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Shanghai Tomorrow

Published: 02/07/2014 - Filed under: Home » Archive » 2014 » July/August 2014 » Special Reports » Home » Features »

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Sailing westward up the Huangpu River, just as the waterway takes a sharp turn to the south, in the bend dead ahead lies Old Shanghai. At night brilliant lights illuminate the stately riverfront architecture of the Bund and shimmer across the choppy waters. It’s easy to see from this vantage point how the glamour of this ancient port city captured the imaginations of sailors and merchants over the centuries, and made Shanghai a legend around the world.

But across the river, rising like a squadron of neon Transformers, are the buildings of Pudong, the iconic face of the New Shanghai: The Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center – known locally as the Bottle Opener – all arrayed in glittery, vaguely Vegas lights. And in the midst gently twisting upward above the rest, the world’s second-tallest building, the Shanghai Tower still under construction.

With a population of more than 24 million people, Shanghai is China’s largest city by population and among the most populous in the world. Thanks to its advantageous position at the mouth of the Yangtze River as it empties into the East China Sea, Shanghai is a global transportation hub with the world’s busiest container port. Its position in international trade has also made it a world financial center and a cosmopolitan player in commerce, culture, media, fashion and technology.

In a nutshell, the Chinese government’s mid-term economic plan is to continue relying on the east coast cities as the engines of growth, while investing heavily in the country’s booming interior infrastructure. The connective thread is China’s flourishing domestic air service and the rollout of its high-speed rail system, which totaled around 6,200 miles by the end of 2013. 

Shanghai, at present, is the only city in China with two major airports – at Pudong International and Hongqiao International Airport – and is base for China Eastern, one of China’s Big Three airlines (the other two being Air China, headquartered in Beijing, and Guangzhou-based China Southern). With three major train stations, Shanghai is the nexus of a developed web of radiating rail lines that link it with most of China’s largest cities. 

Shanghai’s 12th Five-Year Plan, which covers the 2011 to 2015 period, assigned the Shanghai International Tourism and Resorts Zone, together with Hongqiao Business District in the west of the city and the former World Expo site spanning both banks of the Huangpu River, as the key areas for future development. To these can be added the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, the first of its kind in China, and the Shanghai Tower. 

A sure sign of Shanghai’s advanced growth is the flourishing international hotel market in the downtown and commercial districts, plus the diversifying nightlife and entertainment scene. However, Shanghai isn’t going it alone; its neighbors in the Yangtze River Delta – Hangzhou, Nanjing, and Suzhou – are becoming more geographically and commercially conjoined with Shanghai, in addition to building out their own economies and infrastructure. As a result, Shanghai is at the epicenter of a cluster of delta metropolises that are growing both independently and in tandem with one another, revealing a more integrated model of future development. 

Shanghai International Tourism & Resorts Zone

Opening Date: The first phase of this vast integrated tourism, sports and entertainment development will be launched in late 2015 when Shanghai Disneyland opens. 

Location: Occupies 1,730 acres of land – plus another 8 square miles earmarked for future projects – 8 miles from Pudong International Airport.

The Facility: Rather vaguely defined, the Shanghai International Tourism & Resorts Zone is the city’s attempt to develop additional high-earning leisure facilities – including hotels, a golf course, retail malls, parklands and entertainment centers – around the potentially lucrative Shanghai Disneyland, Walt Disney’s first theme park in mainland China. Significant investment has been allocated to build the necessary infrastructure and transportation connections, including two metro lines that will ferry passengers to and from downtown Shanghai. 

The 1,000-acre resort and theme park, developed at a cost of $4.4 billion, will feature the familiar mix of Disney-themed characters and movie- and animation-based attractions, including an Enchanted Storybook Castle, a 100-acre lake, two hotels with more than 1,200 rooms, plus shopping and dining. It also promises “exciting new elements that will be both authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese.” 


Hongqiao Hub

Location: The 15-acre Hongqiao Hub is a business, residential, retail and lifestyle development focused around Hongqiao International Airport and Hongqiao Railway Station, a 30-minute drive west of downtown Shanghai.

Opening Date: The phased opening of the Hub’s office, leisure and retail developments began in 2011.

The Facility: Developed by Shui On Land, the company that created the Xintiandi residential, dining, shopping and entertainment zone in the heart of Shanghai, the Hongqiao Hub is an attempt to reboot the commercial and residential appeal of west Shanghai. By integrating the airport and high-speed rail station into the development, the Hub has been designed as an urban complex that can serve both the Hongqiao business district and the 75 million people that live in neighboring provinces within a one-hour rail journey. The Hub is sub-divided into three smaller “hubs;” the Corporate Hub, which comprises Class-A office space; the Lifestyle Hub, featuring a shopping center, five-star hotel, plus restaurants, cafes and bars; and the Culture and Performance Hub comprising conference, event and performance venues. 


Shanghai Free Trade Zone

Location: The 11-square-mile free trade zone in Pudong incorporates the Waigaoqiao duty-free zone and the Yangshan port.

Opening Date: China’s first free trade zone was launched in late September 2013, and is being developed in phases.

The Facility: The China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone is being viewed as an important experiment, both for Shanghai and for the Chinese economy. It represents a move away from the economic reliance on state infrastructure investment and manufacturing exports that has characterized the past two decades. The FTZ is being touted as a cornerstone of financial liberalization in China by becoming a center for cross-border renminbi transactions and investments. This is in line with China’s ultimate strategy to guide the renminbi towards full convertibility and become a global reserve currency that will rival the US dollar. A clutch of international banks has received approval to start cross-border renminbi-based trading for their multinational clients from the FTZ. Up to 12 more Chinese cities – including Guangzhou, Tianjin, Chengdu, Wuhan and Hangzhou – have applied to set up free trade zones to follow in Shanghai’s footsteps.


Former Shanghai World Expo Site

Location: The Expo site covered two square miles, spanning the east and west banks of the Huangpu River to the south of The Bund and Lujiazui Financial District.

Opening Date: Following the Shanghai World Expo, held from May-October 2010, the site is being redeveloped in phases.

The Facility: Shanghai’s six-month World Expo in 2010 spurred a massive citywide infrastructure overhaul that continues today, and gifted the city with several landmark structures. The former World Expo site, which covered 1,300 acres of former industrial dockyards on both banks of the Huangpu River in the southwest of the city, is being transformed into a sustainable urban district filled with parklands, promenades and cultural attractions. Two major arts institutions opened in 2012 in former Expo landmarks. The red crown-like former China Pavilion in Pudong was retrofitted as the China Art Palace, featuring the world’s biggest collection of 20th century Chinese art over five stories. An 1890s power plant that contained the Expo’s Pavilion of the Future has been transformed into the Power Station of Art, China’s first state-run contemporary art museum and host of the Shanghai Biennale. Next to the China Art Palace, a half-million-square-foot Green Valley project is currently taking shape. Designed by Danish studio Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects and set to be completed in 2015, the sustainable development will encompass offices, shops and restaurants, with an inner landscape of green gardens and water features. Several state-owned, private and foreign enterprises are setting up headquarters in the area, including Baosteel, State Grid and the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China. A 9,000-space parking lot and shopping mall will connect underground.


Shanghai Tower

Location: In the heart of the Lujiazui business, shopping and hotel district, the 2,074-foot-high tower is the centerpiece of the futuristic Pudong skyline.

Opening Date: It will debut in 2015 as China’s tallest tower, but will be overtaken by taller structures currently under construction in Changsha, Shenzhen, Suzhou and Wuhan.

The Facility: The third, and tallest, of Pudong’s triumvirate of super-towers, the Shanghai Tower soars above its shorter neighbors – the 1,614-foot Shanghai World Financial Centre (SWFC) and the 1,377-foot Jinmao Tower – and dominates the city’s skyline. Designed by San Francisco-based design and architecture firm Gensler, construction of the tower began in 2008 and the new city landmark was topped off in August 2013. Its two neighboring towers both feature flagship city hotels, Grand Hyatt (Jinmao) and Park Hyatt (SWFC), and the opening  of the Shanghai Tower will see the global unveiling of a new luxury hospitality brand, J Hotel, created by China’s Jin Jiang Hotels. The J Hotel will occupy the 84th to 110th floors of the 121-level building, which will also be home to Class A offices, luxury retail and dining, a sky-high observatory and exhibition facilities. 


High-speed Rail Network

Location: Regional and national intercity train connections.

Opening Date: The ongoing rollout of China’s high-speed train network began in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and includes the 268-mph Shanghai Maglev line to Pudong airport.

The Facility: Less than six years since the first high-speed service connected Beijing with the port city of Tianjin, China’s high-speed rail network has swiftly burgeoned. By the end of 2013, it spanned more than 6,200 miles – over half the world’s total. In addition to facilitating swifter transport of workers and tourists, the rail network has sparked the construction of business parks and apartment blocks around lavish new railway stations. The five-hour Shanghai-Beijing route connects through key Yangtze delta cities including Kunshan, Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou and Nanjing. In July 2013, a high-speed line was launched linking the capital of Jiangsu province, Nanjing, with Ningbo, home to the only deepwater port in Zhejiang province. The line, which passes through Hangzhou, Zhejiang’s provincial capital, reduces travel time between Nanjing and Ningbo from more than five hours to about two hours. In December 2013, the 335-mile Shenzhen-Xiamen line opened, the final link between three major coastal economic and manufacturing hubs – the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and proposed Western Taiwan Strait Economic Zone. The line connects with rail lines extending east to Shanghai and westward to Guangzhou, taking about 10 hours between Shenzhen and Shanghai, Nanjing or Hangzhou. The route will be extended to Hong Kong in 2015.  

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