Shanghai is the most populated city in the world with an immense population of 17. 8 million people. It is important because of its leading standing in media, finance and technology. In 2010 the city hosted the world expo, bringing itself to the attention of more people around the world. People from other parts of China and other countries come to Shanghai to pursue their goals. In the past two decades Shanghai has developed a new generation of talented youth, an imposing infrastructure and a prosperous economy.
However at the same time the city is faced with many challenges. As Shanghai continues to advance and is branded with the name, “the city of dreams” China is seeing both the good and bad aspects of their development. Four-fifths of Shanghai’s population is between the ages of 15 and 64. They represent China’s upcoming and talented people who are being successful in fields ranging from fashion and filmmaking to architecture. In the documentary China Rises they explore the new opportunities available to the young people of Shanghai.
They interview upcoming art director Ma Liang. He said: “Back then when I was a teenager I could never imagine what I would be like when I hit 30. The way the country was going I couldn’t see that there was any future for me. But now I am always dreaming. ” The change in economy has not only opened up different career choices for this generation but has also very much changed their lifestyle. They are now living a more cosmopolitan lifestyle, which is very similar to the lifestyle of someone living in Toronto.
The media, shopping and urban way of life consume the young people of Shanghai like Torontonians. This way of life could have many beneficial effects towards Shanghai’s economy however it has also greatly changed the younger enerations views of cultural societal traditions. For example women are more hesitant to get married and have children. Also younger people no longer have deep connections to their families. The Shanghai of today boasts world-class architecture and is arguably the third largest city in the world, measured both by people and tall buildings.
Apart from the mere scale of Shanghai, there is also the commercial and cultural development that has taken place over the last four years which has transformed parts of the city into looking more like Hong Kong circa 1990. One of the ost striking aspects of life in the new Shanghai is the ease with which one can get everything done. Want a Chinese mobile phone number? No problem, Just buy a prepaid sim-card. Activate it and three minutes later the phone is working. Want to get an Internet connection?
No problem, Just go to the computer centre and buy a prepaid Internet connection account and start surfing. This can be done in English, a sign that Shanghai like Hong Kong, is going truly bilingual. Sitting on top of the 88th floor bar at the Grand Hyatt Shanghai, it strikes one that what is happening is that Shanghai is in fact copying Hong Kong in almost every facet. The main shopping boulevard, Huahai Zhong Road, has been turned around by Hong Kong property developers into one of Asia’s largest department store zones.
Further down the road, Shanghai BMW sits next to Starbucks, where Yale educated Chinese MBAs working for McKinseys sip frappucinos and read one of the cities three English language daily newspapers. So, is Shanghai the new Hong Kong, a freewheeling seaport open to the riches ot a newly emergen t Chinese middle class and the West? Not quite. arder one looks for old Shanghai and its connections with British Hong Kong, the more one realizes the glory days of the past were perhaps less glorious and certainly more past than present.
Shanghai was once the world’s only open city, requiring no visa to live there and no reference checks to do business. In fact, Shanghai is not so much the new Hong Kong as it is the new China. Westerners have only a vague idea of the nature of most Chinese cities. From television and film records, we know that these cities tend to be crowded, that they range from what appears to be exceedingly odern structures and designs to the traditional, often in the same city, and that there is some difference to be noted depending on what part of China a city occupies.
We know that most Chinese cities do not come up to the level of Hong Kong, soon to be a Chinese city once more and standing as an economic success story the Chinese would like to emulate, though they would like to do so without allowing the freedoms that made this success possible in the first place. A comparison of two Chinese cities will show the variety and the differences that mark these cities. Shanghai is a name well known to the west even though most people have little idea what the city itself is like.
Shanghai is a very modern city by Chinese standards. It started as a small fishing village on a tidal creek near the mouth of the Yangzi River, and it has been transformed into a cosmopolitan trading city since the late nineteenth century. It is the third largest city in the world and the largest in China. It is also China’s biggest port and largest manufacturing base. Shanghai’s position at the mouth of the Yangzi was the reason it was given so much attention by traders from the West.