GUIDE TO CHINA
Telephone code: 021 Population: 13.2 million Area: 6340 sq km
Whore of the Orient, Paris of the East; city of quick riches, ill-gotten gains and fortunes lost on the tumble of dice: the domain of adventurers, swindlers, gamblers, drug runners, idle rich, dandies, tycoons, missionaries, gangsters and back-street pimps: the city that plots revolution and dances as the revolution shoots its way into town – Shanghaii was a dark memory during the long years of forgetting that the Communists visited upon their new China; the city’s seductive aura that so beguiled the Western mind was snuffed out.
Shanghai put away its dancing shoes in 1949. The masses began shuffling to a different tune – the dour strains of Marxist-Leninism and the wail of the factory siren: and all through these years of oblivion, the architects of this social experiment firmly wedged one foot against the door on Shanghai’s past, until finally the effort started to tell.
Today Shanghai has reawakened and is busy snapping the dust off its cummerbund. This is a city typifying the huge disparities of modern China – monumental building projects push skywards, glinting department stores swing open their doors to the stylish elite, while child beggars, prostitutes and the impoverished congregate among the champagne corks and burst balloons of the night before. History is returning to haunt Shanghai and, at the same time, put it squarely back on the map.
As the pulse of this metropolis quickens, its steps are firmer, and at this point we make an apology. A lot of what you read in this guide will have changed by the time you have the book in your hands. The booming metropolis of Shanghai is evolving at a pace so unmatched by any other Chinese city that even the morning ritual of flinging open one’s hotel curtains reveals new facets to the skyline and new sounds on the streets. Shanghai is racing full-speed towards the future and has little time for yesterday. Shanghai’s population figure is deceptive since it takes into account the whole municipal area of 6340 sq km as well as migrant population of 3 million. Nevertheless, the central core of some 220 sq km has more than 7.5 million people, which must rate as one of the highest population densities in China, if not the world.
The best times to visit Shanghai are spring and autumn. In winter temperature can drop well below freezing and there is often a blanket of drizzle. Summers are hot and humid with temperatures as high as 40°C (104°F).
As anyone who wanders along the Bund or through the back-streets of Frenchtown can see, Shanghai (the name means ‘by the sea’)” is a Western invention. As the gateway to
Chang Jiang ( Yangzi River ), it was an ideal trading port. When the British opened their first concession in 1842, after the first Opium War, it was little more than a small town supported by fishing and weaving. British changed all that.
The French followed in 1847, an International Settlement was established in 1863 and the Japanese arrived in 1895 – the city was parcelled up into autonomous settlements, immune from Chinese law. By 1853 Shanghai had overtaken all other Chinese ports. Mid-18th century Shanghai had a population of just 50,000; by 1900 the figure had jumped to one million. By the 1930s the city had 60,000 foreign residents and was the busiest international port in Asia . There were more motor vehicles than in the rest of China put together and the largest buildings in the East. This city that was built on the trade of opium, silk and tea, also lured the world’s great houses of finance, who erected grand palaces of plenty. Shanghai became a byword for exploitation and vice; its countless opium dens, gambling joints and brothels managed by gangs were at the heart of Shanghai life. Guarding it all were the American, French and Italian marines, British Tommies and Japanese bluejackets.
After Chiang Kaishek’s coup against the Communists in 1927, the Kuomintang cooperated with the foreign police and the Shanghai gangs, and with Chinese and foreign factory owners, to suppress labour unrest.
The settlement police, run by the British, arrested Chinese labour leaders and handed them over to the Kuomintang for imprisonment or execution, and the Shanghai gangs were repeatedly called in to `mediate’ disputes inside the settlement.
If it was the Chinese who supported the whole giddy structure of Shanghai, worked as beasts of burden and provided the muscle in Shanghai’s port and factories, it was simultaneously the Chinese who provided the weak link.
Exploited in workhouse conditions, crippled by hunger and poverty, sold into slavery, excluded from the high life and the parks created by the foreigners, the poor of Shanghai had a voracious appetite for radical opinion. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was formed here in 1921 and, after numerous setbacks, `liberated’ the city in 1949.
The Communists eradicated the slums, rehabilitated the city’s hundreds of thousands of opium addicts, and eliminated child and slave labour. These were staggering achievements.
Unfortunately, they also put it to sleep. The wake-up call came in 1990 when the central government started throwing money at the municipality, and Shanghai hasn’t looked back since.
Shanghai has always courted extremism in politics and been a barometer for the mood of the nation. Radical intellectuals and students, provoked by the startling inequalities between rich and poor, were perfect receptacles for the many foreign opinions circulating in the concessions. The meeting that founded the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was held here back in 1921. Mao Zedong also cast the first stone of the Cultural Revolution in Shanghai, by publishing in the city’s newspapers a piece of political rhetoric he’d been unable to get published in Beijing .
During the Cultural Revolution, a People’s Commune was set up in Shanghai modelled on the Paris Commune of the 19th Century. (The Paris Commune was set up in 1871 and controlled Paris for two months. It planned to introduce socialist reforms such as turning over management of factories to workers’ associations.) The Shanghai commune lasted just three weeks before Mao ordered the army to put an end to it.
The so-called Gang of Four (see History the Facts about China chapter) had its power base in Shanghai . The campaign to criticise Confucius and Mencius (Mengzi) was started here in 1969, before it became nationwide in 1973 and was linked to Lin Biao.
The city’s influence now ripples through the whole of the party apparatus to the top: President Jiang Zemin is Shanghai’s ex-party chief and premier Zhu Rongji and minister Wu Bangguo also hail from the municipality. Furthermore, Hong Kong’s chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, is a Shanghai man.
Shanghai’s long malaise came to an abrupt end in 1990, with the announcement of plans to develop Pudong, on the eastern side of Huangpu Jiang. Property values soared in the early 1990s, but overbuilding created a glut of office space and towards the end of the decade real estate prices dropped in most sectors. Nevertheless Shanghai’s goal is to become a major financial centre along with its emerging economic strength. Lujiazui, the area that faces off the Bund on the Pudong side of Huangpu Jiang, has taken shape as a modern high-rise counterpoint to the austere old-world structures on the Bund.
Shanghai’s burgeoning economy, its leadership and its intrinsic self-confidence have put it miles ahead of other cities in China . Neither Beijing nor GuangzhouI can match the superficial, gilt-edged feel of modernity that covers the city. Shanghai authorities know that tourism makes money, so it spends a little bringing it in. In this respect it has some of the best services in China .
Nothing would satisfy the central government more than for Shanghai to replace Hong Kong as China’s frontier on the future, swinging the spotlight of attention from the ex-colony on to a home-grown success story. Indeed, great strides have taken place in achieving this goal. But there’s still a long way to go.
Shanghai municipality covers it substantial area, but the city proper is a more modest size. Within the municipality is the island of Chongming . It’s part of the Chang Jiang delta and is worth a footnote because it’s the second largest-island in China .
Broadly, central Shanghai is divided into two areas: Pudong (east of Huangpu Jiang) and Puxi (west of Huangpu Jiang). The First Ring Road does a long elliptical loop around the city centre proper, which includes all of commercial west-side Shanghai, the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone and the Jinqiao Export Processing Zone of Pudong.
A second (outer) ring road will link Hongqiao Airport (in the west of town) with new Waigaoqiao Free Trade Zone, a port on Chang Jiang in Pudong.
For visitors, the attractions of Shanghai are in Puxi. Here you will find the Bund, the sopping streets, the former foreign concessions, hotels, restaurants, sights and nightclubs.
In the central district (around Nanjing Lu) the provincial names run north-south, and the city names run east-west. Some roads are put by compass points, such as Sichuan Nanlu ( Sichuan South Rd ) and Sichuan Beilu ( Sichuan North Rd ). Encircling Shanghai proper, Zhongshan Lu is split by sectors, ouch as Zhongshan Dong Erin and Zhong,han Dong Yilu, which mean Zhongshan Fast 2nd Rd and Zhongshan East 1 st Rd.
There are four main areas of interest in the city: the Bund from Wusong Jiang (Suzhou Creek) to the ShanghAi Harbou Passenger Terminal at Shiliupu Wharl (Shiliupu Matou); Nanjing Donglu (a very colourful neighbourhood); Frenchtown, which includes Huaihai Zhonglu and Ruijin Lu (an even more colourful neighbourhood); and Yufo Sit (Jade Buddha Temple) and the shores along Wusong Jiang.
English maps of Shanghai are available at the Foreign Languages Bookshop (see Bookshops later in this section), the Jinjiang Hotel bookshop and occasionally from street hawkers. Watch out for the map sellers on the Bund who squawk `English map’ (the only English they know); when you look at them they’re usually just a maze of characters.
The best of the bunch is the bilingual Shanghai Tourist Map, produced by the Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration. It’s free at hotels and the Tourist Information Centres listed in the Tourist Offices section.
Almost every hotel has money-changing counters. Credit cards are more readily accepted in Shanghai than other parts of China .
Most tourist hotels will accept major credit cards such as Visa, American Express, MasterCard, Diners and JCB, as will banks and Friendship Stores (and related tourist outlets like the Shanghai Antique and Curio Shop).
The enormous Bank of China right next to the Peace Hotel tends to get crowded, but is better organised than Chinese banks elsewhere around the country(it’s worth a peek for its grand interior). A branch of Citibank next door on the Bund is open 24 hours for ATM withdrawal. ATMs at various branches of the Bank of China. the Industrial and Commercial Bank China (ICBC) and the China Constructio Bank accept most major cards.
American Express (Tel: 627 8082) has an office at Room 206, Retai Plaza, Shanghai Centre. 1376 Nanjing Xilu
Post & Communications
Larger tourist hotels have post office where you can mail letters and small packages, and this is by far the most convenient option.
The international post office is at the corner of Sichuan Beilu and Bei Suzhou Lu on the 2nd floor. Poste restante letters are collected at window No 21. The section for international parcels is in the same building around the corner in another, section.
Express parcel and document service is available with several foreign carriers. Contact DHL (Tel: 6536 2900), UPS (Tel: 6391, 5555), Federal Express (Tel: 6237 5134) or TNT Skypak (Tel: 6421 1111).
Long-distance phone calls can be placed from hotel rooms and don’t take long to get through. There’s a small China Telecom outlet next to the Peace Hotel on Nanjing Donglu. Phonecards, available from many shops as well as China Telecom, are useful but don’t usually work with hotel phones.
Email & Internet Access
Shanghai has many Internet cafes but there’s a frequent turnover of locales. Check current listings in That’s Shanghai magazine.
Many hotels in Shanghai provide Internet services, but they’re usually a little pricey. The Shanghai Library, at 1555 Huaihai Zhonglu, has terminals on the ground floor. It’s open from 9am to 8.30pm daily and costs Y6 per hour. Bring your passport for ID. The massive Book City, at 465 Fuzhou Lu, has an Internet cafe on the 2nd floor, charging Y7 per half-hour. It’s open daily from 9.30am to 6.30pm and until 9pm from Friday to Sunday.
The main office of China International Travel Service (CITS: Zhongguo Guoji Luxingshe; Tel: 6323 8749) is at 1277 Beijing Xilu. For train tickets. go to C’ITS office (Tel: 6323 8770) On the lst floor of the Guangming Build at 2 Jinling Donglu. There’s another CITS office on Nanjing Donglu near the Peace Hotel primarily for booking airline tickets.
CITS may need at least three days to get tickets for destinations further than Hangzhou or Suzhou . A service charge of Y10 is added. If you’re in a hurry, try your hotel.
Travel agencies abound in Shanghai, especially since it became easier for people to abroad as tourists. It’s worth shopping around. The staff at Destination Travel agency (Tel: 6314 5505), at 34 Dongjiadu Lu, speak english and cater to foreign travelers.
Newspapers & Magazines
A small range of foreign newspapers and magazines is available from the larger tourist hotels (eg, Park, Jinjiang, Hilton) and the Foreign Languages Bookshop.
Publications include the Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Asiaweek South China Morning Post, The Economist, Time and Newsweek. They are expensive, however, with Newsweek and Tane usually costing about Y35. You can read foreign magazines and newspapers at the Shanghai Library. Bring your passport.
Back in the late ’90s, life for foreigners in Shanghai improved considerably with the appearance of entertainment publications edited and compiled by native speakers of English. There were some shaky beginnings and changeovers as the authorities tried to come to terms with these upstart foreigners creating their own publications, which was no small feat in a country that controls its media with an iron fist. Nothing too controversial, of course, but at least they are interesting to read.
The most comprehensive is the monthly magazine That’s Shanghai, followed by the bi-monthly City Weekend, published in Beijing with a Shanghai supplement, and the monthly Shanghai Talk as well as other English and bilingual magazines. If you want to know what’s going on in Shanghai, check these out. They’re free and available in most of the Western-style bars and restaurants and some hotels.
The two English newspapers with a Shanghai focus are the Shanghai Star and Shanghai Daily.
Shanghai is credited with the best medical facilities and most advanced medical knowledge in China . Hospital treatment is available at the Huashan Hospital (Tel: 6248 9999 ext 1921), at 12 Wulumuqi Zhonglu, which has a Hong Kong jointventure section catering to those who can afford more luxurious care.