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Shanghai Intoduction

  A conurbation of over 18 million people ,Shanghai is China’s second-largst city and is one of the four centrally administered cities in the country, the other three being Beijing, Tianjin and Yangtze RiverChongqing. It is also one of China’s most important industrial and cultural centres.

  To most foreigner, Shanghai conjures up stories of adventure and intrigue, of vice and leasure. Many of these were probably no exaggeration, for it was a dynamic,violent and colourful city. Most of the European-style quarters of the old international Settlement and the French Concession areas can still be seen, though they are much in need of repair. One can still clearly imagine the extraordinary life of pre-1949 Shanghai.


  The name Shanghai, which means 'on the sea', was first used in AD 960 when the set dement was a backward fishing village. In 1554, the town was surrounded by a seven-metre (23-foot) high crenellated city wall and a moat to protect it against the frequent incursions of Japanese pirates. By the l7th century there were signs of growing wealth, but when the British troops stormed its undefended walls in 1842 Shanghai was still only a county town of no great importance.

  The first foreign settlement was established in 1843, when the newly-appointed British Consul arrived to negotiate for a 138-acre (just over 0.5 square kilometres) site north of the existing city. This site was joined with the American Settlement founded in 1848 north of Suzhou Creek, to form the international Settlement in 1863. Subsequent negotiations with the Chinese increased the area of the International Settlement to more than 5,500 acres (about 22 square kilometres). The French Concession was established on 164 acres (about 0.6 square kilometres) in 1849 and was finally extended to about 2,500 acres (about l0 square kilometres). The Japanese, also, had secured a concession by the end of the 1ast century, which became a centre for cotton-spinning factories. These settlements were self administered and were outside Chinese government jurisdiction.

  The old Chinese City, occupied by one group of the Taiping rebels--the Small Sword Society--Yangtze Riverbetween 1853 and 1855, became the scene of lawlessness and fighting. The foreign community, concerned for its own safety, formed the Shanghai Volunteer Corps, recruited from local traders and diplomats. They were even prepared to take on the imperial troops f backed by British and American officers and men from visiting warship5, the volunteers issued an ultimatum for the troops' removal, an action which precipitated the Battle of Muddy Flat in 1854. The imperial troops were duly driven away from their encampment, which was the site of the old racecourse, now the People's Park.

   Shanghai was again threatened by the Taiping rebe1s in the 1860s, but they were quelled by the Ever Victorious Army made up of foreigners and Chinese, estab1ished for this very purpose. An American, Frederick Townsend Ward, a Frenchman, Henri A Burg vine, and a Briton, Char1es Gorge Gordon ('Chinese Gordon', later of Khartoum fame), took successive command and were all made officers of the Qing Imperial Army.

  The nationwide upheavals in the 20th century the 1900 Boxer Rebellion, the 1911 Revolution, the Sino Japanese War took their toll on Shanghai's millions.Hundreds of thousands of Chinese poured into the foreign settlements for protection and then stayed on. Nevertheless, Shanghai continued to flourish as an entrepot with its staple exports of tea and silk, and imports of piece goods and opium. Banking plyed an important part in this great trading city, which had its own stock exchange. Yangtze River

  The foreigners' lifestyle was grand and lavish for those who could afford to participate in clubs, race meetings, paper chases and nightclubs. The arrival in the 1930s of some 25,000 White Russian refugees enlivened the night1ife of cabarets and dance halls in 'Frenchtown', as the French Concession was called by the Anglo-Saxons. Chinese secret societies controlled the seamy side of Shanghai life, and the city was the Holly'Wood of China with a thriving movie industry.

  But the Shanghai workers were subjected to appalling working conditions,overcrowding and exploitation, a situation leading inevitably to industrial unrest and revolutionary activity. The Communist Party of China was founded in Shanghai in 1921 at a secret meeting in the French Concession. The Party fomented strikes and uprisings--some of them actually planned by Zhou Enlai, later Premier--but these activities were violently suppressed by the Nationalist government. This was a period of debate among Chinese intcllectuals, who were influenced by the philosophies and experience of the more industrialized West. Many of these Chinese had
studied abroad or at missionary institutions of higher 1earning in Shanghai.

  The beginning of the Sino Japanese War saw bombing and fierce fighting in and around Shanghai, but the foreign concessions were not occupied by the Japanese until after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, when Allied nationals were interned. In 1943 extra--territoriality came to an end by common consent, but the Chinese only regained control of Shanghai after the defeat of the Yangtze RiverJapanese.

  When a People's Republic was proclaimed in China at the end of the civil war,foreigners and Chinese industrialists, fleeing Communism, left Shanghai, many re-establishing themselves in Hong Kong.

  Because of the city's long history of foreign capitalist exploitation and 'bourgeois attitudes', adherents of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and '70s were particularly vociferous in Shanghai, which became the headquarters of the so-called Gang of Four, the ultra-Leftist elements of this chaotic period.

  When China began to reform her economic system and opened her doors to the outside world, one imagined that there would be a resurgence of the entrepreneurial spirit in Shanghai. But it took some while for today's momentum to build. Until recently, Shanghai has been starved of investment, Bejing having siphoned off much of its huge earnings. As the population continued to grow, the problems of housing and traffic congestion grew ever more acute.

  However, in 1988, Bejing and Shanghai entered a new revenue agreement. Instead of surrendering more than three-quarters of its annual revenues, Shanghai began contributing a fixed amount to the central government and keeping any surpluses for its own use. The revitalizing of Shanghai could scarcely be more ambitiousf bridges, tunnels, ah urban subway System, Suburban housing, the technical upgrading and expansion of its textile industry, the building of a microelectronics industry in Caohejing, a would-be Silicon Valley; and the establishment of a new port and free trade and export processing zone in Pudong.

• Shanghai

River Rites

What to See in Shanghai (1)

What to See in Shanghai (2)

Shanghai's History Through Its Names

Cool Depths

Revolutionary Sites

Excursions from Shanghai