As we were arriving into the Shanghai airport my seating neighbor asked me if I had been here before. He is a lawyer from San Francisco doing business in the country for several weeks. He shared that his view of Shanghai was it was Times Square and Wall Street wrapped together on steroids. I not sure I understood what he meant.
We met our tour guide Sun Quigjun "Harry" who will be with us throughout the trip for 18-days.
Shanghai is a city divided by a river. There is a very interesting story on the development of the city that highlights the modern history of the country.
The city is divided by the Yangtze River and it creates the east and west sides. The west side was the historical developed area. The other side of the river was primarily the area of farmers and fisherman. It was until recently considered the undesirable living area. The country went through a major historical political transition period in the 1970s and the economic development of the country went on super growth. Now the east side is the new side of the city with huge high risers and expensive developments. Buildings were built very quickly and are now very expensive. An old thirty year old 2-bedroom condo is now selling around $500,000.
After 1970, Shanghai immediately became the financial center of the country. Here the new high priests are the bankers and insurance executives. It's very easy to find the ongoing bright global stock activity boards throughout the city. The priority conversation in the city seems to be about making money and wealth. This city is mainly concentrated on white collar sectors and thus the blue collar workers have to commute long distances into the city.
It was interesting to have learned that before 1970 the people throughout the nation were on government imposed rationing for basic food and items. Life was consequently very controlled, constraint and difficult. The president who followed Chairman Mao Zedong (who died in 1972 and buried in Beijing) established a radical new political and economic global open-door policy. Thus the country took an immediate opposite economic direction. Almost overnight there was open diplomatic connection between China and world countries. Prior to 1970 there were no diplomatic consulates within the country. The nation was in many ways isolated from the rest of the world.
One of today's city tours was the Shanghai Museum. I have been looking forward to visiting it. In college I studied and eventually taught economics. I found it fascinating to learn more about their history of printing paper money. China was the first in the world to understand the financial limits of producing and using mainly coins. It was a stroke of genius to have started using paper money. This one invention forever changed and expanded the economies of nations throughout the world.
In the evening we went on a tour to see a Chinese acrobat show. It was unique and we were glad to attend. It seems more as an exhibition of very young performers and they did performances I had never seen.
We must now prepare to leave early tomorrow morning and fly to Beijing, the nation's capital. It's a two hour flight. We will be visiting the zoo to see the Panda exhibit and then check into the hotel which is a "short" walk to Tiananmen Square. We look forward to perhaps visiting the area on our own tonight.
My wife and I liked Shanghai a great deal. Now I understand and it is true that the city of Shanghai is in fact a vibrant Times Square and Wall Street on steroids! There is a great deal of planning in the city dedicate to the nation's financial development and investments. It's very prevalent given the wide variety of major names of the international businesses on the buildings.
We would return to the city without hesitation. China is growing exponentially and this city will constantly be in the world financial news.