Shanghai reviving former glory

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 January, 1999, 12:00am

Read this passage carefully and then answer the questions set below.

Like many of Asia's metropolis cities, Shanghai is in building mode, and its construction boom is typically Asian. This means that heritage buildings are being flattened to make way for ugly high-rises, the higher the better; unsightly bridges, ring-roads, and tunnels are becoming permanent fixtures in the urban sprawl; and migrants are pouring in from the countryside to provide cheap labour for the massive works.

Shanghai used to be known as 'the Paris of the East', and it seems that the authorities in Shanghai are determined to restore that title. Shanghai is also being primed to become a financial powerhouse of not only China but of the whole of Asia. Massive infrastructure works, including a new international airport and a new convention centre, are planned to make the city traveller-friendly and even more accessible from the rest of the world.

Shanghai is the gateway to the Yangtze River delta, the world's third longest river, and the lifeline for millions of Chinese depending on it for livelihood and sustenance. This strategic location enabled Shanghai to industrialise while becoming a bustling trading port.

After the Opium War of 1840-41, which forced China to cede Hong Kong to Britain, the British opened a concession in Shanghai. The United States and France also opened concessions in Shanghai soon thereafter. For about the next century, Shanghai was heavily influenced by the Europeans, Russians, and Japanese who lived and carried on business there, and was all glitz and glamour, wealthy and decadent. But the glamour faded in the aftermath of World War II and the Cultural Revolution.

In the last 10 years or so, Shanghai has started rebuilding from its ashes and today boasts having the fastest-growing economy among major Chinese cities. Most of the construction works are in the Pudong New Area, once a vast flatland but now being developed into a business and commercial centre. Huge investments, a lot of them from Hong Kong businessmen with Shanghai roots, are bankrolling the construction of banking and commercial blocks, department stores, and residential buildings. Many multinationals are moving their headquarters to Pudong, which many people predict will become another Hong Kong in a few years' time. On the other hand, many of the completed buildings are vacant as the market has not been spared the Asian economic crisis.

Questions 1. What geographical advantage has Shanghai had in helping it to develop commercially? 2. What are some of the infrastructure works currently being built in Shanghai? 3. Why did Shanghai develop after the Opium War into a place of 'glitz and glamour'? 4. Which group is mentioned here as helping to finance the development of Shanghai into a business and commercial centre? 5. What evidence is presented in this article that Shanghai is not without problems in its path to development? Vocabulary 1. is in building mode: people are constructing buildings everywhere 2. heritage building: an old building worthy of being preserved for future generations 3. to flatten: to destroy completely 4. high-rise: a very tall building 5. unsightly: ugly, not pleasant to look at 6. urban sprawl: the unsightly effect of a large city spreading for many miles 7. massive: of great size; strong and heavy 8. to prime to prepare; to make ready 9. infrastructure works: buildings and other facilities which help an organisation to work efficiently 10. sustenance: something which allows people or things to keep strong and function well 11. bustling: very busy; active 12. to cede: to give unwillingly, usually as the result of a lost war 13. concession: an area under the control of a foreign country 14. glitz and glamour: a very active social environment, usually based on a lot of money 15. decadent: having a low moral tone; having a low level of social behaviour 16. to boast: to have something worthy to be proud of 17. with Shanghai roots: whose families came originally from Shanghai 18. to bankroll: to pay for something, usually on a big scale Answers 1. It is based at the mouth of the Yangtze River.

2. Bridges, high-rises, ring-roads, tunnels, a new airport, and a new convention centre.

3. It was influenced by many foreign people who lived and worked there.

4. The businessmen of Hong Kong, many 'with Shanghai roots'.

5. Many of the completed buildings cannot find tenants to rent them.

Summary The huge city of Shanghai on the central east coast of China has played an important role in the country's history and development over the last several hundred years. Nowadays, Shanghai is regaining some of the power and influence it had earlier this century, with a lot of building and other infrastructure works being carried out. In this way, Shanghai has become ugly and possessed of an 'urban sprawl', like many other Asian cities in recent times in their efforts to become industrialised and prosperous.