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  Chinese Way>Life

Book report: Shanghai and China from the Eyes of a Western Scholar

2014-04-29 17:28:20

(China Today)


Shanghai 2020 – The City’s Vision for Its Future

Author: Kerry Brown

Price: RMB 98, paperback

Published by Foreign Languages Press, in December 2013, Beijing

Shanghai is one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing cities on earth. China, where this metropolis is located, is engaging with modernization in ways which have utterly reshaped its economy and society since the start of the reform and opening-up process in 1978. The city is returning to its historic role as a great crossing point, a window for the world into China and for China out to the world. Shanghai is also a place not only where the East meets the West, but where the East also meets itself.

In his new book, Shanghai 2020 – The City’s Vision for Its Future, University of Sydney professor Kerry Brown tells a personal story of engagement with Shanghai’s great ambitions.

As a Foreign Office delegate, Brown first visited Shanghai in 1998. He remembers people returning home in the evening along Nanjing Road, the downtown so clogged with bicycle traffic it was hard to cross the road. The Bund at that time was only half-renovated. Large swathes of the city were still being transformed. The only airport was the outdated and greatly over-utilized Hongqiao. The city’s road network was operating at capacity. Only a couple of Metro lines existed.

From 2000 to 2003, Brown was assigned as First Secretary at the British Embassy. He stayed in Beijing but often visited Shanghai. At that time, Shanghai was an inescapable part of any VIP itinerary in China. Dignitaries were taken to see Pudong, and to visit thriving foreign companies that had settled in the city; at that moment the most successful one was B&Q, a retailer dealing in household goods, benefitting from the home ownership boom. British companies, along with other European and American ones, were flocking to the city, to set up offices and try to break into the vast Chinese market. Every time he visited, Brown says, he saw more new luxurious hotels springing up.

After Brown left the Foreign Office, he visited Shanghai even more frequently from 2006 to 2010. As an advisor to Liverpool, a twin city of Shanghai, he directly participated in Liverpool’s project at the Shanghai Expo and grew far more familiar with the city.

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