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China Travel Guide

Explore Shanghai

Explore Shanghai The huge metropolitan area of Shanghai is at present undergoing one of the fastest economic expansions that the world has ever seen, after many years of stagnation. Nowadays shops overflow and the skyline fills with skyscrapers. Shanghai now seems to recapture its position as East Asia's leading business city, a status that lost because of the World War II. Despite of all the modernization in terms of infrastructure, lifestyle and availability of consumer goods, Shanghai is still linked with its colonial past.

Shanghai is remembered in the West for its function as the base of European dominance in mainland China (with its decadence, racism, abysmal social inequalities, and Mafia syndicates. When the Communists arrived, the central government in Beijing deliberately ran Shanghai down, siphoning off its surplus to other parts of the country to the point where the city looked like a living museum, frozen in time since the 1940s.

But the Shanghainese never lost their great commerce ability, and, recently, China's central government has come under control of individuals from the Shanghai area, who look with pleasure the rebuilding of their old metropolis. In the mid 1980s, the Chinese government took the decision to push Shanghai once again to the vanguard of China's way of modernization, and an explosion of economic activity has been unleashed.

In the last decade, city planners have been full of activity creating a subway network, immense highways, flyovers and bridges, shopping malls, hotel complexes and the beginnings of the Special Economic Zone across the river in Pudong that soon to be crowned with the world's tallest building. Shanghai is by far, the most highly skilled labor force in the country; with the ability to combine style, sophistication and an intelligent sense for business. Shanghai is once again riding high.

The old Shanghai will not disappear because of the modernity. Although the pace of redevelopment has quickened in the past several years, the city still, in large parts, resembles a 1920s vision of the future; a grimy metropolis of monolithic pseudo-classical facades, threaded with overhead cables and walkways, bursting with the noise of rattling trolley buses and choked by vast crowds of purposefully scurrying pedestrians.

Explore Shanghai Unlike other major Chinese cities, Shanghai has only recently been subjected to large-scale rebuilding. Most of the urban area was partitioned between foreign powers until 1949, and their former embassies, banks and official residences still give large areas of Shanghai an early-century European flavor that the odd Soviet-inspired government building cannot overshadow.

Today, walking the Bund is a requisite attraction for any visitor to Shanghai, and it is an interesting irony that relics of hated foreign imperialism such as the Bund are now proudly protected by the Shanghainese as city monuments.

Besides the Shanghai Museum, the Suzhou-reminiscent Yu Yuan Gardens, and the Huangpu River Cruise, there are few sights with broad appeal. But the splendor of visiting Shanghai lies not so much in going from attraction to attraction, but in less obvious pleasures: walking along the Bund, exploring the pockets of colonial architecture in the old French Concession, sampling the rapidly maturing restaurant and nightlife scene, which is very similar to Hong Kong, or in wandering the main shopping streets and absorbing the wonderful revival of energy of one of the world's great cities.

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