"Look back 2,000 years to Xi'an, 500 years to Beijing, a century to Shanghai.""Look at Shenzhen in the 70s, Hainan in the
80s, and Shanghai in the 90s."
These two sentences are popular in China, familiar to many. They are a vivid depiction of Shanghai's special position in
Chinese history of civilization and in the process of reform and opening up. For a hundred years, Shanghai has epitomized
change in modem China and in recent decades, Shanghai has taken over from Shenzhen in the vanguard of China's reform and
Anyone with a smattering of history will know that Shanghai is a typical city rising in modern times. Before Shang-hai was
opened for foreign trade in 1843,
if anyone had said that it would soon be-come the most prosperous metropolis in China, in Asia even, he would have been taken
for an idiot. However, only after a few decades after opening up to foreign trade, the ordinary coastal town of Shanghai had
developed into the "most thriving commercial port in China," and an international metropolis. It was amazing. The most
important sig-nificance embodied in the rise of Shang-hai was the creation of a unique type of city. As a huge commercial
port whose main function was trade, it was created by Chinese and foreign migrants during
the process of cultural conflict and in-termingling between East and West. It
was called "National Commercial Cen-ter" and "No. 1 Port of China."
Shanghai (literally "on the sea"), on the East China Sea, is as critical to China
as London is to Britain or New York to the United States, and could not be re-
placed by any other Chinese city. A prod-uct of China's modernization movement,
Shanghai has also been an initiator and engine of modernization. Moreover, it has been a creator of virtually every change
that has taken place in modern China, and a leading player in every period of recent Chinese history. Of all China's cities,
Shanghai was the earli-est to embark on modernization, and achieved the highest degree of modernization. By the 1930s,
Shanghai had developed into a multi-functional economic center combining shipping, foreign trade, finance, industry and
information, and one of China's, indeed Asia's, most important cultural centers.
Shanghai is also a cradle of cultural diversity. In the early twentieth century, Shanghai was the most international city in
China and, apart from New York, the most open city in the world. It had as many as 150,000 foreigners from 58 countries,
including Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, India, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Sweden,
Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, and Spain. This population diversity brought with it multiple sources of culture,
which in turn led to cultural tolerance, and therefore Shanghai became a cradle of cultural diversity. Ethnic groups of dif-
ferent skin colors and nationalities lived here in harmony; newspapers and pe-riodicals in different languages were
published; different currencies were converted and used freely; radio broad-casts and records were made here; and different
music, dances, films and arts were performed. For Chinese from the interior coming to Shanghai for the first time, it was
like going to a foreign country. As someone put it: "Shanghai, the Paris of the East! Shanghai, the New York of the West!
Shanghai, the most cosmopolitan city in the world!"