Deng Xiaoping said 16 years ago that Shanghai was once (early 20th century) a financial hub where currencies could be converted freely, and it would be again in the future. It seems the astute reformer's prediction was right on the money. Shanghai today is all things to all people. It has the trimmings, bells and whistles, and leads the country in setting new trends. But it's as a financial center that the chrome and glass face of China's modern mainland is forging a new reputation. Comparisons with Hong Kong and News York are frequent, but Shanghai has yet to reach the financial status of these money magnets. Still, that future Deng spike of is not far off.
Shanghai Emerges as Global Player
Mention Shanghai, and the first thing that comes to mind is the image of an exotic and flourishing metropolitan city; stylishly old and gleaming new architectural marvels, endless streams of people and traffic, clusters of shopping malls, restaurants and modern public facilities in the city center and surrounding neighborhoods, and a bustling urban life that is both frenetic by day and sizzling by night.
In addition to this typical metropolis energy, Shanghai is known as a key industrial base and one of China's economic engines, with its gross domestic product close to 10.3 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion) last year, surpassing that of Beijing, Tianjin and Chongqing, the other three big municipalities, and standing out as one of the fastest-growing regions in China. The city is also generally recognized as a pace setter in terms of modern lifestyle, innovative thinking, and new cultural trends.
Shanghai's status and glory originated in part from its history. Emerging as a small trade port and exploited by Western powers in the mid-19th century, it soon expanded into the country's largest industrial and port city.
By the 1930s, it had become the primary business and financial center in China and the Far East, boasting the most domestic and foreign banks, the busiest hub of foreign trade, and the most attractive and preferred destination of foreign investment, contracting more than one third of foreign capital entering the country. The city was then seen as the "Paris of the Orient," and the lasting prosperity from those years has helped Shanghai acquire the experience and confidence for future development.
Shanghai Bridging Dreams and Reality
-- It may look like New York, but the real picture is very different
Richard Stanley, Chief Executive Officer of Citibank China, operates from an office in the Lujiazui Finance & Trade Zone in Shanghai, which is the bank's regional headquarters on the Chinese mainland.
Stanley often finds himself being interviewed by Chinese financial and economic media when there are financial policy changes concerning foreign banks.
What Stanley doesn't know is that his frequent exposure in the media has won him many fans. Li Xiaolin is one of them. After graduating from a university in Beijing, Li went to Shanghai, and Stanley, or rather Stanley's job, has become his dream.
Because of this, Li frequently travels to Lujiazui just to feel its financial atmosphere. Whenever a friend visits him, Li will take him for a stroll in Lujiazui. The place has become familiar scenery for Shanghai, where financial institutions clump together. Majoring in financial management, Li dreams to work in one of those splendid buildings someday. Currently, he is a sales person in a company.
"Looking at Lujiazui, I can feel the temptation of money," Li said.
Li is not alone. This kind of temptation attracts numerous people to the city-rich or poor-who regard Shanghai as the place to make a fortune.
Mapping Out a Green Shanghai
-- Growing green spaces in Shanghai are open to visitors of the 2010 World Expo
With the approach of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, construction on the Expo Park has gone into full swing. The project is intended not only for the imminent Expo, but also for the use of Shanghai residents in the future to accentuate a more pleasant living environment.
A resonating green symphony
The 2010 Expo Park is located in the Pudong Area, the site adjacent to where the Expo pavilions reside. The park-measuring 2 km long and 200 meters wide on average-is planned in an area of 29 hectares near the Huangpu River. Given full view of the river, the park was constructed on rising terrain and is shaped like a gently spreading Chinese folding fan. With leisure, entertainment, and sightseeing complexes incorporated into one green space, "ribs" of the fan are lined by overlapping short bushes and high trees to provide maximum shade for visitors. Artificial lakes and streams running along the sloping green will be created and take advantage of nearby water resources.
"The ground level on one side will be elevated by eight meters, thus creating an enormous wall of green and forming a natural setting for a grandstand to watch performances," said Niek Roozen, Chief Designer of NITA Group, whose company joined the construction of the Expo Park Project in partnership with the Expo's Organizing Committee. "The other side slopes gently down toward the water, overlooking the historic harbor relics of the river."
When asked about the selection of the park site, Zhang Lang, assistant Chief Engineer of Shanghai Landscaping Bureau attributed the decision to a wetland reserve found in the area. "It will be good for water conservation," he explained.
Zhang also said that environmental-friendly technologies, such as rainwater recycling will be used, as well as other advanced methods for flood prevention and ecological protection.
A City Established from a Sense of Civics
Shanghai has grown from a small village to a metropolis in the past turbulent 100 years. Now the city's high-leveled modernization charms people the world over.
Nostalgic visitors come to the city to seek familiar aromas. Young travelers arrive to breath its dynamic air. There are many reasons to fall in love with Shanghai, a city full of convenience. Almost every block has 24-hour convenience stores, and there are many 24-hour transportation lines running through Shanghai's always lighted business centers, bar streets and residential blocks. Local people seem never to worry about where to eat-restaurants are everywhere in the city.
A sense of civics
Shanghai was not born as a fully formed city convenient for living. The city's lifestyle has its own reasons.
After the Opium War (1840-1842), Shanghai was forced to open up as a trade port. Many British, followed by French and Americans, set up concessions in the area after the war. They built houses in Western architectural styles, led modern lives and did business in their own ways.
From Cash to Caring
Known as China's city of money, Shanghai is soon to find new fame as the country's capital of caring. With its high-rise skyline, the modern center of business, a meeting place for trade between East and West, is often seen as soulless and ruled by the renminbi. But with the coming of the Special Olympics in October, the city will show the world a different face.
Initiated by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968, the Special Olympics has become a global movement to empower individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition.
In a nod to the fast development of the Special Olympics, China became the first country in Asia to host the Games when Shanghai won the bid to host the 2007 Special Olympics Summer World Games in 2002.
Incorporating the nine-year schooling of primary school and junior middle school, Nanyang School for the Mentally Handicapped in Shanghai's Jing'an District enjoys an almost peerless teacher-student ratio among all schools in the district. There are 29 teachers and only 53 students. The facilities are excellent: Every student that is able to use a personal computer has his or her own one. Each student enjoys tailor-made courses designed to suit their particular interests and temperament. For example, a child who is very color-sensitive will attend more drawing classes than other children.
Nineteen-year-old Li Dongming, who has a below average IQ, enjoys being the model for his teacher, who hands out clothes coordination advise at Sunshine Home, a government-sponsored rehabilitation center for mentally handicapped people in Shanghai.
Wang Zejun, 10, has studied at grade one of the school for three years. Wang has a small figure for a child of his age. He cannot speak, shows almost no expression and cannot play any game more complicated than lifting glass balls from one box to another. His teacher Xue Huiqing keeps an eye on her student and on her watch, as every one to two hours the boy has to be accompanied to the toilet.
Shanghai Through Foreigners' Eyes
Beijing Review has conducted a survey on how foreigners view the city, sometimes referred to as China's Big Apple. Survey respondents included: an anonymous 30-year-old UK male, who has lived in Shanghai for five years and works for an import company focused on high-end market products; Steve Bisogno, a 28-year-old American, who resided in Shanghai from 2001 to 2004, working there as a teacher at the Sydney Institute of Language and Commerce and as a writer, while attending Shanghai International Studies University (he is now a commercial underwriter for a European insurance firm based in New York and contributing writer to Beijing Review); Australian Elyse Singleton, 33, who has been in Shanghai since 2001 (on and off), working as a freelance writer and designer; Sami Zabel, from Maryland, US, who studied in Shanghai for half a year in 2006 after graduating from a US college; and an anonymous 43-year-old US male from Maryland, who works as a business consultant and is married with two children.
What is the most frustrating thing about living in Shanghai?
Anon UK: Noise, air pollution, spitting.
Steve Bisogno: The poor air quality is perhaps the most frustrating thing.
Shanghai and New York--Similar, But Different
It's not without ample reason that many refer to New York City (NYC) as the financial capital of the world. Recent affront by the city of London, aside, there are a few distant challengers emerging in East Asia. In particular, Shanghai has become a base for many international corporations, and stock listings for leading Chinese firms. The city has been called the New York of China, if not of the East. In my work at a leading telecommunications software development firm, I have made the trans-Pacific commute numerous times and acquired a strong sense of the business environment in the two cities. In both cities, I found the entrepreneurial spirit to be alive and strong.
NYC is famous for its financial market and expertise, as well as its international business network. It has been a key player in developing financial products and home to some of the world's leading financial service firms. Its friendly business stance has kept the spirit of innovation alive and attracted an extensive pool of international talent. Managers and employees in the city thrive on a bottom-line mentality, making deals as quickly and profitably as possible. Shanghai, in comparison, is a city much like NYC: a metropolis that attracts the best and brightest and boasts a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Many of the leading firms in finance and other industries are setting up country or Asian-regional headquarters in the city, as well.
(Beijing Review July 30, 2007)