Shanghai – China

Shanghai has been growing rapidly since it came under the control of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and in the past fifty to sixty years it has undergone rapid modernization. Since the Chinese government shifted to more open economic policies in 1978, Shanghai has become one of the largest economic centres in China. Its ambition is to transform itself into one of the major economic, financial, trade and shipping centres in the world. While its status as a global city would be largely unchallenged, and its hyper-development in urban architectural and infrastructural expansion have been unparalleled, there still remain many questions in relation to other markers of modernity, such as clean drinking water, education, social policies and freedom of speech.

Shanghai is located on the east coast of China, at the mouth of the Yangtze River, the longest river in the country. It is one of four Chinese cities that are ranked at the highest-level classification ‘direct-controlled municipalities’. The other three cities are Beijing, Tianjin and Chongqing. Shanghai is the smallest of the four municipalities in land area, covering 6,341 square kilometres, yet with its current population of approximately nineteen million it has by far the greatest population density (almost three thousand long-term residents per square kilometre), more than twice the population density of Beijing.

Having been an important port city since it was founded over seven hundred years ago, Shanghai evolved into a major trading port in the mid-nineteenth century. This key position led to it becoming a significant crossroads between East and West. With the influx of European, particularly French, influence it became known as the ‘Paris of the East’.

In attempting to face both opportunities and challenges in the twenty-first century, Shanghai has already set its mid- and long-term development goals: to build the city into one of the economic, finance, trade and shipping centres in the world and to realize its vision of a socialist modern international metropolis by 2020. However, with its strong focus on economic development at any cost, an outstanding question remains: with urbanization in Shanghai growing from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, and a projected 70 per cent in a matter of decades, how will the city ensure that its strategic goals for development will be sustainable?

The Institute’s key collaborator in Shanghai is the Shanghai Academy of Social Science. The Director of the Academy came to Melbourne in 2008 and the Global Cities Institute participated in major research forums in Shanghai in 2009 and 2010. Manfred Steger and Chris Hudson lead the work of the Global Cities Institute in Shanghai.

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