THE first shopping arcade in China to be exclusively leased to Hongkong retailers opened in Shanghai last Sunday. Manhattan Plaza is situated on Nanjing Dong Lu, the busiest street in Shanghai, and it has a daily pedestrian flow of two million people, including many visitors from other parts of China. Despite rentals for shops ranging between $100 and $250 per square feet, which are the most expensive in Shanghai, big retailers such as Esprit, Bennetton and Bigi jumped at the opportunity to open a shop in this rapidly growing market. Nanjing Dong Lu is one of Shanghai's traditional shopping and commercial districts. Two of the city's biggest department complexes, the Number One Department Store and Hwa Luen Department Store, are located on this street, while the newly opened Sincere Department Store is situated opposite Manhattan Plaza, and Isetan will open a store there later this year. Thus, Jones Lang Wootton, its sole marketing and leasing agent, determined that Manhattan Plaza should be developed as a special high class shopping arcade, totally different from the traditional Shanghai department stores. ''To achieve this aim, the developer, Asia Commercial Investments and Development Co, has used architectural designs and materials of the standard used in high class Hongkong shopping arcades, and we have chosen a trade mix and quality of tenants associated with such arcades,'' said JLW'S director, Mr Peter Lee. Manhattan Plaza consists of nine floors. Specialty shops include TW Coffee Chateau on the first floor, and Glamour Look, which provides a make-up and photo service. Normally, foreign retailers wishing to do business in China would either require to form a joint venture or to obtain a licence, but as the owner has obtained a retail licence for Manhattan Plaza, all tenants are able to operate under this licence. The tenants can also rely on the owner to arrange import licences, and employ staff for them. Manhattan Plaza is being constructed in two phases. The shopping arcade, which has just opened and provides 60,000 sq ft of retail space, is the first phase. The second phase will be developed as a 60,000 sq ft retail and commercial complex with two floors of car parks, and is scheduled for completion by July 1994.