For years, towering skylines along the river and stylish shops and cafeterias have been common perceptions of Shanghai.
But the old industrial zone, Yangpu District, is now emerging as a new area with high-tech facilities and a modern landscape.
The district, once home to poor immigrants and manual laborers, is remolding its old industrial belt into Shanghai's "central intelligence district," local officials announced on Tuesday.
"We're shifting from being a manufacturing base to an intelligence hub," said Jiang Zhuoqing, head of the district government.
"Yangpu's abundance of talented people will guarantee the success of this change," he said.
Besides old textile plants and electrical appliance workshops, the district also has several top universities such as the 100-year-old Fudan University and Tongji University which specializes in engineering.
There are also dozens of laboratories and research institutions that can help build a knowledge-based economy, according to Jiang.
For example, more than 500 architecture design companies have found their home along a quiet alley next to Tongji University, creating over 1 billion yuan (US$120 million) in output each year, he noted.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of Yangpu's high-tech strategy. The district already has four national high-tech parks featuring architecture, software, new materials and environmental protection businesses. It recently opened the country's first patent exchange center to promote inventions and the sale of patents.
In reforming the district's old State factories, Jiang said the "cream" of those industries will be retained.
For example, while many textile factories are being moved to cheaper suburban areas, their design and research units are being retained.
"We hope Yangpu will become the home of the 'brains' of the industry whereas the manufacturing jobs are moving away," said Jiang.
The Shanghai municipal government chose Yangpu because there are few other places to go.
"Shanghai is developing so fast that there is little land left downtown for new industries," said Wang Keqiang, a professor of economics with the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.
"Yangpu provides the precious space for further development and it is far-sighted to cultivate a knowledge-based economy instead of focus on real estate and other things that yield short-term returns," he said.
Located in northeastern Shanghai, Yangpu is the city's largest urban district with a 61-square-kilometer area and 1.24 million residents. It boasts China's oldest power plant, water plant and natural gas plant - all more than 100 years old, and many name-brand manufacturing products. The district was left behind in Shanghai's development drive starting from the early 1990s, as it strove to become an international financial, trade and shipping center.
Shanghai is also investing heavily in Yangpu's infrastructure. Two new subway lines are under construction, and two tunnels are planned to link the district to Pudong - Shanghai's suburb-turned-financial-center, across the Huangpu River.
"The changes Yangpu will undergo under the new development strategy will be similar to what Pudong has experienced in the past 15 years," said Jiang.
(China Daily May 26, 2005)