The largest city in China, Shanghai is also the country’s principal port. The city is situated on the Huangpu River a few miles south of the mouth of the Chang JiangYangtze (JiangYangtze). The first Chinese port to be opened up to trade with the West, Shanghai grew to be China’s main commercial centre. The municipality, which has provincial status, includes a large hinterland and 35% of the population within its boundaries is rural.
Shanghai’s low-lying position in a delta region on the east coast of China is today one of its strengths. Historically, watery isolation held back its development. 1,000 years ago Shanghai was a small fishing village, but by the eleventh century the advantages of its natural deep-water anchorage had been recognised and Shanghai had become a port.
The town’s growth was slow until locally-grown cotton spurred the development of a textile industry. After China was defeated in a war with Britain in 1842, the Chinese were obliged to virtually surrender Shanghai to Western control. The US, France and Britain were allocated areas of the city—so-called concessions—in which they developed trade, financial institutions and industries. In 1895 Japan obtained a similar concession. Shanghai rapidly became China’s principal window on the world. By 1900, industry was flourishing, largely as a result of cheap local labour and foreign investment.
Foreign domination of the city came to be resented and in 1921 the Chinese Communist Party was founded in Shanghai. In 1925 there was an uprising of workers and students in the city which was not finally crushed by the then-ruling Nationalists until 1927. Shanghai was occupied by the Japanese from 1937 until 1945. During the civil war between Nationalists and Communists after the Second World War, Shanghai was controlled by the Nationalists and did not fall to the Communists until the final days of the conflict in 1949. Pollution problems in the 1950s and 1960s led to relocation of industries to the suburbs.
Shanghai is both a sea and river port, served by a network of canals. The port has been greatly expanded in recent years and now handles around 190 m. tonnes of cargo each year. The city is the centre of a rail network with routes converging from southern China. Shanghai has two airports: Lunghau now mainly handles domestic flights; the newer Hungchiao Airport is one of China’s principal international airports. The city is China’s largest foreign exchange trading centre and has major banking and insurance interests. Industries include steel, telecommunications, car production, electrical appliances, and chemicals and petro-chemicals, which are the basis of important plastic and synthetic fibre industries. Shanghai experienced a boom in construction in the 1990s, with over 3,000 high-rise buildings, causing the city to sink over a centimetre a year. In 1990 development began in the Pudong New Area, which includes a freeport, hi-tech, financial and industrial parks. The Shanghai World Financial Center, completed in 2008, is 492 m high, making it at the time China’s tallest building (although since surpassed in height by a skyscraper and a television tower in Guangzhou and the Shanghai Tower). The Shanghai Tower became the city’s tallest structure in 2014. It partly opened to the public in April 2016, and its sightseeing deck on the 118th floor officially opened in April 2017.
Places of Interest
Most attractions are in the Puxi area of the city, west of the Huangpu River. Shanghai’s most famous tourist sight is the Bund, a stretch along the banks of the Huangpu lined with grand late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century buildings in European style. The Bund is once again a financial centre. Today, the People’s Square is the city centre. Dominated by a large fountain, the square’s municipal buildings include the Shanghai Museum of Art and History, which has an important collection of bronzes and ceramics. Frenchtown, the old French Concession, is known for its restaurants, shopping streets and colonial tree-lined boulevards.
Among the most prominent modern landmarks of the city is the 468-m high Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the 15th tallest freestanding tower in the world. The tower comprises 11 spheres, which house sightseeing, catering, conference and hotel facilities, and is connected to the Bund by an underwater sightseeing tunnel.
The Yuyuan Garden dates from the sixteenth century. Bounded by a wall decorated with dragons, it includes pavilions and streams as well as the Grand Rockery constructed from some 2,000 tonnes of rocks.