, an international city would normally expect to host at least 150 international conventions a year, while Shanghai staged around 90 in 2000.

"We will try to transform Shanghai into an international convention and exhibition city," he promised. “This will not only promote Shanghai's international metropolis position, but also boost urban economic development and earn more foreign currency."

This year, Shanghai will be the venue for several important international events including that of APEC, and next year, the 35th Asian Development Bank Annual Meeting will be held in the city, according to him.

(CIIC by Feng Jing 03/21/2001)